31 May, 2007

Story Plot Asks a Question and Characters Answer It

American Chronicle:

"Which one of these actions our character will follow depends on the kind of character he is. Thus a brilliant story plot is not enough to write a good screenplay because in itself it is not sufficient to tell us how the people in our story will "answer" the "questions" put to them by our plot line.

Authentic responses to plot questions require not random but appropriate answers by characters. Otherwise you'll hear your viewers complain out loud with that familiar "no way!"

Decide who your characters are while building up your story line. Otherwise your "answers" to plot "questions" will be pretty random, as is the case with a lot of bad movies out there."

For script readers



UK Film Forum

UK Film Forum

"As you'll see if you take a look, things are pretty quiet there at the moment, but it has only been fully operational for just over a week.

It is, of course, completely free and aimed squarely at new and up-and-coming independent filmmakers in the UK working in pretty much every discipline. There are also sections in there for kit reviews and recommendations and general film chit-chat.

It also takes a relaxed attitude to self-promotion - there's a forum dedicated to blatant self promotion - and companies and organisations are encouraged to plug their own events, contests, what-have you.

There's a dedicated forum for screenwriters, including a section where they can post loglines/synopses of their available scripts."

David Henry Hwang, playwright, interview

LA Times:

"I think there was a point in my life when I felt that understanding my ethnic identity was the key to knowing who I am. But now I think that's a limited point of view. Sure, it's an essential part of our overall identity, but it's not the whole answer. You can get stuck there."

30 May, 2007

Improving Indie Scripts

Film.com:

"You've probably seen Hollywood films where there are a dozen writers and the story seems to have been overdeveloped to the point of blandness. In the independent film world, the problem is just the opposite. Scripts are underdeveloped because the filmmaker has a vision, wrote a script, raised the money his or herself, and ploughed ahead in a devil-may-care "if you don't get it you're probably stupid" sort of way. The filmmaker doesn't receive or doesn't trust the opinions of others, and pushes blindly ahead into production.

It's a mistake. "

Network execs = serial killers

Miami Herald:

"Want to see a television executive cringe in fear? Just mention the S-word. No, not the one that gets the FCC or the Parents Television Council all hot and bothered. I'm talking about serialized.

At last week's upfronts -- the New York meetings where the networks unveil their fall schedules -- you would have thought serialised had become the eighth word on George Carlin's list of things you can't say on television. It did not appear in any network press releases. It did not pass the lips of any network executive.

The only one to speak it aloud all week was producer Jonathan Prince, who in an imprudent moment described Cane, his new show about Miami Cuban Americans, as ''a serialised family drama'' in an interview with The Miami Herald. He hasn't been seen or heard from since, and it's rumoured that CBS publicists spirited him away to a Swedish hospital for a tongue-ectomy.

Mel Brooks, writer, interview

The Strip:

"Mel Brooks breaks a load of news about "The Producers" in Vegas and "Young Frankenstein" in New York, plus he opines about his career, smoking in movies, Don Imus and borscht."

29 May, 2007

Amy Rhodes, playwright, interview

Splash magazine:

"I learned that men and women don’t find the same things funny which makes it much harder for women because there are so many more men doing it. Vanity Fair had that article a couple of months ago how women are not funny. It is a hard business for women. It boggles my mind that there is still that perception of women."

Haggis has Bond's number -- again

LA Times:

"Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer-director of "Crash" and co-writer of "Casino Royale," is cementing a reputation for ruthless efficiency and resourcefulness as distinctive as 007's. Sony has finally lured Haggis back to work on the script for the "Royale" follow-up, temporarily titled "Bond 22," which is slated for release on Nov. 7, 2008."

Stars and screenwriters pair on passion films

Variety:

"A dozen screenwriters have formed a cooperative venture that will target the passion projects of major stars in an effort to give both scribes and thesps more control over the creative process.

The new company, dubbed 1.3.9, will marry those projects to their writers, who'll generate spec scripts that will benefit from notes provided by the other member scribes. The writer will own the project when it is shopped to studios with the actor attached, and 1.3.9 will be involved as a producer.

The venture is just getting under way with screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie ("Valkyrie"), Erik Jendresen ("Aloft"), John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie"), John Ridley ("Undercover Brother"), Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal ("Losing Isaiah"), Graham Yost ("Speed"), Howard A. Rodman ("Stompanato"), Stephen Chbosky ("Rent"), Barbara Benedek ("Sabrina"), E. Max Frye ("Something Wild"), Ron Nyswaner ("The Painted Veil") and one writer who declined to be named."

The Electric Writer

Hilarious first post from ex-TV script reader.

The Electric Writer:

"Pink, my significant other (or ‘suffering other’ as she insists on describing herself to anyone we meet), suggested to me a few days ago that I should start one of these ‘blog’ things in an attempt at solving the problem of my seemingly endless blockage. She also said it would be a good ‘platform’ for me to vent my everyday frustrations and disillusionment with society and that the rest of the world could put up with my moaning for a change. I noticed that she whispered something along the lines of ‘God help them’ immediately afterwards, but when Pink has her legs crossed on the sofa and is armed with a Sudoku book it is best not to query such comments."

28 May, 2007

South West Screen backs Writers competition

In addition to its work with the Screenwriters' Festival, South West Screen is also launching a new Screenwriter Development Competition.

Oscar-nominated writer William Nicholson (Gladiator), will mentor the winner of the award, who will also receive about $6,000. The competition will be open to writers in the South West region of the UK.

"Through the scheme, South West Screen is looking to develop a feature-length screenplay with mainstream appeal from a screenwriter based in the South West of England," said the regional agency's head, Caroline Norbury. "We are looking for a feature length screenplay with commercial potential to take to the next stage.

Deadline: Thursday 16 August 2007

One In Ten Screenplay Contest

One In Ten Screenplay Contest is open to all writers and offers cash awards and industry contacts to the winners. A requirement of the competition is that at least one of the primary characters in the screenplay be gay or lesbian (bisexual, transgender, questioning, and the like) and that gay and lesbian characters must be portrayed positively.

All writers are encouraged to enter!

Deadline: 1 September 2007.
Winners announced on 15 November 2007.

Script Frenzy (1-30 June)


Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants attempt the creatively daring feat of writing an original, full-length screenplay—or stage play—in a single month. Spurred by a wild deadline and buoyed by a community of countless other writers, Script Frenzy participants can't be bothered with self-doubt—or editing. They're too busy writing by the seat of their pants, typing out beautiful, flawed stories that no one else could have dreamt up.

As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or "best" scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 20,000 words is victorious and awe-inspiring and will get a Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact. Even those who fall short of the word goal will be applauded for making a heroic attempt. Really, you have nothing to lose—except that nagging feeling that there's a script inside you that may never get out.

The 5 Basic Rules of Script Frenzy

  1. To be crowned an official Script Frenzy winner, you must write a script of at least 20,000 words and verify this word count on ScriptFrenzy.org.

  2. You may write individually or in teams of two. Writer teams will have a 20,000 total word goal for their single co-written script.

  3. Script writing may begin no earlier than 12:00:01 AM on June 1 and must cease no later than 11:59:59 PM on June 30, local time.

  4. You may write either a screenplay or a stage play.

  5. You must, at some point, have ridiculous amounts of fun.

26 May, 2007

Opening Weekend

Bothersome Man (Den Brysomme mannen)


Comedy-drama. A man arrives in a stange city with no memory of how he got there. he is given a job, a flat and a wife. And then he discovers he isn't allowed to leave.

With Trond Fausa Aurvaag, Petronella Barker, Per Schaaning, Birgitte Larsen

Writer: Per Schreiner
Director: Jens Lien

Official site

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Cheeni Kum


Bollywood romance. A chef/restaurant owner falls in love with much younger woman but has to ask her father for permission to marry.

With Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu, Paresh Rawal, Zohra Sehgal, Annie Vanders

Writer: R. Balakrishnan
Director: R. Balakrishnan

R. Balakrishnan interview 1
R. Balakrishnan interview 2

Official site

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Jindabyne


Drama. Four fishermen discover the body of a murdered woman in the river but wait till they finish their holiday days later before reporting it. The wife of one of the men is a bit upset by this and it threatens their marriage.

With Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Chris Haywood, Deborra-Lee Furness,John Howard

Writer: Beatrix Christian (based on Raymond Carver's short story)
Director: Ray Lawrence

Beatrix Christian interview 1
Beatrix Christian interview 2

Official site

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End


Fantasy action-adventure. Captain Barbossa, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann must sail off the edge of the map, navigate treachery and betrayal, and make their final alliances for one last decisive battle.

With Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce

Writer: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Director: Gore Verbinski

Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio interview

Production Interviews

Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio site

Official site

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Wild Tigers I Have Known

Drama. Teenage boy fancies the cool kid in school.

With Malcolm Stumpf, Patrick White, Max Paradise, Hailey Anne Nelson, Tom Gilroy

Writer: Cam Archer
Director: Cam Archer

Cam Archer interview
Cam Archer site

Official site

23 May, 2007

Big Day


"Comedy drama series following the course of a wedding day from a number of different perspectives. Danny and Alice's big day has arrived, but complications soon arise for the happy couple as their friends and family begin to turn up for the occasion."

If you've seen The Worst Week of My Life then this US comedy will seem strangely familiar. Although their inspiration is obvious, it's actually all rather uninspired.

The premise is that we see the preparations for a wedding in real time so you have the groom and his troubled relationship with the in-laws, the wedding planner, the maid of honor and the best man, etc contributing lots of conflicts and problems in various sub-plots.

That all sounds very good on paper as a structure - but it's let down by the weak characters and stories and so the comedy ends up being weak is well. The pilot is worth watching but, as an example, consider how lame the losing the contact lens thing is. That's like a ropey first draft gag you hope to substitute for something better in future drafts but couldn't think of anything.

It's not hateable and you can't help feeling some goodwill towards it solely due to the marrying couple themselvees but its cancellation was easy to predict from seeing this pilot.

Tuesday 22 May
10:45pm - 11:15pm (and repeated Friday at 8:00pm)
ITV2
Pilot

Women Writers Network


"WWN is a networking group for professional women writers.

Most of us are freelance, some are salaried, and we represent a wide range of writing interests. We are not a writers' circle but a group formed to help women further their professional development.

Many members are established in their careers with a wealth of experience to share; others are just beginning.

We see ourselves as a friendly, lively professional group whose members include journalists, fiction and non-fiction writers, copywriters, poets, dramatists, editors and publishers."

Next Meeting: Monday 11 June 2007, 7.15pm-9.00pm
The Library, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WCI (Holborn Tube)
It’s £5. You can’t book in advice. For women only.


"Our guest speaker on 11th June is Paul Ashton, the Development Manager at BBC writersroom where he finds, nurtures and promotes new writing talent for drama and comedy across all BBC platforms and networks. He oversees the BBC unsolicited script system, writing competitions, development and promotion of new writers, professional training schemes, partnerships with the wider creative industries and the writersroom website."

(Thanks to Helen for the heads up)

List of Producers and Films

I was unable to make it to Cannes this year for lots of reasons, mostly the "couldn't be arsed" one.

However, The Film Council has helpfully listed all the British films for sale and all the producers at Cannes this year.

I'm not a foreign distributor with countless cash to cough up for content but it's useful to know what kinds of films get made and which producers to target with a particular genre. There's also a list of the national and regional screen agencies for funding.

The Cannes 2007 downloads include lists of sales companies, accountants, distributors, education and training, financiers, management consultants,media lawyers, national and regional screen agencies, organisations, post production, studios and facilities and PR companies going to Cannes.

Although it's probably not a good idea to bombard all the prodcos with unsolicited first drafts. A nice polite query letter in the first instance is recommended, where you give a short synopsis of your script. That gives them a general idea if it's something that's right for them or not. If they like the sound of it they'll ask to see the script. And then make sure the script is so polished you can see your face in it.

Women scriptwriters finally arrive!

Money Control:

"Women in Bollywood are not just getting powerful onscreen. They are breaking barriers as well. With last two year's biggest releases 'Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna' (KANK), 'Black' and 'Fanaa' all evolving from a woman's pen, it looks like script writing, could well turn into a new career for creative women."

22 May, 2007

Why Casualty deserved its Bafta


From Broadcast - subscribe now. It has relaunched and is now even better.

Why Casualty deserved its Bafta
John Yorke

When Casualty picked up the Bafta for Continuing Drama this week, there were a few raised highbrows. But, as John Yorke argues, it was just reward for a drama that has re-connected with its DNA.

"Soap bosses were feeling sick last night after EastEnders, Corrie and Emmerdale got beaten at the Baftas- by Casualty", thundered The Sun, yesterday.

This was news to me as a "soap boss". Although EastEnders does fall under my jurisdiction (as does The Street and Life On Mars), so does Casualty - and I have to say, with all due respect to the other three shows, I was overjoyed.

Casualty is one of those shows that journalists tend to take for granted. For 21 years it has been toiling away on a Saturday night as the bedrock of the BBC1 schedule. Often perceived as less glamorous - or as not sensational - as the soaps, but still profoundly successful, it is largely ignored by critics but loved by its legions of fans.

Complete makeover

Over the past two years the show has had a complete makeover, a process that began when we asked Barbara Machin, the creator of Waking The Dead and one of the original writers on the show, whether she'd be interested in 'coming home'.

To our astonishment she said "yes" and took as her brief the ambition to return it to its halcyon days, the days when Casualty was referred to as "Britain's Hill Street Blues" and was written by many future stars of British TV Drama; Peter Bowker, Brian Elsley and Bill Gallagher to name but a few.

Barbara and her team believed in one simple maxim: "make the good popular and the popular good". In other words they believed that you can still be intelligent on prime time Saturday night TV. They began to rebuild the team, to re-invest in plot and character, to scale back the soap and sensation and treat the audience with the respect it deserves.

Watching the episode

After the BAFTA's I spoke to a number of journalists who seemed shocked that Casualty had an award. But when I asked them if they'd seen the episode concerned (the awards are based on single episode submissions) they sheepishly admitted they hadn't.

What they missed was a brilliant piece of popular telly at its best. It was shot entirely on Steadicam, employing an extremely complex narrative style (the same story told from four different points of view). It had a director (Diarmuid Lawrence) and actress (Holly Aird) who were brave enough to come back and work on a show that neither of them needed to do. Plus it had the regular Casualty team raising their game to heights they hadn't touched in years.

No more killer viruses

Barbara's episodes were just the beginning of a much wider renaissance both on Casualty and - I hope - across popular telly; a realisation that if you endlessly explode things or unleash mystery killer viruses, your audience drifts away through lack of plausible belief.

Twenty-one years ago Casualty established its reputation by being brave, radical, hard hitting and true to its subject matter; all these years later it has found a way to re-connect with its DNA - and it was brilliant for BAFTA to recognise that achievement.

John Yorke is the BBC's controller of continuing drama series and head of independent drama.

Aptitude isn't Irrelevant

Mark Greig has replied to my post Pre-writing and re-writing and also Piers' post on Why talent is irrelevant.

20 May, 2007

US TV Upfronts

Last week at special events in front of prospective advertisers called the 'upfronts', all the US TV networks confirmed which old shows were coming back in the autumn and which new shows had been picked up. For people like me, episodic TV fans (or geeky TV nutters, depending on your point of view) it's one of the highlights of the year.

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ABC

ABC picked up 7 new dramas and four new comedies from the 30 pilots they had made. They got some criticism for investing so much in development but they point out the ludicrous amounts other networks pay for sports rights.

Lost returns for three seasons of 16 episodes and it was obviously wishful thinking that made me believe the rumours that they were going to wrap it up after next season. The development with the Others has certainly given it renewed life but 48 episodes worth of new life?

The biggest disappointment is the cancellation of comedy Knights of Prosperity. A cleaner believes society owes him to be rich and so he gets like minded thieves and decide to rob Mick Jagger's New York apartment. But they are amateurs and haven't a clue how to do it. It's hilarious.

The second biggest disappointment is the cancellation of drama Six Degrees. I sort of understand its limited appeal, it being smart and low concept but hopefully ITV will still show it as it's sheer class.

Notes from the Underbelly, a quite good single camera laffer about a young couple having a baby returns as does October Road a below average drama about a writer returning to his home town to live.

Desperate Housewives returns with a bigger episode order and so does Brothers and Sisters, a quality drama coming soon to C4.


Dramas:

Big Shots - Four competitive but dysfunctional CEOs take refuge in their friendship, discussing business, confiding secrets, seeking advice and supporting each other.

Cashmere Mafia - Four ambitious and sexy women, who've been best friends since business school, try to balance their glamorous and demanding careers with their complex personal lives



Dirty Sexy Money - An idealistic do-gooder lawyer inherits the portfolio of a dubious do-badder family.

Eli Stone - Evil corporate lawyer has a health scare and realises he could be a prophet.

Private Practice - Grey's Anatomy spin-off where one of the doctors (I wouldn't dream of saying who) moves to a private practice in LA. It would have had a successful launch as part of Grey's Anatomy but they spent most of the time introducing the new characters and didn't have a story. It's comforting that even writers on one of the biggest shows in the US can make rookie errors.

Pushing Daisies - A man can bring people back to life temporarily so they can identify their murderer but he brings his highschool sweetheart back to life permanently which causes problems as he can't touch her again or she'll die. Were they inspired by Torchwood? Surely not. Anyway, it's a brave choice but how the hell is that going to last 13 episodes?

It's from Bryan Fuller who as well as being involved with Heroes, created the cult classics Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls.

Women's Murder Club - Based on James Patterson's bestselling novels, The Women's Murder Club, four working women in San Francisco - a detective, a district attorney, a medical examiner and a reporter - use their expertise and unique talents to solve murder cases.

Comedies:

Carpoolers - Less about saving the environment than male bonding, four guys from very different backgrounds relish their daily commute as they commiserate about their lives, jobs and families in the carpool lane.

Cavemen - Inspired by the popular Geico Insurance commercials, the series looks at life through the eyes of the ultimate outsiders - three modern cavemen - as they struggle to find their place in the world.

Miss/Guided - Having navigated the awkward and sometimes traumatic world of high school, Rebecca Freely returns to her alma mater as a guidance counselor, free of the insecurities and orthodontia of her school days. Amidst student behavioral problems and the persistent romantic advances of the male nurse, Gary, Rebecca is certain of one thing - she is interested in the hot auto-shop-turned-Spanish-teacher, Tim. However, much as in high school days of unexpected teenage angst, Lisa, a former cheerleader and nemesis of Rebecca's, returns as the new English teacher determined to make Rebecca relive her unpopular past, setting sights on Tim as well.

Sam I Am - When a terrible accident leaves Samantha "Sam" Newly in a coma for eight days, she wakes up with no recollection of any past experiences, memories or events. Faced with amnesia, Sam must start over. To her dismay she discovers that she wasn't a particularly honest, good-hearted or loving person. In fact she was self-involved, narcissistic and devoid of real relationships - essentially a bitch.


ABC autumn previews


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CBS

The network announced only three dramas and one comedy maintaining its rep as stable and conservative.

Cancellations include my favourite new sitcom The Class, so-so drama Jericho airing on Hallmark right now and Living's Close to Home.

Dramas:

Cane - Epic Sopranos-like drama about the external rivalries and internal power struggles of a large Cuban-American family running an immensely successful rum and sugar business in South Florida.

Moonlight - An "undead" private investigator who uses his acute vampire senses to help the living... instead of feeding on them.

Viva Laughlin - Mystery drama with music about eternal optimist and freewheeling businessman Ripley Holden, whose sole ambition is to run a casino in Laughlin, Nev. Occasionally using upbeat contemporary songs to accentuate the drama and humor and advance the story, the series is based on the BBC show Viva Blackpool.

Congrats to top writer and top bloke Peter Bowker on the show getting picked up.

Swingtown - Peeks into the shag-carpeted suburban homes of the 1970s to find couples revelling in the sexual and social revolution that introduced open marriages, women's liberation and challenged many conventional wisdoms.

Comedy:

The Big Bang Theory - Two genius geeks befriend attractive single woman next door.

CBS autumn previews

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NBC

The network renewed Heroes, obviously, adding a 6 part mini-series called Heroes: Origins for the mid-season break. Each week will introduce a new character -- one of whom will be chosen by viewers through the Heroes website on NBC.com to become a cast regular the following season.

The Office gets a 30 episode order which signifies a general trend of longer seasons to avoid gaps in the schedule.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (coming soon to C4) has been cancelled and I have no real complaints although it's not as bad as some people make out.

Raines (coming soon to ITV4) has been cancelled and I'm a bit pissed off. The pilot was dodgy but they re-tooled and re-cast and re-shot but it was just too smart and left field for a huge audience. One episode had me blubbing like a baby. I'll preview it when it gets a start date.

NBC is the lowest rating of the networks, despite having the best and most popular new show, and they'll be looking to get back to their former superiority. NBC picked up 5 dramas and 1 comedy.

Dramas:

Bionic Woman - Update of classic '70s sci-fi about a woman who gets in an accident and gets bionic transplants for her legs, an arm and an eye. A friend suggested that at least Michelle Ryan is fitter than Lindsey Wagner. Don't worry, he is no longer with us. RIP, mate.




Chuck - comedic spy thriller about a computer geek who is catapulted into a new career as the government's most vital secret agent. When Chuck opens an e-mail subliminally encoded with government secrets, he unwittingly downloads an entire server of sensitive data into his brain. Now, instead of fighting computer viruses, he must fight assassins and international terrorists.

I would have been too embarrassed to pitch that in case someone said to me, "but that's just Jake 2.0 which flopped".

Journeyman - Romantic mystery-drama about a newspaper reporter who inexplicably begins to travel through time and change people's lives. He has to deal with the difficulties and strife at work and home brought on by his sudden disappearances. However, his travels reunite him with his long-lost fiancée which complicates his present-day life with his wife and son.

Life - Drama about a detective who returns to the force after years in prison, serving time for a crime he didn't commit.

Lipstick Jungle - Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City), this dramedy follows three high-powered friends as they weather the ups and downs of lives lived at the top of their game.

Comedy:

The IT Crowd - The IT department of a huge corporation. Based on Graham Linehan's disappointing C4 sitcom the initial buzz on this version is good. It includes Richard Ayoade from the original.


NBC autumnn previews

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Fox

The number one network, thanks mainly to reality show American Idol and House, which has just become the number one drama. They will only premiere three unscripted shows this autumn saving the rest until mid-season. They say this gives them time to promote the shows - as if the reason the shows failed last season was because not enough people knew about them.

Prison Break was one of the very best dramas last season, where I genuinely didn't have a clue what was going to happen next. In a possible contract re-negotiation stance the creator said that he would be leaving after two seasons and he was going to wrap up the story. Presumably after the successful negotiations and he's got a lot more money, he is now doing season 3 and says most of the scripts have already been written.

House returns, obviously, and 24 returns for two more seasons, mysteriously. Actually it's not that big a mystery, it has a good enough audience despite the creative problems they had this season. There's no guarantee a new show will get as many viewers, best to stick with what you know.

Dramas:

K-Ville - Police drama set in New Orleans. Two years after Katrina, the city is still in chaos. Many cops have quit, and the jails, police stations and crime labs still haven't been properly rebuilt. But the cops who remain have courage to burn and a passion to reclaim and rebuild their city

New Amsterdam - The story of a New York homicide detective unlike any other. He is brilliant, mysterious, reckless, magnetic, unknowable. And he has a profound secret - he is immortal.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles - At the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah vanquished the liquid metal Terminator sent from the future to kill her teenage son, John. Sarah and John now find themselves alone in a very dangerous, complicated world. Fugitives from the law, they are confronted with the reality that still more enemies from the future, and the present, could attack at any moment.

So I'm not the only one who pretends Terminator 3 didn't happen.

Canterbury's Law - A courtroom drama about a rebellious female defense attorney who's willing to bend the law in order to protect the wrongfully accused.

Comedies:

Back to You - They had that elusive quality all news teams need: chemistry ... at least on-screen. Off-screen, Chuck was a bit of a self-centered womaniser, Kelly a bit of an uptight know-it-all. So when Chuck got the call to move up to a larger market, no tears were shed. But after an embarrassing on-air tirade ended up on the Internet, Chuck found himself on the downswing career-wise. So when he got the call to return to Pittsburgh, to reunite with Kelly he said yes.

The Rules for Starting Over - Set in Boston, about a group of newly single friends learning the painful lessons of starting over in their 30s. They'd all love to get remarried, if they could just find their true loves.

The Return of Jezebel James - Can two estranged sisters, polar opposites, live together when one agrees to carry the other's baby?

Fox autumn preview

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The CW

Its veteran series the wonderful "Gilmore Girls" and 7th Heaven, have been cancelled while things aren't looking good for the quality Veronica Mars (Trouble). They seem to be focussing on unscripted next term. Smallville (C4), Supernatural (ITV2) and One Tree Hill (C4) return.

Dramas:

Gossip Girl - Privileged prep school teens learn all the important news from the blog of the all-knowing albeit ultra-secretive Gossip Girl. No one knows Gossip Girl's identity, but everyone in this exclusive and complicated vicious circle relies on her text messages for the latest scoop.

Life Is Wild - Ashley Pharoah's Wild at Heart US reversion gets picked up. Sweet. Ashley is a top bloke so I'm chuffed for him.

Reaper - Supernatural comic drama. Everything in his slacker world changes the day Sam turns 21 and discovers the ungodly reason his parents let him get away with not trying: they sold his soul to the devil before he was born. Satan himself drops by to personally explain that Sam must now serve as his bounty hunter, tracking down evil souls that have escaped and returning them to Hell.

By Kevin Smith, this recalls the themes of his Dogma movie. But it looks to be a comedic re-version of Brimstone.

Comedy:

Aliens in America - About a 16-year-old Wisconsin boy whose mother decides to improve his social status at school by importing an exchange student from Pakistan to be his friend.

19 May, 2007

The Scales of Life

Verging Writer:

"This week's quote is from Notes On A Scandal. Spoken by Judi Dench's character (Barbara) to Cate Blanchett's character (Sheba), whilst sitting on a park bench, this line reverberated personally in heart & mind.

"When I was young I had such a vision of myself. I dreamt I'd be someone to be reckoned with - you know - in the world, but one learns one's scale."

How very sad - isn't it? - to "learn one's scale." To sense a lessening of one's optimism for one's future, for one's contribution to the world, for one's ability to leave one's mark. After all, we all want our lives to have meant something - something more than plain ordinary. Don't we?

Like Barbara, I myself am these days struggling to find personal and professional fulfilment in the face of oftentimes crushing disappointments. I am therefore mindful of the ominous warning lurking below the text of this line. Don't let the world teach you your scale. Determine it for yourself on your own terms. Be your own scale! Be a force to be reckoned with! Be for ever true to your vision of yourself!"

18 May, 2007

Opening Weekend

Black Snake Moan


Romantic drama. A God-fearing bluesman takes to a wild young woman.

With Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson

Writer: Craig Brewer
Director: Craig Brewer

Craig Brewer interview 1
Craig Brewer interview 2
Craig Brewer interview 3
Craig Brewer interview 4 (audio)

Official site

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Conversations with Other Women


Romantic comedy-drama. A man and woman flirt with each other at a wedding reception and look to take it further.

With Aaron Eckhart, Helena Bonham Carter, Yury Tsykun, Brian Geraghty, Brianna Brown, Thomas Lennon

Writer: Gabrielle Zevin
Director: Hans Canosa

Gabrielle Zevin interview

Gabrielle Zevin site

Official site

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Longing (Sehnsucht)


Romantic drama. A man is torn between his wife and his mistress.

With Andreas Müller, Ilka Welz, Anett Dornbusch.

Writer: Valeska Grisebach
Director: Valeska Grisebach

Press pack (Word file)

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Lovewrecked


Romantic comedy. During a cruise, a woman is marooned on a beach with her rock star idol. So she doesn't tell him they are not far from their resort.

With Amanda Bynes, Chris Carmack, Jonathan Bennett, Jamie-Lynn DiScala, Susan Duerden, Fred Willard

Writer: Stephen Langford
Director: Randal Kleiser

Official site

-----------------------------------

Magicians


Comedy. Two rival magicians are forced to confront their falling out when they enter a competition.

With David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Peter Capaldi, Darren Boyd, Miranda Hart, Jessica Stevenson

Writers: Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain
Director: Andrew O'Connor

Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain interview

-----------------------------------

Zodiac


True life drama. A serial killer is at loose. This focuses on the police looking for him and the reporter reporting it.

With Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch.

Writer: James Vanderbilt (based on the book by Robert Graysmith)
Director: David Fincher

James Vanderbilt interview
Robert Graysmith interview

Official site

-----------------------------------

17 May, 2007

Billy Ray, screenwriter-director, interview

Courier Mail:

""I find true stories really interesting and compelling. My question to you would be: 'Could I have created a character as incredible as Robert Hanssen?'

"You wouldn't believe me if I had.""

Christopher Smith, "Severance", Interview

UGO:

"I was reading the script, I said to the screenwriter James Moran that there wasn't enough girls in the movie. So I said, "Put some hookers in the movie!" That's how the scene with the two girls in the beginning came about."

Severance opens in the USA tomorrow.

16 May, 2007

Catching our attention in the first ten pages

BBC writersroom:

"There can be a host of reasons why unsolicited scripts do not make it past the 10-page sift stage to a full read at BBC writersroom. We take every script on its own merits as a calling card of a writer's talent and potential. In the end, getting through the sift means doing all the important things well enough to make the script stand out."

15 May, 2007

Screenplays wanted

Just got this email. Sounds good but obviously take the usual precautions, caveat venditor, as it were.

"Hi,

If you are serious about finding a director or movie producer, who is
looking to option a script go to http://www.screenplayshollywood.blogspot.com

It lists "Screenplays Wanted" ads written by film directors and movie
producers looking for screenplays. It's free and it's updated daily.

Good Luck,

D. Johns"

Hollywood studios stockpiling shows for possible strike by writers

International Herald Tribune:

"Hollywood studios are speeding production on movies and TV shows, preparing for a possible strike by writers and more trouble next year when contracts with actors and directors expire."

14 May, 2007

Pre-writing and Re-writing

Tony’s comments in the previous post and the whole debate about talent over at Piers' Pad has led me to do some re-thinking on my beliefs.

I started off believing that anyone can do anything and there wasn’t some gifted elite better than anyone else. The fact that the vast majority of people who aspire to become screenwriters are unable to finish a script and the vast majority of those are unable to finish a good script did make me briefly go to the innate gift theory. However I am firmly back to my original view: there is no elite born with special powers to write well; god does not hand gifts out to new borns of plumbing ability, doctoring ability or writing ability. People decide what they want to do, learn how to do it, and then do it.

Piers’ point is a crucial one in that - even if the magic powers theory was true - by ignoring it and working hard you will achieve the same result. In essence, by pre-writing and re-writing.

“So sadly, re-writes are not an option for most of us out here. The writing has to be good enough in the first instance and mine, along with the majority is dreck.” Tony

OK, fair point. There’s no point in re-writing unsalvageable dreck. But dreck happens because there is no pre-writing or insubstantial pre-writing. By pre-writing I mean working on your idea, characters and story before you start writing dialogue.

1) Idea – Rather than rushing to do the first idea we think of, why not think about for a while and see if there are any pitfalls. Is it too derivative of something we’ve seen for instance? I once saw a movie at the picturehouse which I absolutely loved. But for a week every single idea I had was just re-writing that film I loved. Is the idea attractive enough? Will enough people, apart from your friends and family, want to see it?

2) Characters – People are interested in characters and watch things for characters not plot. Spending time, even a short time, being clear about who your characters are and what they want will avoid most dreck scripts.

3) Story – Having interesting characters the audience can get emotionally invested in is good but the story has to be satisfying as well. It’s fine having an idea but you need to maximise that idea's potential with the most effective story.

"But - I think saying writers can do better 'if they can be arsed' means little to those who already work hard with families and full-time jobs and don't have the luxury of running scripts past professional colleagues as some are able to do.” Tony

I honestly don’t think you need professional colleagues to help with re-writes. The idea of my TV Guide is to encourage critical viewing and reflection of films and shows. The more you do this the better you become at spotting what works and what doesn’t; what makes good writing and what makes bad writing. And that will help us do the same with our own scripts.

We need to become our own best script reader who is able to look at a first draft and see where it can be improved. With practice and experience that will solve most problems. And I have put script reader checklists on my website to help that process.

However, when you have re-written a few times and can’t see anything wrong with your script, then that’s a good time to get a second opinion. There are writing groups you can join both online and offline for free peer reviews.

Speaking of peer reviews, reading scripts from peers and reading professional screenplays is another good way to improve our critical faculties and improve our screenwriting.

Regarding coping with the full time job and the family, it's difficult but there's no rush. If you can find the time to write then you can find the time to pre-write and re-write. There's no point in bombarding the writersroom with first drafts because they will never ever be accepted. You're competing against people who take their scripts to two or more drafts.

“Mark Greig clearly believes there has to be a gift, or magic power as you might call it and he speaks with authority.” Tony

Mark Greig is entitled to his opinion but he’s not the only professional writer and there are others who believe it is all down to hard work. I really wouldn’t want anyone to give up on their dream because they don’t seem to have the 'gift' when all they have do is learn their craft and work a little harder.

“Rubbish writing on TV and film -I would question why the writing opportunity was ever granted.” Tony

A lot depends on scripts being written to a high enough standard on time, once you can prove you can do that then you’re in. Of course how much time those writers have to pre-write, write and re-write is also a factor in how rubbish it will be. Russell T Davies is an A-list quality writer but he’s showrunning three shows at the same time, how likely is it that he has the time to still produce scripts of the usual level of quality?

Although, having said that Paul Abbott said the problem with the state of TV writing was lazy writers.

“I believe quality and talent do not equate to the same thing but that's your opinion and you, like me, can only speak from personal experience.” Tony

That's true. But all I'm saying is that talent is irrelevant, whether it's innate or not. The objective is producing a quality script that will get produced or get us work on an existing show.

Harry Potter can come along and wave his magic wand and say, “excellentia scribo” and a quality script will suddenly appear because Harry was born with the talent to do so.

To my considerable disappointment I'm not a wizard and so I have to get that quality script the hard way by learning my craft and working hard on the pre-writing, writing and re-writing.

If at the end of the day both Harry and myself have quality scripts that can get us work, I don't see why it matters which method is used. But I'm going to guess that using my method is much more common than using a 'gift'.

To quote Steven King: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

13 May, 2007

Why talent is irrelevant

Between the Pavement and the Stars:

"Regardless of the amount of talent that you had in the first place, sometimes hard work and experience will tip the scales in your favour."

Al Hunter Ashton (1957-2007)


Al Hunter Ashton, the top writer and top actor, died way too early recently and like anyone who ever knew him, I'm gutted.

I was just starting out and had joined the Theatre Writers Union (which later amalgamated with the Writers' Guild). I'd noticed Al's name on credits because the quality of his writing stood out and so when I phoned the Union with a problem I was surprised to find it was Al speaking to me. I've always been fanboy geeky about writers I admire and so was more lost for words then usual. He found out I was from Birmingham and we had a chat about the city and the mighty Blues.

My problem was that I had sent a theatre company a script of mine but a year and a half later they hadn't replied or anything. I wasn't sure of the etiquette as I didn't want to be banned from the industry for asking what was going on (oh, those innocent cowardly days). Al phoned them and I got my script back with an apology and some comments within a week. That story encapsulates how I'll remember him: friendly, passionate, supportive and cutting through the bullshit.

The Guardian obituary

Soundtrack

Because choosing the soundtrack for your films is more important than writing the films

Mike Skinner isn't too popular amongst part of the Birmingham music scene. He was part of a group and the allegation is that he run off to London with beats and rhymes created by the group and had his success with tunes he stole. I was told that Skinner wouldn't dare come back to Brum on tour because of that, but he did. I don't know the truth of it all but I like the group left behind and I like The Streets.

Anyway, once an artist becomes huge than lazy music journalism will always compare any new music vaguely similar unfavourably. It's useful to say if you like The Streets you will also like Plan B and Jamie T but the dismissal and snide remarks those new artists have received have bugged me.

Midland loyalty aside, I wasn't all that impressed with The Streets last album while I'm still not bored by the following artists' long players.

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Plan B


I first saw him on some yoof music show where they had to bleep much of his lyrics. My prejudice was that the swearing must be typical adolescent attention seeking. I then get lent the album, "Who Needs Actions When You Got Words", and was blown away by the brutal honesty of his clever lyrics and the phat beats.

By the way, he's one of us and aspires to be a screenwriter, he's certainly a good storyteller.

Myspace
Wikipedia
Official site

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Jamie T


I've been meaning to big-up Jamie T for ages. Not really needed now as his album is doing very well indeed. Must be if he can afford Sir Bob Hoskins for the new video:



Jamie wrote and produced his awesome album, "Panic Prevention", in his bedroom and wonders if he could have done it with the pressure of a recording contract and huge music industry expectations. There's a lesson there for any artist: write what you want to write and what you enjoy watching and someday people will notice and be interested in your voice. I can bet that all the artists who actually did try to be Mike Skinner, and not themselves, are still in their bedrooms trying to get noticed.

Myspace
Wikipedia
Official site

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Emusic

I refuse to download anything with DRM (Digital Rights Management) as it is such a con so I've never downloaded anything from iTunes and the rest of them. I would much rather buy the albums and rip them myself. At least should I lose the mp3s I still have the original CD. And, yes I know I could burn the songs in iTunes to a CD and then rip them DRM free but why should I have to? This situation is slowly changing and even Apple want it changed. I expect record companies to get rid of DRM within a couple of years. Rather than preventing people stealing music, it encourages it.

So I welcome Emusic onto the scene with its DRM free downloads. Join up for a trial and download 25 tracks for free. So you can get the Plan B and Jamie T albums for nothing.

It's a lovely site with a nice interface, give it a go.

12 May, 2007

Open Page

Writers. Here’s the chance to test out your work with an informal industry group where you can hear your work read by actors cast on the spot. Whether it’s a new idea or a rewritten scene, your piece must be no more than fifteen minutes, and can be written for theatre, radio, TV or film. This is not a showcase but a testing ground, enabling you to hear your words spoken - and get informed feedback.

The upcoming evening is:
Monday 14 May 2007
at 7:00pm-9:00pm.
The Studio - BFI Southbank


The deadline for submitting to that event has obviously passed but go along and check it out.

If you would like to attend an Open Page evening please send an email to openpage@stellarnetwork.com saying what you do (eg actor/writer/director/producer) in which media and when you’d like to come. Space is limited as the sessions are small and the debate lively- so be prepared with an opinion! Please let Stellar Network know in your email if you are a Stellar Network member, and if you want two seats please ask the other person to mail us separately.

Please note Stella Network will be actively seeking submissions from writers who are in the process of writing scripts rather than polished pieces of work.

Stellar Network


UPDATE:


Our Li is getting her script read on this day.

Opening Weekend

28 Weeks Later...


Zombie horror. Six months after the rage virus was inflicted on the population of the British Isles, the US Army helps to secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. But not everything goes to plan.

With Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle, Amanda Walker, Shahid Ahmed, Garfield Morgan, Emily Beecham

Writers: Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo & Jesús Olmo, Enrique López Lavigne
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo interview 1 (audio)
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo interview 2
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo interview 3
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo interview 4

Official site

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The All Together


Comedy. A frustrated TV producer tries to sell his house despite his unreliable housemate.

With Martin Freeman, Corey Johnson, Velibor Topic, Danny Dyer, Richard Harrington

Writer: Gavin Claxton
Director: Gavin Claxton

Production report

Official site

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Goodbye Bafana


Biographical drama. A racist prison guard changes his life by guarding Nelson Mandela.

With Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert, Diane Kruger, Shiloh Henderson

Writers: Greg Latter (based the book by Bob Graham and James Gregory)
Director: Bille August

Official site

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Like Minds


Thriller. A forensic psychologist determinrs whether a minor should face murder charges for killing his schoolmate or not.

With Toni Collette, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Sturridge, Patrick Malahide, David Threlfall

Writer: Gregory J. Read
Director: Gregory J. Read

Gregory J. Read interview

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Life in a... Metro


Bollywood romance. Various people in Mumbai look for love.

With Shiney Ahuja, Sharman Joshi, Irfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, Manoj Pahwa, Kangana Ranaut, Konkona Sen Sharma, Shilpa Shetty

Writers: Anurag Basu
Director: Anurag Basu

Anurag Basu interview

Official site

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My Best Friend (Mon meilleur ami)


Comedy. A woman refuses to believe that her business partner has a best friend, so she challenges him to set up an introduction, so he scrambles to find someone willing to pose as his best pal.

With Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon, Julie Gayet, Julie Durand, Henri Garcin

Writers: Patrice Leconte, Jérôme Tonnerre
Director: Patrice Leconte

Patrice Leconte interview 1 (en français)
Patrice Leconte interview 2 (en français)

Official site

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The Night of the Sunflowers (La Noche de los girasoles)


Drama. Episodic drama about Spanish rural life.

With Mariano Alameda, Celso Bugallo, Nadia Casado, Judith Diakhate, Cesáreo Estébanez, Carmelo Gómez

Writer: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
Director: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo

Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo interview 1 (video)
Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo interview 2

Production notes (pdf)

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11 May, 2007

C4 flies the flag for Britain at Rose d'Or

Jessica Rogers, Broadcast

The Brits dominated this year's Rose d'Or awards with Channel 4 programmes scooping five of the 12 awards up for grabs.

The opera special prize went to Tiger Aspect's Man on The Moon. Written by acclaimed British composer Jonathan Dove it explored the complex story of Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.

Tiger Aspect also triumphed in the best comedy category with The Vicar of Dibley.

Comedy indie Avalon secured the best sitcom award for Not Going Out while S4C's drama Con Passionate became the first Welsh Rose d'Or recipient taking home the gong for best soap.

10 May, 2007

Vonnegut For Screenwriters


Living the Romantic Comedy:

"Tucked into the grab-bag collection of loose ends that is Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, you will find eight rules for writing a short story. Shortly after Vonnegut's passing, I passed these out to a classroom full of screenwriters, because it seemed to me that the rules applied to the crafting of screenplays as well."

The Onion AV:

"15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will."

The Pen is Mightier than the Spork:

"Kurt Vonnegut died today, aged 84. I'm really upset about that. Somehow I hoped he'd live forever."

Boy meets girl: it always ends in tears

The Times:

"Why have romantic comedies become so bad, so laden with lame humour and couples that barely spark and so transparent as therapy substitutes designed to make the audience feel good about themselves (the assumption being that we all feel bad to begin with)?"

08 May, 2007

Writer's Voice

Write Here, Write Now:

"If you feel like you've put your heart and soul into a project, chances are, a good Reader will see it too. I've read lots of scripts that have been interesting, yet I've recognised too much of other films, books, whatever... However, I have read just as many scripts (where) I've got the gut feeling that this is THEIR story, or THEIR feelings on a particular issue or concern. It's that sense of THEM that communicates their voice."

Mark Greig, "Life on Mars", interview

Dom's World:

"Q: What advice would you give to a new writer trying to break into TV?"
"Have a gift for it, be productive and persistent. You learn more by doing than by being taught. And have a gift for it."

06 May, 2007

Shorts Project: Writing the Script

Oh yeah, baby, I did it! I was preparing all sorts of excuses but none were needed. Rogue Slash was completed in 3½ hours, with two half hour breaks.

I planned on doing a step outline yesterday and then decided to do one within the five hours but I didn't do one at all in the end. If I was doing a script that was longer I wouldn't dream of not having a step outline but for a short I wanted to try a draft without one. It could have been pure laziness but I felt my "pseudo beat sheet" was enough. It's not a proper complete beat sheet but it had just enough images and plot points to be getting on with. Of course it meant I struggled a bit in the latter stages where I hadn't worked things out properly but it seemed to come together alright.

Of course the main thing is actually setting a goal and finishing a goal (something the useless Blues strikers could have learnt from today) but I don't think I completely solved the lack of conflict problem in the first part and the second part with the major conflict is perhaps too short. Tone may also be an issue as the ending may come as a surprise in something with slapstick gags.

I always say it's best to start with a theme but for some reason I didn't even think of a theme until Potsy mentioned she had one so I had to look at what theme emerged subconsciously and then emphasise that in the writing. Either way works, the main thing is having a theme.

Although I kept it relatively cheap I decided to abandon doing something really cheap. But in the re-writes I may think of a way to have less locations and set-ups.

The things I've learnt is that it's all well and good writing down nice dialogue and gags in our notebooks but we have to be writing down images as well. Images that can possibly replace dialogue. I love dialogue intensive work,if it's good dialogue like the sadly just cancelled Gilmore Girls, but I have to force myself to think more visually.

I've read Rogue Slash and I really like it. In the old days I would have sent it to a producer the next day but I know that in one or two weeks I'm going to read it again and suddenly notice lots of things that need changing.

But the main thing I've learnt from the process is just do it! Cheers to Potsy for the idea.

If you're curious you can read the first draft for yourself:

Rogue Slash (pdf).

05 May, 2007

Shorts project: Story and Characters

Jase finished his first draft in 2½ hours and explains the speed because he has been thinking about it for a while. I've always believed that the hardest part of writing is the pre-writing stage. Once you've worked out the story and characters then writing the dialogue is relatively easy. And it also means that there should be less re-writing needed.

So I spent all of yesterday trying to work out my "pseudo beat sheet". It was mostly thinking but it was exhausting and gave me a headache. It was worth it though as it's coming together, sort of.

My first idea involved the woman in a canteen with a man sweeping. She could be anyone and he could be anyone. Maybe she was waiting for someone who was late and the bloke was sweeping as a hint they were about to close. Maybe he fancied her? It's a simple idea that could work but I bored myself. It was potentially too talky, too obvious and not visual enough.

Then I looked on the "man dressed in an animal costume" one and had the image of a man in a bear costume waking up in the woods. Speaking of woods, one of the other images from the TV ad was of a woman searching in the woods. What if she was burying something instead? What if they meet and they know each other? And that's why it gave me a headache, it's easy having plot points but actually having to make those plot points character driven with believable human behaviour can be difficult.

I decide to split the story so one half takes place in the present and the other half explains the events in the first half. I was feeling very smug and doing my special "solved a writing problem dance" (don't pretend you haven't got one too) when I realised that while the initial images in the first part are intriguing there is a lack of conflict. Conflict comes from someone wanting something and it's blocked in some way but it will ruin my plot if that happens. I'm just going to have to go deeper into the characters and their motivations or change the plot.

I wanted to keep it light and funny but the major conflict in the second half means it's going to be a dark comedy at best. Maybe I should try harder to think of a different conflict but to properly justify what's going on in the woods, I need to go edgier and I really want to keep that bit. And that conflict is what I want to write about as it's one of my issues or themes.

So tonight I'll think about my characters a lot more and make sure I know who they are. Tomorrow I'll do my step outline and write the first draft. Just like Potsy did. Jacko is doing his first draft tomorrow as well, so good luck to him.

Thanks to Danny for this great link where a dude who thinks most short films are crap challenges readers to present examples otherwise.

I linked to the Because of Mama short film educational website in the comments but I have converted the relevant stuff ("The Art of Storytelling" and "Drafting the Short Film") into a single pdf to download and print off. It gives a simple but brilliant introduction to the writing process.

03 May, 2007

Shorts project - Idea

Potsy was told "you can knock up a first draft of a ten minute short film script in five hours, easy." She is challenging herself to do that and others have joined in. Including me. I intend writing it on Sunday and using the time beforehand to plan it.

So now I'm committed (or should be committed more like) what do I need to do? Well, I haven't thought about writing shorts for ages so I need to briefly familiarise myself with the format.

I actually wrote a section on short films for my website and while my own introduction is piss-poor, the Screen East guide to writing shorts is useful.

I now need a shorts idea. As we go through life we will get ideas for stories and the problem is working out which ideas are suitable for whatever particular format. Some may be specifically for shorts, serials or series.

What I could do is go to my notebooks and choose a short film idea from all the ones I've noted down over the years but I think it would be best for this project to think of something new from scratch. Mainly because I haven't got any bloody notebooks.

I know it's a good idea to carry a notebook around and write in it regularly but I've just not got into the habit. Actually I believed that if an idea was good I would remember it, which is clearly daft. But this weekend I'm going into some cheapo stationers and getting some and getting into the habit of writing all my ideas and thoughts down on a daily basis. You might end up not using much of it but it's a good discipline to get into for any pre-professional writer.

So how the hell am I going to get an idea? Firstly I have to be clear about what it is I want to do. I'm inclined to do something light and comedic.

There was a script call recently that contained this:

"OK, here's the thing, a few years ago I put out a similar cry for help. I got hundreds of scripts, and I read them all! So right off the bat I'm going to say your script must be feasible! Again, I'm sorry, I have to say it... Feasible! As in, a few locations, i.e. apartments, a park, a street, etc... Not a bank, a factory, Starbucks, a large business office etc... A few characters. Not a stadium scene or a hospital etc... No crazy special effects. A guy hangs himself, ok maaaaybe. A guy pulls out a gun and shoots up his neighbours car, no. Finally, how about something fun? Romantic comedy sounds good! Dead, raped teenage girl does not!

Oh, and all around 10-15 minutes sounds great! Anything more, and it becomes something bigger than we want. Plus, by minute 12, it's usually dragging!"

I can write what the hell I want but I like those parameters as they make sense. I would like my script to be bought and made and so I'm aiming for less arty and depressing and more entertaining and fun.

I still need an idea and nothing is springing to mind. Spring you bastards, spring! Hold on a minute... I blogged about a TV commercial , a while back, that intrigued me because there were lots of story possibilities and it showed that you can be inspired by ideas from anywhere. Maybe I could get an idea from that? These are the images:

  • A man photocopying

  • A man waking up in what looks like an hotel room

  • A man dropping a card on the floor

  • A woman taking a shower with her dress on

  • A woman angry at a dude

  • A man dressed in an animal costume in the back seat of a car parked on a grass verge

  • A car being followed by a helicopter

  • A man taking off a long blonde wig

  • A late night goods transaction at a container at the docks

  • A woman in a canteen while a man sweeps up behind her

  • A woman using her car's headlights to search for something in the woods

  • Hotel keys

  • A woman photographer taking pictures of nude or semi-nude women

  • A woman watching a parade


Now I should be able to come up with something from that. I need to choose a main character from that list, find out a bit more about them and then try and think of a story.

Opening Weekend

Bridge to Terabithia


Fantasy adventure. A boy and girl become friends and create a magical kingdom but tragedy occurs.

With Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick

Writers: Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson (from the book by Katherine Paterson)
Director: Gabor Csupo

David Paterson interview

Production interview

Official site

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Fast Food Nation


Drama. An ensemble piece examining the health risks involved in the fast food industry and its environmental and social consequences as well.

With Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ana Claudia Talancón,Juan Carlos Serrán, Armando Hernández, Greg Kinnear

Eric Schlosser interview 1
Eric Schlosser interview 2
Eric Schlosser interview 3
Richard Linklater interview 1
Richard Linklater interview 2
Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater interview

Writers: Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater (from the book by Eric Schlosser)
Director: Richard Linklater

Official site

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Goya's Ghosts (Los Fantasmas de Goya)


Drama. Painter Francisco Goya faces a scandal involving his muse, who is labeled a heretic by a monk.

With Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Randy Quaid, Blanca Portillo, Michael Lonsdale, José Luis Gómez, Mabel Rivera

Writers: Milos Forman & Jean-Claude Carrière
Director: Milos Forman

Milos Forman interview 1
Jean-Claude Carrière interview 1

Official site

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Inside Paris (Dans Paris)


Comedy drama. Following a relationship breakdown a dude moves in with his womanising brother.

With Romain Duris, Louis Garrel, Joana Preiss, Guy Marchand, Marie-France Pisier, Alice Butaud

Writer: Christophe Honoré
Director: Christophe Honoré

Christophe Honoré interview 1 (en français)
Christophe Honoré interview 2 (en français) (pdf)

Official site

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Mutual Appreciation


Comedy. Following the break-up of his band a musician sets off to New York to make it without distractions but he has the hots for his friend's girlfriend.

With Justin Rice, Rachel Clift, Andrew Bujalski, Seung-Min Lee, Pamela Corkey, Kevin Micka, Ralph Tyler

Writer: Andrew Bujalski
Director: Andrew Bujalski

Andrew Bujalski interview 1
Andrew Bujalski interview 2
Andrew Bujalski interview 3
Andrew Bujalski interview 4

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Spider-Man 3


Science fiction action adventure. A strange black entity from another world bonds with Peter Parker and causes inner turmoil as he contends with new villains, temptations, and revenge.

With Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Theresa Russell

Writers: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent
Director: Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi interview 1
Sam Raimi interview 2
Sam Raimi interview 3
Sam Raimi interview 4
Sam Raimi interview 5
Sam Raimi interview 6
Sam Raimi interview 7
Sam Raimi interview 8

Offcial blog
Official site

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The Upside of Anger


Comedy-drama. When her husband unexpectedly disappears, a sharp-witted suburban wife and her daughters juggle their mom's romantic dilemmas and family dynamics.

With Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, Evan Rachel Wood, Mike Binder

Writer: Mike Binder
Director: Mike Binder

Mike Binder interview 1
Mike Binder interview 2

Official site


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