27 April, 2008

"Isabel Allende: Tales of passion"

TED:


"In one of the most beloved talks from TED2007, novelist Isabel Allende talks about writing, women, passion, feminism. She tells the stories of powerful women she has known, some larger-than-life (listen for a beauty tip from Sophia Loren), and some simply living with grace, dignity and ingenuity in a world that, in too many ways, still treats women unjustly."


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"TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)."

"Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?"

TED:

"Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, journeying through her childhood and family history and into the worlds of physics and chance, looking for hints of where her own creativity comes from. It's a wild ride with a surprise ending."

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"TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)."

"J.J. Abrams: The Mystery Box"

TED:

"J.J. Abrams traces his love of the unseen mystery -- the heart of Alias, Lost, and the upcoming Cloverfield -- back to its own magical beginnings, which may or may not include an early obsession with magic, the love of a supportive grandfather, or his own unopened Mystery Box."

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"TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)."

25 April, 2008

Recognizing Your Inner-Boss: 10 Breeds and How to Survive With Them


Anywired:

"They are: the perfectionist, the ‘done is good enough’, the devil on your shoulder, the workhorse, the innovator, the technophile, the guilt-tripper, the workaholic, the scheduler and the friend.

Which inner-boss are you working for?

This post will identify 10 breeds, as well as explaining how you can make the best of them."


(via Wishful Linking)

14 April, 2008

Deadlines Calendar


The Deadlines calendar on my website has been blank for a couple of years as I forgot all about it as I was going to find an integrated version instead like I'd enviously seen on other websites but then someone on Shooting Screenwriters mentioned how good Google Calendar was.

So I have switched to Google's version from the rubbish ad-laden calendar I was using and started updating it again. I've put on all the deadlines from my blog (and selected others from sites including Lianne's, Moviebytes, BBC writersroom, Script and Writernet).

I've also done a bit of forward planning into 2009 so I'm not surprised at competitions being announced and panicking - even though they are announced at the same time every bloody year.

Of course something like this doesn't end panicking completely as now I want to enter everything but don't have enough time or money (Reminds me of a stag weekend in Amsterdam once). But I'm trying to be realistic and selective. Priority goes to the free ones and then to prestigious ones that offer feedback. I then prioritise my interests. I'm not too fussed about shorts for example but I would love to win a major feature one.

I actually resented being forced to join Google when they bought out Blogger but they are clever bastards. It's getting like most of the time I spend on the web now is with a Google interface of some kind in addition to Blogger such as YouTube, Search, Mail, Reader, Docs and now Calendar.
Even in beta, Google Calendar is lovely. You can synchronise to Outlook, iCal, Treo and Thunderbird and also get sent reminders. Although there is an annoying bug at the moment that means if you edit your entry, the hyperlink vanishes and you have to re-enter it.

Once you've joined, search the public calendars for "Writing for Performance", and then add it to your own calendar. That's another thing that's quite clever in that you see just the one calendar but each different one has colour coded entries.

This is the direct link for the calendar (which is also on the right at the top):

Writing for Performance Calendar

and embedded on my tragically old fashioned website as usual:

Writing for Performance Deadlines

Update:
Best of Google Calendar - Add-ons and Tips

13 April, 2008

Moviescope magazine



If you haven't seen Moviescope before, it's a glossy 82 page full colour magazine "by filmmakers, for filmmakers".

While I was interested in the writing articles, I didn't think I would be so interested in what the other film-makers had to say
but it's a collaborative medium and it's useful to know what the issues are for the whole industry and what's involved with other crafts and services.

There hasn't been a duff issue yet and I'd even recommend getting the back issues (if they're not sold out) but should the fiver price tag be putting you off, I'll just go through the contents of the latest one, page by page, so you can see if it's worth it or not:


Newsreel

Consisting of property pick-ups, casting news, industry and festival news.

*********

Report from the Rotterdam film festival

Has interesting insights on why some independent films fail.

*********

A distributor's tale

Very interesting article from a member of the unsung heroes, independent distributors.

*********

Ron Oliver

The writer-director tells his story including how he sold his first script for peanuts in a non-union contract but it ended up making the producers millions. And also how this script ended up being worth more than money.

*********

Cosgrove Hall's Managing Director

An interview with the animation head, including discussion on Save Kids TV

*********

The Band's Visit

A feature on this award winning film and the hassle it has had for humanising both Israelis and Arabs. "This script took ages to complete. I was stuck with it for years. I was constantly trying to push it to more dramatic ends."

*********

Blake Snyder

The Save the Cat author in an extensive interview: "I think story requirements are a good thing - something that makes us resonate, that we all have to pay attention to as writers. That doesn't stop you from making each story your own."

*********

John Krasinski

The actor dude from The Office and new release Leatherheads is interviewed about that and the film he wrote during the TV show's recent lay-off.

*********

John Sayles

I met the man and we had a nice long chat after a screening in Birmingham. It was inspiring. For him, I wasn't too fussed. Here, the legend is interviewed about new movie Honeydrippers. (not The Spiderwick Chronicles)

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Mark Waters

This is the main cover story and the director is interviewed about the awesome Spiderwick Chronicles and the intro to this explains about the story decisions Sayles made. The interview proper covers special effects and child actors. Embarrassingly I didn't realise a) Freddie Highmore was British and b) he played both the brothers until I saw him interviewed after the film. I'd like to think it was due to Highmore being the best young actor in a generation and not due to me being incredibly thick.

*********

Bill Martell

An article by the cool guru explaining that structure isn't a rope tying our creativity but is what ties the story together.

*********

Orion Williams

Control producer dude reflects on his journey and explains the sacrifices he made to get the film made.

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Finance

I keep meaning to do a crowd-surfing article now I don't have to. Sweet.

*********

Adrian Mead

Just a little interview with the guru about his low budget film-making.

*********

Bill Martell

Yes, more wisdom dispensed. It's all about stakes, apparently. "A film needs global stakes or personal stakes".

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Richard Sherman

The musical legend in interview. You've probably never heard of him but he's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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Garth Jennings

The writer-director of the very brilliant Son of Rambow in interview. "Don't give up. You've just got to do your thing and try to enjoy it as much as you can."

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DV Filmaking

An article about how you needn't be confined to within four walls. With examples that have worked.

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Editing

An editor dude is interviewed about his craft. "I sit down to focus on each scene as it is its own 'little movie' with a beginning, middle and end. I'm obsessive about looking for what exactly is needed to deliver that scene's meaning." Which echoes what Lavandier says in his book.

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Distribution

Another article but a general one about the state of play. The pull quote is my mantra and too often ignored: "Filmmakers need to learn about the marketing elements as part of the creative process of filmmaking."

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Writers Strike overview

By Rick Drew, that's who.

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Catherine Breillat

The cool but controversial filmmaker talks about her career and latest film. "For Romance if the number of people who said they hated the film had actually seen it, we'd be billionaires!"

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Derek Yee

The Hong Kong triple threat, familiar from actioners is profiled.

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Animated documentaries

Yes, that's right, like Animated Minds

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Andy Conway

The Screenwriters Network editor has the last word "You are a writer and it feels like you are at war with the film world".

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So it's a fiver every two months from Borders, Foyles and "leading newsagents nationwide".

Or subscribe for £20.79 and you get 6 issues a year plus a CD of 850 screenplay pdfs or something from The Dialogue interview series on DVD.

Soundtrack

Cut Off Your Hands - "Oh Girl"


Kiwi group whose album drops in August, I think

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Bjork - "Wanderlust"


The new single with another awesome video available to view in 3D at selected record stores

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Portishead - "Machine Gun"


What a comeback. Genius.

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Flashback

Blur - "Coffee & TV"


Directed by Garth Jennings of "Son of Rambow" fame and voted one of the greatest videos of all time.

12 April, 2008

Doctor Who tonight

Jimmy has a Doctor Who tonight at 6:45pm and RTD says of it in an interview:

"The Pompeii episode is so ambitious that we had a script that was easier to film standing by, in case someone turned round and said, 'This is impossible.' The whole thing was terrifying, and a nightmare to film, but that’s what makes it good in the end. It’s a glorious episode.’




I feel I should say something about Torchwood as regular readers will remember my disappointment in the first series.

I saw the list of writers for the second series, which included
Jimmy, and knew the production wasn't rushed this time so I gave it another go.

With the first series I only liked one episode (by Toby Whithouse of the much talked about Being Human pilot). In the second series I liked ten episodes.

I think there's a slight chance
Torchwood might be repeated at some point in the future (keep your eyes peeled just in case you miss it) and so it's worth checking it out if you weren't a fan of the first series. There was earned emotion and consequences.

10 April, 2008

ICWP Mother-Daughter Monologue Project 2008

ICWP Mother-Daughter Monologue Project 2008

I flagged this up on International Women's Day but Fara managed to find the full details which are linked above.

The deadline is 15 April 2008 but it only requires 1-10 pages. There's no cash prizes but you get to feature in an anthology which is something to add to your CV or impress your mates down the pub or tell your grandchildren about.

I especially like that they include the selection criteria, which includes the following:

"Relative Completeness of the Monologue (does it feel like a whole and complete theatrical unit?)"

In other words, does it have a beginning, middle and end. It's easy to just have somebody rambling on about their mother or daughter but I think even monologues need some kind of structure, however minimal.

I reckon it's ideal for a writing exercise in that we can think about the characters and structure in the day-job and then write it over the weekend. Good luck.

09 April, 2008

The Broadcast TV Drama Forum Video Cast



I was unable to go to The Broadcast TV Drama Forum, and no blogger who went has posted any information yet.

So it's lucky that Broadcast videotaped the whole thing and provided highlights including what commissioners want, Andrew Davies and Russell T Davies.

And I was just about to send that sci-fi script to Sky as well...


The Broadcast TV Drama Forum Video Cast

08 April, 2008

Scripped


Scripped Writer

An innovative, easy to use screenwriting software for all writers.
Start writing your screenplay for free today!

Scripped Writer is a free web-based script writing software application you can use right in your web browser. Unlike other screenwriting software, Scripped Writer is built specifically with the needs of the writer in mind. That means it has all the functionality you need without the clutter of features you'll never use.

No installation required.

With a browser based web application you can use Scripped Writer without downloading software and installing it on your machine. Just like Google Docs®, you can use Scripped Writer from any computer with an internet connection. Simply log in to your Scripped user account and get to writing.

A software for all writing levels.

Whether you are an experienced screenwriter, a student, or just a beginner our screenwriting software has everything you need to write, save, and format your script to industry standards. Plus, with Scripped Writer's free-flow writing environment you never have to break from the story to format the text. Scripped Writer even helps you choose the right format for each element. And it all happens instantly, in real time, as you write.

Create and manage your scripts online.

Start a new script, create new drafts of an existing script, and manage your script details from your Scripped account. Because everything is online, you don't have to worry about managing or traveling with documents on your personal computer, work computer, or flash drive. All your scripts, drafts, and information are easily accessible no matter what computer you are using. Plus, Scripped Writers unique script and draft versioning system allows you to track your progress as you move through the writing process.

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I posted Zhura's press release and Ryan of Scripped got in touch to point out that:

"While Zhura has more community features than we do, our writing application is a bit more fluid and offers a paginated writing view, where Zhura's merely scrolls."

Tony Kushner, playwright, interview

StarTribune:

""I have an optimistic deadline, and then a 'Kill yourself if you don't make this' deadline," Kushner said by phone. "When I start to write a draft, it takes six weeks and then I become very, very fast and efficient. I'm really good at rewriting and workshops and rehearsals and previews. I love doing that.""

06 April, 2008

Soundtrack

Theoretical Girl - "The Hypocrite"




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Caesars - "Boo Boo Goo Goo"




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The New Pornographers- "Myriad Harbour"




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Jens Lekman - "Sipping On Sweet Nectar"




05 April, 2008

David S. Cohen, author, "Screen Plays "

Vanity Fair: "A new book, Screen Plays (HarperCollins), tells the stories of how 25 different films made it from the idea stage to the screen. It’s a great read for screenwriters, for anyone with screenwriting ambitions, or for anyone who has sat in a theater wondering, “How did this piece of crap get made?”

"
It seems no matter how big a name you have a screenwriter, you’ll get beaten up by the process.
I think there’s no such thing, with the possible exception of Charlie Kaufman, as a big-name screenwriter in that sense. The screenwriter is never treated as the story expert. The cinematographer is treated as the lighting expert, and the costume designer is treated as the clothing expert, but the screenwriter is never treated with that kind of deference and respect. Everybody else thinks they can do the screenwriter’s job better."

How To Make & Sell Low Budget Features - London


Central London, Saturday 19 April, 10am - 5pm


Award-winning writer / producer / director team of Toni Harman & Alex Wakeford have just made CREDO, a low budget horror film (www.credothemovie.com) that recently secured worldwide international distribution.


The film-makers tell you exactly what they did, revealing what it cost, what went right, what went wrong, who they sold to and for how much. This is a must-go-to workshop for writers, directors, producers and anyone desperate to make their first feature.


Cost: £110 + VAT

To book visit: www.altofilms.com/training.html or email info@altofilms.com

04 April, 2008

Horror Screenplay Competitions


Horror Screenplay Contest

5 July 2008 (final)





Terror Film Festival

1 July 2008 (late)
1 August 2008 (final)
24 August 2008 (final - but we really mean it this time)






Screamfest Horror Film Festival and Screenplay Competition

15 June 2008 (early)
15 July 2008 (regular)
15 August 2008 (final)

03 April, 2008

"Write an episode of Hollyoaks" competition



Channel 4:

Update:

Winner announced: Jamie Austin. Article here.

" As part of Channel 4's new talent month we are giving you the chance to write an episode of HOLLYOAKS. HOLLYOAKS are on the look out for some of the UK's best new writers, so whether you are a fan or an established writer then this competition could be for you.


TRANSFORMED
All you have to do is script four scenes based on an old storyline. The winner will be given exclusive access to HOLLYOAKS' storylines, be commissioned to write an entire episode and work with the production team to see their episode transformed on TV.

BRYAN’S ADVICE
To enter our HOLLYOAKS writing competition then simply follow the step by step guide in our competitions section and read through the example documents. Check out our top tips from HOLLYOAKS Producer Bryan Kirkwood, with our Bryan's Advice section, to help you on your way. Good luck! "


  • You must be over 16 and a UK resident to enter.
  • The competition closes at 3pm on Friday 11 April 2008. All entries must be received by the end of the competition.
  • If you have been chosen to win we will contact you by phone or email. You will need to respond within 24 hours of this or another winner will be chosen.
  • The prize is the opportunity to write a full script of Hollyoaks. If travel or accommodation is required this will be provided. If you win you will need to be available to write a full script of Hollyoaks in the week commencing Monday 21 April 2008 for two to three weeks.
  • You may only enter this competition once. If you enter more than once you will not be eligible to win.

02 April, 2008

4Talent Awards


4Talent Awards

What are the Awards for?

Part of 4Talent's purpose is to act as talent spotters - not for toothy wannabes in a saccharine-sweet variety show way, but for the people who'll be providing Channel 4, E4, More4, Film4, 4Radio and channel4.com with original, challenging, ground-breaking, risk-taking, intelligent and entertaining content in the future.

But we're also serving the wider industry: the independent companies that help British creative media lead the world, and without whom Channel 4 couldn't exist. Across 20 categories the 4Talent Awards tip exciting individuals with the potential to make a difference, as judged both by commissioners and the producers who supply them.

What's in it for the winners?

First of all, you're being judged by the people who could be commissioning you in future - you'll be firmly on their radar.

Secondly, besides a rather fetching trophy and champagne-fuelled awards ceremony, you'll also receive a full-spread interview and photoshoot in the November issue of 4Talent magazine, and a nationwide press push backed by Channel 4.

What are the entry criteria?

Specific requirements for each category are outlined below; detailed briefs from our judges will be revealed over the coming weeks.

The main restriction is that all entrants must be under 30 on 31/12/2008. These are 'new talent' awards, and while we fully accept and understand that anyone could come fresh to a creative profession when considerably older than 30, capping entries with an upper age limit helps us to compare them as fairly as possible.

There's no minimum age limit, but you'll be judged on track record so will need to have some quality work to show us!

All entrants must also:

1) Complete the online form below

  • Ask someone for a 100-word reference. This could be from a fellow creative who admires your work, an employer who'll back you as an individual, or a client who's been blown away by what you've created for them.
  • Include website(s) and/or links to further work wherever possible. This could be your personal site, a showreel on YouTube, MySpace profile, Facebook group or anything that helps give us the bigger picture.
* AND *

2) Send any supporting material BY POST
FAO: Helen Byrne, 4Talent Awards, Units 1&4 Progress Works, Birmingham B9 4AL.

  • An up-to-date CV
  • A one-page self-sell, outlining the projects you're most proud of and clearly identifying your role in each of them. A 4Talent Award recognises you as a creative talent to watch and will take all the work you submit into account.
  • Video, audio and/or other assets as outlined for each category
Why post? We can't process hundreds of emails with big audio and video attachments. If everything we require is available online (on your personal site, YouTube etc), please indicate this on the below form and supply all required links. Any queries, please drop us a line at 4talent@channel4.co.uk.What are the categories?

For last year's 4Talent Awards, we simmered hundreds of entries across the whole creative spectrum into a final 20.

This year, things are different: you'll need to pitch yourself in one specific category. If you'd be confident entering several then we'd suggest the Multitalented Award; if you don't fit into any of them but are unstoppably creative in some other field - illustration, fashion design, fine art or experimental dance, say - there's always the enigmatic Wildcard Award.

3) Dramatic Writing

Playwriting and screenwriting for stage, film and TV (not radio - see Off-Air Radio category)
Required: up to 3 scripts + 50 word synopses

6) Comedy Writing

Stage, film and TV (not radio - see Off-Air Radio category)
Required: up to 3 scripts + 50 word synopses

7) Comedy Performance

Stand-up, film and TV (not radio - see On-Air Radio category)
Required: video showreel (up to 10min)

14) Innovation

Exciting, original, ground-breaking approaches to creative media
Required: any relevant supporting assets for your project(s)

15) Multi-platform

Producers who successfully span several media in their projects
Required: any relevant supporting assets for your project(s)

16) Animation

Required: up to 3 full animations (any length)
Optional: video showreel (up to 10min)

19) Multi-talented

For those who excel in two or more creative fields
Required: a selection of your work across at least two disciplines

20) Wildcard

Covers any creative field that's not outlined above
Required: any relevant supporting assets to demonstrate your work

More detailed criteria and individual judges will be revealed over the coming weeks, so please check back for more information about each category.

What's the deadline?

Both your completed online form and any posted supporting materials must be received by 5pm on Friday 29 August 2008 - you can deliver it by hand if necessary! Any material received after this date will not be considered.

The 20 winners will be notified by 31 October 2008.

01 April, 2008

Book Review: "Writing Drama" by Yves Lavandier


I was sent a review copy by those nice people at
Le Clown & l'Enfant ages ago when it seemed like everyone was talking about it being the best book available for playwrights and screenwriters. I was sceptical but, having read it, believe the hype.

“I am convinced that the ability to write drama is much more widespread than is generally believed. I believe that all of us, if our minds have been properly nourished in childhood, are geared to story-telling. A combination of blocks, habits of mind, lack of self-confidence and the circumstances of time and chance prevent many people from developing this potential. My goal in this book is to help them overcome these obstacles and flourish as tellers of stories. Cinema and theatre depend for their health on regular infusions of new blood and new ideas.” Writing Drama, p29

The book starts with a brilliant historical analysis of the role of the writer and a comprehensive exploration of how the auteur theory came about and a dismissing of it. Lavandier also shows how the exalted status of directors has damaging consequences. It’s inspiring and makes you proud to be a writer.


Conflict


Lavandier explains how conflict is “the building block of drama” He touches on how conflict can mean actual conflict or the prospect of one (i.e. a danger, a risk, a threat, etc.). Conflicts are essential for plausibility and interest.

Sophie’s Choice is given as example of conflict that doesn’t work. I do see that choice as the ultimate terrible conflict but he points out it was only revealed at the end of the picture. The conflict has to work for the character involved but the audience needs to be aware of it as well. He goes on to say this applies in general in that characters have to react in a psychological true way to conflict and the audience need to see that to be involved.

Lavandier sums it up thusly: “A character seeks to achieve an objective but encounters obstacles which gives rise to conflict and leads to emotion, not just for the character but also for the spectator.” I reckon if you accept that alone then you are halfway to becoming a good writer.


Protagonists

This chapter gives a simple definition, cutting away the chaff of other theories to leave what is useful and practical. We can’t help seeing the protagonist as a single character for example but Lavandier has a section giving examples of collective protagonists.

While a guru may ignore something that works which contradicts their theory, Lavandier is happy to point out the exceptions to the general principles and explain why they worked. Rather than feeling forced into some rigid paradigm where things have to happen by a specific page number, Writing Drama gives the tools to be original and successful.

In real life we have several objectives, sometimes simultaneously but in writing drama, Lavandier believes the protagonist must concentrate on one single objective that is difficult to achieve. He explains the various different types of objectives and the four essential conditions for the objective’s effectiveness.


Obstacles

In this section Lavandier suggests that the quality of the work depends on the quality of the obstacle and although there can be one general objective there can be several obstacles to its achievement.

The section is amazingly comprehensive, like all of them, starting off with defining internal and external conflicts, creating an understandable definition of melodrama, discussing the MacGuffin in its historical context and defining it so it's useful now, explaining ‘what’s wrong with deus ex machina?’, dealing with the antagonist and the villain and ends by looking at suspense and dramatic questions raised in the audience’s mind.


Characterisation

Each chapter starts with a load of great quotes, the characterisation section includes one by Charlie Chaplin: “understanding people is the basis for all success.”

As well as the usual comprehensive look at creating characters, Lavandier has some useful tips on what to do when we’re bogged down by a character that rings false such as “making the character represent someone you know”.

He gives a long list of outstanding characters in past drama and then explains what they have in common.


Structure

The section on structure follows the basics as he believes “the mechanisms of structure derive logically from the basic mechanism of drama”.

Lavandier then discusses the three-act structure and is perhaps at his most controversial here because he’s strictly going by what has worked historically and what makes logical sense but that conflicts with Sid Field in particular.

It is traditional that the third act is what happens when the objective has been achieved or abandoned – an epilogue. Sid Field’s paradigm has the third act made up of the resolution and the epilogue but Lavandier says Field never explains why that resolution has to be separate to the traditional second act.

Lavandier gives the example of Field’s analysis of Rocky which is impossible to argue with as it doesn’t make sense and so is difficult to use as a guide for your own screenplay. The way Writing Drama explains it does make sense.

Lavandier points out that the different gurus use the same films as evidence for their own particular completely different paradigms. He leaves the reader to decide what works best for them. He explains other theories and gives various variations on structure, pointing out what’s useful about them and warning about what might not be so useful.

The rest of the chapter deals with plot points, the midpoint, the climax, inciting incidents, the different types of twist and endings – with a structural analysis of several films and plays.

As usual he gives exceptions to the norm or in his own words: “rules and when to break them”.


Unities

The next chapter covers the three unities: unity of time, unity of place and unity of action. While there is no need for a short time span for your drama or for a single setting, Lavandier points out the advantages of doing so. It’s actually only the unity of action that he considers essential. He believes every scene should be devoted to the protagonist’s objective and this is related to the single general objective thing.


Preparation, language and creativity

The next section deals with justification (or foreshadowing) where you ensure that the end doesn’t come out of nowhere. Equally if you set something up then it has to pay off as the audience is expecting it.

All that and we’re only half way through the book.


Dramatic Irony

As with most things in this book I had a basic and limited understanding of dramatic irony. I used to think of it mainly in comedic terms but Lavandier’s first example is of a child carrying a parcel, but the parcel is a bomb. The child doesn’t know this but the audience does. A character lacking important information creates conflict or possible conflict.

Lavandier gives loads of examples for film and stage and explains how it works and the different applications of it – which lead him naturally into a detailed analysis of the mystery, suspense and thriller genres.


Comedy

Interestingly he quotes someone saying tragedy is about the human aspiration to higher things and that comedy is about mocking the human limitations. As usual the philosophical and historical context at the beginning of each chapter is fascinating but it does move practically on to “how comedy works” and what doesn’t work and why.

Lavandier acknowledges that theories aren’t going to produce good jokes but believes there’s value in understanding how it works and I agree. You may be lucky in scripting a laugh a minute screenplay right off the bat but if you’re not then knowing how to make your script funnier is always going to help.



Development

Lavandier explains how each scene is a mini-narrative and how the three-act structure is used on a scene by scene basis as well. I agree that thinking in this way ensures your scenes aren’t flabby and pointless.


Exposition

This is a “spoken account of events as compared with a visual representation”. He believes because it is literary rather than dramatic that exposition should rarely be used as the audience doesn’t like it. He then goes on to show how you can make exposition acceptable if you have to use it. This section includes an analysis of flashbacks and which types work and which ones don’t.


Activity


By this Lavandier means “any action, gesture or set of gestures”. Considering how the vast majority of our communication with each other is visual, it's surprising how this area is often neglected.

He also explains why, when a scene can have more than one meaning, it is important to state what the correct meaning is. He gives an example of a scene in Cyrano de Bergerac where a character could be having a laugh or be deadly serious.

While placing importance on activity he also gives examples of where it is over-used. Classic ways of conveying meaning can sometimes become clichés. He then gives a few pages of good examples including the duel in Romeo and Juliet and Rose dancing in Titantic. He ends by discussing symbolism.


Dialogue

I’ll just quote the first paragraph:

“In terms of volume, dialogue takes up a large part of the written text of a work of drama. It is clearly the visible part of the iceberg. One imagines this is why so many writers devote so much of their time to it. It is true that writing dialogue is the easiest way to fill up 100 pages. It does not require an inordinate amount of skill – the minimum is an ability to speak. But what do 100 pages of dialogue add up to if, underpinning them, no work (or very little) had been done on characterisation, structure, preparation and activity?”

Oui! He believes that, in terms of quality, the other tools in the drama toolbox are more powerful. Lavandier goes on to explore the purpose of dialogue and all the various techniques including creating word pictures.


Effects

In this section he looks at visual effects, not CGI but like when Macduff and Macbeth are fighting as they go offstage and then Macduff comes back holding a severed head. Or at the end of Citizen Kane, the significance of the burning sledge.

He also includes the use of sound in this section and gives many examples including the sound flashback in Suddenly Last Summer and the classic movie The King of Comedy where Pupkin’s mom shouts off-stage to him as he “records” his show.


Appendices

The book ends with in-depth analysis of the School for Wives and North by Northwest. There are other sections on writing for children ( “children deserve quality too”), short films, documentaries, reading a play or script (essential for script readers).

There is also a chapter of workshop exercises to reinforce what you have learnt, as it’s only by applying the knowledge that it’s going to sink in.


Conclusion

This is where he has his final say beginning “the techniques I have described in this book may not suit everyone but they should enable most writers of drama to tell a story effectively.”

Lavandier is right in that it won’t suit anyone, it’s nearly 600 pages which is scary if you’re not a regular reader - which I'm not. I had to pay attention but it was actually time well spent. What made it an easy read was that it's simple and logical and put everything into context.

I particularly like the extensive use of references not only from films and plays but from other sources.

Although I read it from cover to cover I expect it will also be useful for just dipping into when re-writing or trying to avoid the common pitfalls in a genre he covers.

Writing Drama is academic but accessible, it is philosophical but practical, it is educational but entertaining. It is now my favourite book about writing and so is very highly recommended.

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Our Lucy has obtained a discount on the book which is valid until 4 May 2008

- 25 % off + free shipping and handling to EEC members (making it a very reasonable £22.50)
- 15 % off + free shipping and handling to the rest of the world

Interested parties: please email Colette on contact@clown-enfant.com stating "Bang2write" and ask for a discount code to enter on the online shop.

Below Lucy interviews the author:

Q&A, pt 1: Yves Lavandier On Scriptwriting

Q&A, pt2: Yves Lavandier on Script Reading, Gurus & Philosophy

Screenwriter's Challenge



Screenwriter's Challenge
2 April 2008

Back Up Your Files Day

It's the first of the month which means it's Back Up Your Files Day.

Firstly thanks to Alex for his comments about backing up email:

"On as regards backup i know little,but for restore data there is a good application-recover outlook express,repairing Outlook Express folders if they are damaged or corrupted,extracts and saves e-mails from .dbx files in which Microsoft Outlook Express stores messages and folders on the local drive,will help you avoid troubles with Outlook Express folders, fix the problems with Outlook Express folders that you can't open or recover .dbx of Outlook Express."

Although once a support technician for my ISP told me the way to fix my email problems was to delete all my .dbx files and reboot. Needless to say it didn't work. I got a pathetic fifty quid compensation but actually losing all my emails saved me so much time archiving and replying to people.

Anyway, you might have seen the news announced last week about Reductio, the free online data compressor. I too thought it was too good to be true but I uploaded 2 gb of information (the maximum) and their software reduced this to 4 mb in 17 minutes. I expanded it back and only one file had a minor problem which I was unable to re-produce when I tried it again.

Which is brilliant considering it's still in beta. Of course it means putting up with their advertising while you reduce your files but it's small price to pay considering how much I'll save in data storage costs. Reductio is highly recommended.





Don't delay, do it today. It's Back Up Your Files Day, hooray!


How to decide what data to back up

Back up manually or use Windows XP Backup utility

How to choose an external storage format for backup files

Mac OS X: How to back up and restore your files