30 June, 2008

Linkage

My 5th Blogthday Revelations

Just in case you missed reading James Moran's must-read post.

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BBC writersroom roadshow visits Edinburgh

The usual comprehensive and useful account from David Bishop.

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My Visual Pitch - Promoting Your Work

Lucy interviews the MVP Head Honcho.

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People vs Devices

Amanda bemoans characters who don't seem fully fleshed out and makes a good point here about characters who don't know what they want. Unk talks about how to add depth to characters here.

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Indiana Jones and the Digital Danger

By Bill Martell, this is only Indy 4 review you need to read. Although Billy Mernitt's rant is also worth reading.

Alan Lopuszynski has probably the best look at Frank Darabont's version of the script. There was a rumour, ages ago, that Darabont's draft had aliens in it and someone speculated that that must be why Lucas nixed it. No-one realised that the aliens and the other bollocks had to be in the script, whoever wrote it. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear so lay off David Koepp, people.

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A Simple Cure for Writer's Block

This is by Dale Launer who is one of my fave comedy writers. Mark Greig also wrote something on this here.

Although Mike Le's
quality comic strip suggests a more interesting cure I shall be using next time it happens. I'm almost looking forward to being blocked, to be honest. (Also check out Le's new strip)


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Rules of Development aka How to Talk to a Screenwriter

Also by Launer and essential reading for developers. Just casually slip the printed off pages through the letterbox of your script editor/producer/director and run away before they see you. And you might want to add Barbara Schock on Intelligent Screenplay Development which I blogged about ages ago.

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Execution of Bad Ideas

Maryan riffs about readers and "Why can't we spot our own bad ideas?"


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The Logic Nazi

Craig Mazin talks about me behind my back.

I'm sorry but I liked his Superhero Movie. Actually no, I won't apologise. I'm proud I saw it. No, 'proud' is going too far...


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The Problems with Screenwriting Advice

Shep gives an interesting list, although some gurus may think he's barking up the wrong tree and should get down.


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Pitching

I've added Julie Gray's column to what has been called "the Internet's ultimate pitching resource" here. OK, so it was me that called it that but it doesn't mean it's not true.

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How to Cut Pages

My Sharps script was a page or two over and I had to cut it down but, pure laziness on my part, I looked for a way to cheat with page margins instead. I came across an old brief article by John August on the subject recommending not doing it. Cutting unnecessary stuff was actually quite easy in the end and it made the script better. Anyway, August has done a new proper post on the subject.

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Times go by turns

Kristin Thompson has a big article about turning points. Have a rest before attempting to read. (The title of the article comes from the poem by Robert Southwell, as I'm sure you know)


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Tell me a story... or don't

Jim Emerson discusses story - as Hollywood considers it - and gives food for thought.


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How Screenwriters Get Hired: The Unspoken Truth!

Phil Gladwin has a guest blog from a writer who makes some very interesting points. On the same theme check out the guest blogs at Lucy's here by Adrian Mead and the reply here by Dave Dublin.

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On the Future of Batteries

Philip Palmer discusses the use of technology in science fiction.

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Getting Ahead?

Danny Stack answers a question about getting ahead.

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A Novel Way of Suffering

Adrian Reynolds: "Asked by a follower what makes for good spiritual practice, one guru said ‘A hard job, and a lousy marriage’. The same thinking applies where writing is concerned: the only genre in which we enjoy someone else’s fun vicariously is pornography. In any other form of writing, readers are there to see the protagonist suffer in artful ways, and it’s the writer’s job to choreograph their miseries."

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Characters for an Epic Tale


This is a cool postcard from the UK based Cabanon Press who have lots of other goodies for sale.

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29 June, 2008

Soundtrack

New

Tokyo Police Club - "In A Cave"




The Teenagers in Tokyo - "Very Vampyr"



Flashback

Puffy AmiYumi - "Tokyo I'm On My Way"

27 June, 2008

Shooting People Podcasts

New podcasts from last year's Screenwriters' Festival have been uploaded. They are:
If you haven't joined Shooting People, you can do it at a 33% discount:

To join Shooting People in the UK for GBP£20 go here.

To join Shooting People in the US for USD$27 go here.

I'm not sure how long the code will last though.

26 June, 2008

"They Shoot Messengers, Don't They?"

Broadcast:

"A collaboration between writers and producers is key to making more TV drama that conveys the feel, taste and choices facing us all, writes David Pearson.

It used to be novels. Now everyone these days thinks they can write a screenplay. You hear pitches on buses, in bars and at dinner tables. "It's sort of Life On Mars crossed with Peep Show but with more killing". But judging from our screens, getting good engaging drama is not so easy.

Next week, Jane Tranter, head of BBC Fiction and one of the most influential decision-makers in the British TV industry, will be speaking on the subject at the Screenwriters' Festival in Cheltenham (1-3 July). She will be joined by ITV's drama head Laura Mackie, who will be encouraging writers and producers to come up with more returning sustainable series, and award-winning writer Barbara Machin, who will discuss the importance of innovation in TV drama in the opening address."

Article in full (free registration required)

There are 63 tickets left for the Screenwriters Festival.

25 June, 2008

How to Network

WikiHow:

"You've probably heard the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know." In today's interconnected society, that rings true more than ever. Your talents, abilities, and experience will never take you anywhere if nobody knows you exist. In order to get what you want out of life, you need to be resourceful, and one of your vastest, richest resources are your fellow human beings."

Article in full

24 June, 2008

"Everyone's Getting Hooked on 'Scrooks'!"

PR Web:

Scrook Novels defines the line between "reading" and "Reading Entertainment".

(PRWEB) June 23, 2008 -- Grammy Award Winning songwriter/record producer turned author/screenplay writer, Gerald Isaac, introduces the hottest and newest form of reading entertainment, the "Scrook". A "Scrook" is a script-book written with the riveting and breath taking flow of a novel in screenplay format.

Author and CEO, Gerald Isaac, calls it, "The Virtual Movie", where mind and imagination become the screen as your senses and emotions embark on a heightened surround sound journey fueled by words. It's literally like "reading in HD".

Article in full

23 June, 2008

Rejection

"The truth is, a screenwriter is going to face rejection over and over again, and not just at the beginning of his career. There will always be a job you wanted and didn’t get, or a snub you didn’t see coming. Eventually, you learn that you can’t depend on strangers for validation.

At least, one day I hope to learn that.

If it’s any consolation, there are people who have it even worse than writers: actors. Whereas a writer might be rejected for his work, an actor can be rejected simply for their face. Or butt. Or voice." John August

Word of Mouth: "Priceless (Hors de Prix)"


"A young gold digger mistakenly woos a mild-mannered bartender thinking he's a wealthy suitor." IMDB

In my mad Sharps/Bruntwood writing/rewriting frenzy I didn't have time to see any movies and thought I had missed this as foreign language films don't tend to hang about. However word of mouth business has kept it retained and hopefully it will replicate the success of Hidden.



The churlish such as the New York Post have dismissed it as lightweight and predictable, which on one level is true but it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. I wanted something fun and I wanted something that stuck to the genre.

I was going to embed the trailer but, although it was nominated for "the best foreign romance trailer" at the Golden Trailer Awards, it gives away every single beat so there's nothing left to predict anyway. I actually saw the movie without knowing anything about it and was surprised by the story despite it ultimately following the genre expectations.

Highly recommended.



Official site
Metacritic

22 June, 2008

Soundtrack

Holy Hail - "Cool Town Rock"



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Holy Fuck - "Lovely Allen"



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Fuck Buttons - "Bright Tomorrow"

21 June, 2008

TV showrunners swap stories stateside

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter:

"It hasn't been an easy year for TV producers. From the 100-day Hollywood writers strike to steepening FCC fines, to the rise of reality television, scripted comedy and drama have been taking it on the nose.

Five showrunners -- Bryan Fuller (ABC's "Pushing Daisies"), David Shore (Fox's "House"), Damon Lindelof (ABC's "Lost"), Matthew Weiner (AMC's "Mad Men") and Craig Thomas (CBS' "How I Met Your Mother") -- recently gathered for a raucous discussion about the absurdities of the TV business."

Article in full

"Mad Men" - for your consideration


New York Times:

"When he writes “Mad Men,” he doesn’t sit down and start typing. After a lifetime spent struggling as a student, he has learned to rely on his ear. He creates the show by speaking it out loud, every part. His focus on the characters is laser sharp, and when he discussed them, he was concise and clear."

Article in full

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I know from the stats that I have a lot of American viewers (Howdy!). Some of you perhaps have a Emmy vote. Here's a subtle hint:



(...although I shan't argue too much should you decide to go for Breaking Bad [meth over madness] - especially Bryan Cranston over John Hamm for leading man. )

Non-Emmy voters in the UK can pick up Mad Men on DVD here and look out for Breaking Bad on FX this year sometime, whenever they feel like showing it.

Season 2 of Mad Men begins on 27 July on AMC and spring 2009 on BBC4/BBC2.

20 June, 2008

Writers wanted

Brendan, a fellow Birmingham screenwriter, told me about Mandy.com and their writers wanted ads. You can visit it each day and search or you can create a specific RSS feed for your reader.

If you use Google Reader this feed gives you all the UK screenwriting jobs.

Also via the Screenwriters Festival site is this ad:

Screenwriter sought: Paid vacancy!

New Me TV is launching an information and entertainment website for girls aged 13-24, and will produce a web tv drama series that will contain part-reality including production meetings, interviews with the girls, and make up session. The entire series will be 60x3 minutes with 20 episodes of reality and 40 episodes of drama. The synopsis is about 5 girls competing to be the face of Covergirl Magazine, the leading fashion magazine. During the competition, factors come into play including relationships, university family and tragedy. We are auditioning the girls on Saturday at Bluewater with the launch of the website.We are looking for a young but experienced writer to work with us on the script of the drama. The position would start with immediate effect after interviewing and is well paid. Please send through your cv and contact details to Mary Booth at mary.booth@acumenmedia.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you!

Courses

Continuing Drama – Nations and Regions Courses

Developed and run in close association with ITV Wales and ITV Yorkshire, this course is designed to kick-start your career in television. Split between theoretical work, studying an episode of Emmerdale, and practical work on your own ideas, the introductory workshop will give you an amazing understanding of the realities of television writing. A two-month distance-mentoring session follows, challenging you to develop an original 23-minute piece of television drama. The best will be produced and filmed on the Emmerdale sets by a professional cast and crew.

Submission deadline for Nations: 20th June 08

Submission deadline for Regions: 27th June 08

For application forms, email shamsul@tapsnet.org or visit www.tapsnet.org

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Tamasha New Writing - South Asian Only

Tamasha New Writing is an intensive two-week course which seeks to develop the artistic individuality of its participants. You might be a young, aspiring playwright wanting a bridge into professional employment, or an established artist looking to develop your skills in writing for theatre.

Free to take part - This full time course is offered free to successful applicants, and you will receive a weekly allowance towards lost earnings. In addition, participants from outside Greater London can also apply for a reimbursement of relocation expenses.

How to apply - No formal qualifications are necessary to apply for this course. Applicants must, however, be able to demonstrate a strong desire to pursue a career in writing professionally for theatre, and be of South Asian background. Sections 34 7.2 and 37 of the Race Relations Act 1976 apply to this initiative.

Deadline for applications: Monday 30 June 2008 at 5pm
Interviews will be held w/c Monday 14 July 2008
Course Dates: 3-17 September 2008

For an application pack, please contact Zoe Cooper on 020 7633 2270 or email admin@tamasha.org.uk

Tamasha

Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award - under 30s only

The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation awards the Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award each year. The competition is designed to motivate non-American novice writers under the age of 30, and offer them the recognition and encouragement that might lead to a successful career in television scriptwriting. Entrants are asked to create a completed half-hour to one-hour English-language television drama script for a family audience. The 2007 Award winner was Felicity Carpenter of Australia.

The Winner receives $2,500 and an invitation to the International Emmy Awards Gala in November. The Winner will be presented with the Award at the International Emmy World Television Festival in New York City.

Eligibility:

• The Applicant must be a non-U.S. citizen or resident not residing in the U.S.
• The Applicant must not have reached his/her 30th birthday as of 31 December of the current year.
• The Applicant must deliver an original completed DRAMA script for television, written in English.
• The script must be a minimum of a half hour and a maximum of one hour in length.
• The script must be intended for a family audience.
• The script should be a stand-alone, not a program that is part of a series.
• All Applicants must provide a completed entry / release form to be eligible.
• Applicants may not have had a script produced on television prior to date of entry.
• Material that has previously been sold or is currently under option may not be submitted.
• Only one entry per scriptwriter will be accepted.
• Previous winners of this award or any award/fellowship given by The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation are not eligible.
• There is no charge for this competition.

Deadline: 15 July 2008

Full details and application form (pdf)

Added to Deadlines Calendar.

19 June, 2008

Sharps 3



Second draft

I finished my second draft which I was really chuffed with and did a quick script swap with Lucy.

On a positive note Lucy liked my disease of the week, PKD, and the unpredictable way I treated it. As I said before my research made the ending much more dramatic and made me reluctant to take advice regarding not bothering with research. The other thing about research is I think we should at least try not to piss off people who might have the condition.

On a less positive note, Lucy didn't buy the relationship between my 16 year old protag and his 7 year old sister as it was too paternalistic. She used the phrase "Waltons-esque". I accepted that but saw nothing wrong with it so left it.

Lucy laid into my characterisation of Cathy, the step-mom, but it was really just the one scene. When I looked at that scene again the problem was about me wanting to keep two really good jokes. For all my talk of character-driven stories I really didn't want to lose those jokes just to have realistic and believable characterisation. It took me two hours working on that scene to find a way to have my cake and eat it.

I changed some other stuff based on what Lucy said to make it clearer and also changed some technical stuff.

Third draft

Adrian Reynolds emailed me offering to read my Sharps for me as a sample of the script and story development work he does. So once I had finished the next draft, off it went to him. Little did I know that he would end up nailing my biggest persistent writing problem.

Rather than give me notes he suggested we meet up or talk on the phone. Arranging a meet was difficult so we arranged a phone call. He explained that he prefered to tell it live and explore options for developing the script further.

I was a bit unsure about the no-notes thing but he says that he’s looking at what the writer has done and what the writer wants to do or can do rather than a standard script report template where you can miss what the writer wants to bring to the table. So the nature of the discussion can vary each time. It’s the difference between static and dynamic. He makes notes for himself which the writer can have if they want. But like everyone else, in the end, I didn't feel I needed them.

He started off by finding out my reference points and what writers I like. He named Jimmy McGovern - yes, Paul Abbott - yes, Mike Leigh - not really, Shane Meadows - No, not at all.

Now I understand that theme is important and thought I had one when I was writing but when I tried to explain it to Adrian it was vague and woolly. It was clear from the script I wasn't sure of the theme and he felt I should be able to state the theme with confidence.

Adrian went on to say that I was too polite with the characters and the world and asked if I had heard that before and actually I had heard something similar but it didn't make sense. He said that the characters were too nice and there was not enough conflict which went back to what Lucy was saying about the idyllic sibling relationship. But there was clearly a life and death conflict there and, you know, some people are nice.

Adrian then quoted Paul Abbott who said that you want the story to be the biggest story of the character's life. I needed to engineer characters by putting them in the worst situation and putting them through hell. You want them to have a terrible time, to have a tidal wave of emotions.

Just as I knew about theme but failed to act on it properly, I know about conflict and making things hard for your main character but didn't take it far enough. I realised that, for whatever reason, I actually enjoyed writing the fantasy family. Yes, I'm sure they must exist but that isn't the issue. The issue is that, however brilliantly written it is, it's going to be too dull and too boring.

Adrian said that my story was a nice tune and a nice melody but was like Smells Like Teen Spirit played by the James Last Orchestra. Ouch. But the music analogy drove the point home. (Although I really like Paul Anka's version...)

The other key point was that it can be controversial and doesn’t have to be a Public Information Film, it can be from a radical perspective.

Adrian then tried various ways of getting me to look at the characters differently including trying to imagine how McGovern or Abbott might have treated the story and stunt-casting - imagining a famous actor in the role and what they would bring to the role.

Adrian felt my main character should be more of a rock-star and be drinking heavily earlier then he does in the script. We brainstormed reasons why he might be drinking heavily earlier - as I couldn't just have him doing it for the sake of it. I rejected one particular dramatic suggestion as it didn't feel right and was taking it too far away from why I was writing the piece. However it sparked off an ideal solution. Just by making the younger sister into an older step-sister, it added extra conflict between them and the dad and step-mom.

45 minutes later we were done. Adrian checked my confidence levels and to be honest the rewrite seemed like a big ask and Adrian encouraged me to chill and have confidence, even going through a useful relaxation exercise.

Fourth Draft

After I put the phone down I just put the script away for a few days. It was a lot to take in and I didn't want to rush with changes that I might regret later. When I did eventually start working I made the necessary changes quite quickly. The previous draft starts really pleasantly before the outside force comes but now there is massive conflict within the family before the outside force arrives which is so much better.

Adrian offers to have a look over the next draft as well and give notes on that but due to the encroaching deadline I couldn't take him up on that. It's much better than it was but I would have liked to take it to another draft. I might do a fifth draft anyway as it's for my portfolio and that's the main thing not the competition.

Whatever happens with Sharps, the real value of the exercise is that now I understand where I'm going wrong, my next script should be better. - in theory. And it's much easier to implement the lessons learned at the outline stage rather than in the final draft where it is much trickier to do.

The writersroom blog is updating regularly on the Sharps process.

18 June, 2008

"New writing for theatre"

The Crafty Writer:

"In this fourth session on writing for performance our guest is Jeremy Herrin, who will be chatting to us about New Writing for theatre. Jeremy is Associate Director at Live Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne as well as running the New Writing department. He has directed productions at the National Theatre, The Royal Court, in the West End and at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. He has also enjoyed directing short films and radio plays."

"TCW: What is a commissioning director looking for in a new play?

JH: Originality of voice, technical skill, plausibility and relevance to its audience."

Article in full

17 June, 2008

Russell T Davies, screenwriter, intervew

New York Times:

"“I often get asked to write dramas or films about a man coming out of the closet to his wife, or a man coming out of the closet to his children, or a man who’s beaten up because he’s secretly gay,” Mr. Davies said. “I always refuse if it’s a negative take on homosexuality — if the only aspect being portrayed is the trouble, the tears and the angst.”

He continued: “There’s enough of that out there. Why bother? Drama is easy when it’s tragedy. Anyone could write a scene of a man crying in the rain saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ But actually it’s much more fun to see a man in a bar trying to pick up another man. That’s tense. There’s a whole minefield of emotions there.”"

Article in full

16 June, 2008

De-stressing

I've been in a mad Bruntwood/Sharps writing/rewriting nightmare. On reflection writing a play and a TV drama at the same time - which both have deadlines in the same week - wasn't an especially excellent idea. It was fun but slightly stressful.

The harder the work, the greater the sense of achievement and it's always nice to have scripts out there - regardless of the reception they will receive by readers. As Phill says we've got to go for everything. You've got to be in it to win it.


Commiserations to those whose couldn't crack their stories in time but I reckon Sheiky has it right. Competitions are motivational and look good on the CV, if we place, but the main thing is building the portfolio and deadlines whizzing by is irrelevant to that.

In the past, once I sent something off, I would just do nothing until I had heard back. Rather than count down the seconds until I hear the results I'm starting something new. But what?

My
Deadlines Calendar does have a few to go for. If you didn't have time to finish your play for the Bruntwood then there's the International Playwriting Festival which has a deadline at the end of the month. The subject matter might even make it eligible for the New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest with the same deadline.

If we're portfolio building, we need a half-hour, an hour and a 2 hours. Hopefully if we've started or completed Sharps that will do as our half-hours.

For my hour, I'm thinking about the Red Planet Prize, although it hasn't been announced yet.

And for those of us without an agent the Summer Challenge is a good excuse to finish that portfolio with the 2 hour film. Although the Calendar has plenty of film comps to be getting on with for those of us who are agented.

I will be blogging about my Sharps in full later.

Links:

15 June, 2008

Soundtrack

I've been blog-tagged by Rob, Chip and Lucy to "list seven songs (I am) into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring." I've interpreted that to mean "singing the chorus in my head or out loud a lot".


1) The Feeling - "Without You"



2) Johnny Foreigner - "Eyes Wide Terrified"




3) Cajun Dance Party - "The Race"



4) Black Kids - "Hurricane Jane"



5) Tilly and the Wall - "Beat Control"



6) The Ting Tings - "Shut Up and Let Me Go"

Listen to it while you can here

7) Feisty Stevens - "The Zombies are Inside Out"

A Feist/Sufjan Stevens mash-up. Download it free here)


I tag Fara, Stevo, Dave and Tommy.

14 June, 2008

Michael Lucker, screenwriter, interview

3 Questions...and Answers:

"Where does he find inspiration?

"In pain and in dreams." He laughs a little when asked for an explanation. "We all face adversity in our lives and we struggle with challenges. Writing about (those challenges) is not only cathartic for us, but it is often the deepest writing we do."

Regarding dreams, he likes to play with ideas from varying perspectives. "Be it night dreams or day dreams, things are different." Anything is possible in a dream and that can lead to great ideas."

Article in full

Evan Guilford-Blake, playwright, interview

3 Questions...and Answers:

"When asked what advice he'd give novice playwrights, Evan Guilford-Blake says, "Read plays and go see them." He believes that too many wannabe playwrights are actually writing teleplays and film scripts, not realising how a story plays within the limits of a stage and before a live audience. "You must know both your medium and what you're writing about." "

Article in full

12 June, 2008

Steve Conrad, writer-director, interview

Time Out Chicago:

"Conrad believes that comedy for its own sake is less interesting than something with real stakes. “I know that part of what I consider most hard in life I also find very funny: the cosmic challenges we all face, how little we actually control despite our very best efforts, all of the millions of things that can confound us, get in your way, test your mettle.”"

Article in full

08 June, 2008

Soundtrack

New

Death Cab for Cutie - "I Will Possess Your Heart"




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Flashback

Vanessa Paradis - "Joe le Taxi"


03 June, 2008

Daniel Kaluuya, screenwriter, interview

ArtsHub:

"When it comes to the best advice he’s ever been given it is short and simple. “Feel free when you write,” he recalls. And his own advice for upcoming screenwriters is just as clear-cut: “Write for theatre as they’re more willing to read scripts,” says Daniel. “Just tell good stories, honestly.”

Article in full

02 June, 2008

World embraces new wave of Irish talent

Sunday Business Post:

"Amazing. Enthralling. Envy-inducing. When Enda Walsh’s play Disco Pigs premiered at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork in 1996, those were the kind of words critics used to describe how they felt about the latest work from the most mesmerising new voice in Irish theatre. Where Enda Walsh would go from there, though, was anyone’s guess.


Twelve years on, the rest of the world is rapidly warming to the hypnotic tales of Walsh. With glowing reviews in the New York Times (‘‘a master storyteller’’) and his recent move into writing directly for film, Walsh joins a wave of Irish playwrights - including Dublin-born Conor McPherson and London-Irish writer Martin McDonagh - who, with their recent works, are establishing and re-establishing themselves, not just as important Irish voices, but important worldwide ones."

Article in full

01 June, 2008

Back Up Your Files Day

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

This means ensuing that our Sharps and Bruntwood entries are not just on our hard drives but on our external hard drives, USB sticks, or emailed to our webmail accounts.


I thought I'd flag up
Click - "the BBC's flagship technology programme", just in case you were unaware of it.

The main item of the last programme was about how to get technical support with computer problems, ranging from asking on forums for free to coughing up the dosh for someone to come out to solve it for you.

A print version of this item is on the website but I think the show is worth downloading and watching in full. Each week.


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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

Soundtrack

New

Wild Beasts - "The Devil's Crayon"


The album "Limbo, Panto", drops on the 16th.

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Flashback

Beastie Boys - "Intergalatic"