30 November, 2008

Soundtrack

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - "White Corolla"



Lukestar - "White Shade"

27 November, 2008

"Red Planet Commiserations"

Write Here, Write Now:

"Commiserations though to everyone who DIDN'T make the cut. Remember, it's easy to denigrate your efforts on the basis of this result, but please don't. Just because you didn't doesn't mean you're shit, your script is just not what RP is looking for. I'm not saying this from a lofty position of "I've got through, loo-hoo-ser-huh" either, 'cos I didn't. Again. I won't lie either: it smarts, especially when I have a draft ready to go. But you know what? Happens. Get over it. We all have to.

It sounds cheesy, but at times like these you have to take stock and assess what you DO have. I have plenty of other opportunities and irons in the fire, but even if I didn't, I DO have a good script. I know this, because I have shown it to loads of people - that's the beauty of feedback: you get to know if you are kidding yourself or not. If I had hidden my script away on my desktop, showing it only to Red Planet, then I would probably be deleting it right now. Remember - what works at one place, doesn't always at another. So always make sure you show your script to as many people as possible, you never know when you will need that feedback to verify your own sense of self esteem, if nothing else! Whatever it takes to keep going, I say."

Article in full

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Congrats to everyone going through to the next round including Steve, Jase, David, Tim, Oliver, Michelle, William, Laurence and Gerry

26 November, 2008

"Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale" is a big waste of money

...if you buy it at the full price of £30 as The Book People have it on sale for £9.

They also have a draw to win a signed copy and discounts on other Doctor Who and Torchwood tie-ins.

For free postage use this code:
FPP184 (which expires 31 December 2008)

25 November, 2008

Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays comp



The 4TH Annual $50,000 Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays --
Deadline is December 1, 2008!

Sponsored by The John Templeton Foundation, MOVIEGUDE® announces the 4th Annual Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays. The primary purpose of the prize is to further the influence of moral and spiritual values within the film and television industries. Set up to help inspire first-time and beginning screenwriters to produce compelling, entertaining and spiritually uplifting scripts, the winning scripts are read by top execs in addition to the monetary awards.

PRIZES: Grand Prize: $25,000 · 1st Runner Up: $15,000 · 2nd Runner Up: $10,000

FINAL DEADLINE: 1 December 2008 (online entry)

For complete information please visit www.kairosprize.com
"

Entry fee: $75 (£49, €58)

It's a gamble to pay that much but I suspect they haven't had a lot of entries so far which increases the odds a little. But how many of us have a family friendly feature in our portfolio? Should we bother writing one if we prefer writing about sex and drugs and violence?

24 November, 2008

What the Papers Say: "Survivors"



Andrew Billen, The Times

"
Einstein and Eddington was good television that could have been even better with more ambition. Survivors last night was trashy television that wouldn't have needed to work hard to be much worse.

As I recall, the plot of the original Terry Nation Survivors in the mid-1970s, was simple: virus conks out most of the world (England); group of middle-class survivors try and make a go of it. Thirty years of telly has changed only the composition of the survivors, so now we get a couple of Muslims, a black man (the always good Paterson Joseph, possibly our next Doctor Who) and a prole prisoner (Max Beesley). The leader, natch, is now female: Julie Graham, whose career turns out not to have been buried by Bonekickers.

I spent most of the 90 minutes wondering how they found the empty roads and car parks in which to film and I bet you did, too. I admit, however, to being surprised twice by the writer Adrian Hodges's screenplay: once when Beesley killed his prison guard (I was sure they'd be a double act, each claiming the other was the con) and at the twist at the end when it seemed the virus had been deliberately created in a shiny lab. More good news: the original series ran for 38 episodes: this runs for six.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian

" haven't got the strength. I don't mean for living in a world where everyone else has perished and I must milk goats, skin rabbits and fist-fight zombies for the last unspeakable can of Red Bull.

I mean for experiencing more post-apocalyptic horror. Let's review. I've seen Will Smith battle mutants in I Am Legend. I've watched Cillian Murphy flee London as it falls prey to my all-time favourite virus (rage) in 28 Days Later. I've witnessed Robert Carlyle's worry lines tauten as he takes out the zombie trash in 28 Weeks Later and tauten anew as London disappears below CGI waves in Flood. I've read John Wyndham's The Chrysalids. I've been on night buses in Coventry.

Some have suggested that the six-part drama Survivors (BBC1) is too bleak for credit-crunch Britons. Only Ant and Dec serving Brucie's stringy remains instead of kangaroo goolies to Robert Kilroy-Silk can cheer us up now. But this view is wrong: Survivors is too upbeat, even though, admittedly, its leading premise is that a virus slays 90% of humanity. Its other premise, after all, is that the survivors think life is worth living, and learn sustainable skills in a world without sanitation or cable. They should read Cormac McCarthy's The Road to disabuse themselves. McCarthy saw that future and, brother, it is murder.

Unforgivably, Survivors had no zombies. There wasn't even - as there was in The Others - a zombie Eric Sykes walking verrry slooowly towards Nicole Kidman. Even thinking about that now gives me chills. Incidentally, did you ever see Sykes' sitcom with Hattie Jacques? Now that was genuinely terrifying. Instead, in Survivors the undead played the dead for 90 minutes. Those actors who played characters with such names as Dead Bloke No 87 should really consider changing their agents.

Survivors' emblematic moment arrived when a character opened a car door and a corpse fell out. "What the?" exclaimed the survivor. The plague was worse than we thought: the good writers didn't make it through.

There was no laughter track so I supplied my own.

Come on, you might reply. Don't you realise that Survivors is a re-imagining of Terry Nation's 70s classic, topically updated for an era in which we are more in thrall to technology than ever? Allow me to retort. In disinterring Nation's far-from-classic series, BBC drama chiefs show themselves as creatively barren as those Americans who retool and neuter Japanese horror movies or British sitcoms.

And strike me down for saying something so blasphemous, but even Russell T Davies's zombified version of Terry Nation's Doctor Who, for all its awards and ratings, is bombastic, ponderous, potboiling drama that ruthlessly obliterates the original's unwitting and low-budget charm. Survivors is in thrall to the new Who's production values - its farrago of cinematographic gimmicks, its overblown musical score, its breathless mugging.

My spirit soared once. A man pulled up in a well-appointed Land Rover. No, it couldn't be - could it? - Johnson from Peep Show. The guy who kicked the sales team up the bum so hard they had to speak with leather tongues? The guy who seduced Big Suze from Jez while sporting only a too-short satin gown and a smug grin? Yay! - Johnson survived. (Incidentally, Paterson Joseph, who plays Johnson in Peep Show and Greg Preston in Survivors, is being touted to take over from David Tennant in Doctor Who. He could be the first black Doctor - which would put Barack Obama's achievement into perspective.)

But what's this? In Survivors' glum world Johnson has mutated into Ray Mears. He aims to grow vegetables and live, possibly communally, in harmony with nature. Just kill me now."

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

David Chater, The Times

"Here’s an appropriate drama series to mark the start of a recession. Based on the 1970s novel created by Terry Nation – the man who dreamt up the Daleks – it describes how a group of people fend for themselves after 95 per cent of the world’s population has been wiped out by a deadly flu virus.

This is a world with no electricity, no phones, no Caffè Nero, no nothing. “The future is wide open,” says one survivor (Max Beesley). “We can make it what we want.” It is a potent idea, but the treatment is pure trash telly. Instead of the authenticity of other Doomsday programmes (eg, Smallpox 2002 or The Day Britain Stopped) this is contrived and sluggish. Instead of being frightened by the end of civilisation, you risk being mildly bored. That can’t be right."

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Tom Sutcliffe,
The Independent

"Pounding headache? Sore throat? Swollen glands? Take one episode of Survivors and you'll soon be feeling dreadful. Neatly timed for the return of the flu season, BBC1's remake of the apocalyptic drama is nicely calculated to turn a minor twinge or an achy feeling into a harbinger of imminent doom and civilisational collapse.

After all, the victims here were sure that all they needed was a hot bath and a Lemsip, but before you could say "Black Death", the hospital mortuaries were overflowing and the gears of society were beginning to grind to a halt. And although the government was at first reassuring about its capacity to cope with the mystery virus, it wasn't long before a civil servant was admitting to the minister that mortality rates were going to reach 90 per cent.

Typical bureaucratic hedging. Judging from what you saw on screen, it was much, much worse than that. There were only about 10 people left alive in all of Manchester, for example, though fortunately for the drama they showed a quite extraordinary ability to bump into one another, so that they could slowly aggregate into an unwilling tribe. A local playboy, disturbed to find his one-night stand dead in the bed beside him, teamed up with an 11-year old Muslim boy he found wandering the streets. A mother, searching for her missing son, paired up with a capable-looking type who had already loaded a Land Rover with survival gear and was heading for the hills. And Anya, a doctor, literally stumbled over Tom, a sociopathic lifer who worked out his own parole terms by killing the last guard standing. And then, near the end, everyone met everyone on a deserted stretch of motorway.

What was interesting was how rapidly the plotline itself removed any need for extensive updating. Everyone has mobile phones these days, but the networks were among the first fripperies to go. And the internet isn't going to be a lot of use either, so today's refugees are in pretty much the same position as those in the Seventies original, other than the fact that they haven't recently had a Three-Day Week to hone their black-out skills (Terry Nation's original, it's worth remembering, was a response to an era when the conveniences of civilisation really couldn't be taken for granted). There were some signs of modernity. "You're not a paedophile, are you?" asked the young boy warily when the playboy offered him a lift, a line you can't imagine being in Nation's original script, but that aside, there's not much to differentiate our apocalypse from the first one. A final coda, revealing white-coated scientists who appeared to know much more about the origins of the pestilence than was respectable, suggested that the real fun will start next week."

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph

"Survivors (BBC1) is a “vivid reimagining” of Terry Nation’s Seventies doomsday thriller, in which almost the entire population of Britain dies from a lethal flu that “turns the body’s immune system in on itself”, whatever that means: it’s a staple diagnosis of medical dramas.

Last night’s feature-length first episode whittled down an enormous cast to a handful of leading characters who represented a curiously wide cross-section of society: a young white female doctor, a black former City entrepreneur, a middle-class housewife, an Asian playboy and a Muslim schoolboy. Whoops, someone forgot the white working class. Throw in Max Beesley as an escaped convict who stabbed a prison officer and probably votes BNP.

It’s not a bad piece of work, but I don’t enormously care what happens to these folk as they stumble through the post-apocalyptic landscape because (a) we’ve all seen umpteen versions of this scenario and (b) the fun bit is already over. No, I take that back – I mean the alarming, distressing bit, where a spot of man flu turns into the bubonic plague and you watch your neighbours dropping like flies in the launderette.

Survivors didn’t stint on the mass death front: we saw call girls stiff with rigor mortis in their clients’ beds, Muslims with their heads permanently bent towards Mecca after expiring during prayers, and Margo and Jerry Leadbetter types strewn like rag dolls across the stockbroker belt. That’ll teach them not to pay their licence fee."

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Overnights: 6.5 million (26% share)



23 November, 2008

Preview: "Survivors"



"Imagine being the only survivor of a disease that kills every member of your family, that kills lovers, strangers, friends, nearly everyone you've ever met.

You are among the lonely few to live and now you must start over in a strange new world where everything that was once safe and familiar is now strange and dangerous.

Set in the present day, Survivors focuses on the world in the aftermath of a devastating virus which wipes out most of the world's population. What would we do? How would any of us cope in a brave new world where all traditional 21st Century comforts - electricity, clean running water, advanced technology - have disappeared?

These are the questions faced by the bewildered but resilient group of survivors at the centre of the drama. It is an opportunity for new beginnings, but with no society, no police and no law and order, they now face terrible dangers - not just the daily struggle for food and water but also the deadly threat from other survivors.

"Survivors is about what it means to be human," explains writer and executive producer Adrian Hodges. "It asks questions about our nature and confronts us with our deepest fears. When everything else is stripped away, would we band together and find the best in ourselves, or would we fall apart and retreat into barbarism and savagery? Survivors is about adventure, fear, love, loyalty and friendship. But above all, it's about new hope."

Survivors, by Adrian Hodges is a re-imagining of the classic 1970s BBC drama series which was based on the novel by Terry Nation. It launched in April 1975 and ran for 38 episodes over three series"

Adrian Hodges:

"Survivors is about what it means to be human. It asks questions about our nature and confronts us with our deepest fears. When everything else is stripped away, would we band together and find the best in ourselves, or would we fall apart and retreat into barbarism and savagery?

"Survivors is about adventure, fear, love, loyalty and friendship. But above all, it's about new hope."




BBC1, 9:00pm,
for 6 episodes
from 23 November 2008




Links

Adrian Hodges interview (writersroom)
Adrian Hodges interview (press pack)
Adrian Hodges interview (The Times)
Adrian Hodges interview (digital spy)


Official site
Press pack

Screenplay (via writersroom)

Soundtrack

Sky Larkin - Fossil, I



******************************************************

The Joy Formidable - Austere

17 November, 2008

"The 7 Habits of Hollywood's Most Successful Six (and Seven) Figure Screenwriters"

The Business of Show Institute

"Have you ever wondered why some screenwriters are able to to get more exposure, build personal contacts and networks, stay current on what studios are looking for, and gain access to buyers, producers, agents and managers?

If you haven't yet achieved the success you want with your screenwriting career, watch this quick, 4 minute video clip from the exclusive "7 Habits" seminar with Producer Marvin V. Acuna. Then type in your first name and email address for the entire 90 minute workshop... for Free!"

(Via Shooting People)

16 November, 2008

Preview: "John From Cincinnati"


This drama about three generations of famous surfers is what HBO hoped would replicate the success of The Sopranos but unfortunately it' proved to be a big flop.

It's brought to us by David Milch who gave us Deadwood and surf-noir author Kem Nunn, who also has a Deadwood writing credit. Milch is revered in some quarters but non-naturalistic dialogue and unlikeable characters isn't enough for me. There were fans enthusiastically speculating and interpreting what it could all possibly mean but couldn't that mystery be combined with good story-telling?


I really don't mind being made to think, my love of The Wire is testament to that - the show gave me headaches - but John from Cincinnati just wasn't worth the effort. Rather than hidden depths revealing itself it mostly remained shallow and self-indulgent.

The opening of episode 1 was deliberately obtuse and while Paul Schrader said "an audience will rather be confused than bored", I was both. Sure, Milch is a maverick and a rebel but when you lose two-thirds of your audience between episode 1 and 2 then maybe you have to re-think that rebellious maverickness.


The only likeable character is the younger surfer dude, which actually isn't a problem. I hated most of The Sopranos characters, for instance, but I was made to care about what happened to them. By going the non-naturalistic route and by the characters being simply mouthpieces in the debate about surfing being too commercial, they are difficult to identify with. But give those same characters Milch and Nunn have created to another showrunner and I suspect it could have been brilliant as there is, frustratingly, some potential there.


And that's another thing, the 'prophet not profit' shtick was getting on my wick. Who really cares about surfing being too commercial? One of the major issues of the series was will the bad sponsors give the younger surfer dude money. The suspense was not exactly killing me.

My surfing days are behind me but I can keep up with what's going on by watching championships from all over the world on telly. That wouldn't be possible without sponsorship. It's especially galling coming from a multi-millionaire working in television as it could be argued that television is too commercial. If I was actually any good at surfing I would love to have been paid to do that and travel around the world.



The second episode was a slight improvement and more interesting things happened but there was never any sense that the main problem in the episode was a real problem and the ending was totally predictable - even for non-writers. It puzzles me how a life and death story can be made so dull. The style sucks all the dramatic tension out. Drama should be dramatic.

The concept is fundamentally flawed and I couldn't imagine the show getting a UK buyer but FX has eventually taken the risk. I predicted its cancellation after watching the pilot but the show does have its fans so I would urge you to make your own mind up and watch the pilot at least.

I'm not a fan of Milch's writing, I admit, but good episodes from Alix Lambert, Abby Gewanter and Wayne Loren Wilson later in the series showed that the show could have been great with less Milch involvement and a better writing team. But it was Milch's ball and he got to play.

John From Cincinnati
FX, Sundays 10:00pm
from 16 November for 10 episodes.

Soundtrack

Vampire Weekend - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"



Flashback

Miriam Makeba - "Pata Pata"

14 November, 2008

ÉCU's Much More than a Script Competition

"ÉCU is currently calling for short and feature length script submissions

We at ÉCU understand that for many talented writers - especially those without representation - it can be difficult getting scripts read by the people that matter: directors, producers and heads of development. We also passionately believe in the powerful experience, for both a writer and an audience, of witnessing scripts being read live by professional actors.

That’s why we have decided to launch ÉCU’s 2009 Much More than a Script Competition.

We will read scripts in English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian before making an official selection of the very best to be showcased live at ÉCU 2009. The festival will be held at the Bibliotheque Nationale de Francois Mitterrand in Paris, France.

The selected scripts will have a short dramatic sequence read live by professional actors in front of an audience of industry professionals, indie filmmakers and the general public.

Two overall winners will receive an additional prize and the coveted title of Best Feature Script / Best Short Script 2009.

So if you want your script to stand out to industry professionals at the European Independent Film Festival, then send it in before the deadline of JANUARY 1ST 2009 or the late deadline of FEBRUARY 1ST 2009.

Entry can be done entirely online!"

Entry fees: Shorts 30€ (£26)/ Features 50€ (£43)

(via Brendan)

13 November, 2008

"Heroes" being rescued


GD has already posted about this but this New York Times article adds more to the original EW article and this Defamer article gives the point of view that Heroes has always been crap.

For me season three lost it when they decided Hiro needed to be more of a comic relief. The character was funny but it was his charming naivete that won us over and made him a favourite character. In the current volume he comes across as an annoying asshole. It was too forced and too slapstick.

The inciting incident for this Villains volume was Hiro doing something incredibly dumb which could end up destroying the world but it was played as comedy. Right off the bat you had characters doing things which made no sense and the comical tone meant we weren't sufficiently invested in the threat to the world. Although all the alternative realities and butterfly effects doesn't exactly help increase the tension.

Apparently the excuse given to the pissed off actors was that the rubbish set-up was needed for the great finale. Eh? Was there really no way of doing it without sacrificing logic? It seems unlikely.

Heroes is not a total wreck as there are things like Suresh wanting powers - which was added to the long list of bad decisions - which I actually liked and understood. It's lost about 20% of the audience but it still leaves a sizeable chunk - which would have been acceptable if the show didn't cost so much.

Lessons learned for me:

  • Character logic can't be sacrificed
  • You can't get good endings from bad beginnings
  • The impact of your set-piece flashy sfx moments will be somewhat diminished unless the audience care about your characters
  • Tone is crucial - pick one and stick to it
  • Keep it simple - avoid too many characters and too many storylines
  • Having a clear theme is important

10 November, 2008

Write a Skins mini episode


E4:

"Are you an aspiring young writer (18-23) looking for your first break? Would you like to be able to call yourself a Skins writer? Well you’ve come to the right place because we’re giving someone that amazing opportunity!

We’re giving one talented person the opportunity to lead writing a Skins mini episode featuring some of the Skins 3 cast, which will be screened online (and possibly on TV) in summer 2009.


Don’t worry if you’re a little overwhelmed , we will be there to support you every step of the way. If you’ve got what it takes, we’ll make sure you’re given all of the support you need, like we do with all of our writers.


The winner will join the Skins Writer’s room, which is the place where the Skins writers thrash out their ideas and the creative process takes place for each Skins episode that makes it onto the screen. This will give you an opportunity to fine tune your skills, get some vital experience and contribute to Skins in a unique way. You will also visit the Skins set for one day of filming of series 3 and will be on set to witness the mini episode being filmed.


What do I need to do?


Write a short comedy-drama which:
* Is a maximum 1600 words * Doesn’t use any existing Skins characters in the scripts. * Contains a minimum of 3 new characters * Uses a maximum of 5 locations Send your finished script with your name, address and age to skinswriters@e4.com.

What will you be looking for?


A good sense of structure and comedy, appreciation of story, believable dialogue, complete characters and passionate storytelling. "

Full details.


Closing date: 6pm on 9 December 2008

06 November, 2008

"What is indie cinema?"

The Guardian:

"In the 1980s, it felt like you knew where you were with cinema. On the one hand, big studios blew big budgets on cute aliens hanging out in cupboards, the perils of bumping into your parents while time travelling and locating the best people to call should you find yourself being haunted. On the other hand, you could rely on indie directors like David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch and Alex Cox to blow your mind with a steady stream of subversive, alternative, gritty visions of reality, to take you on journeys that involved slow-talking weirdos, drunk punks and nuclear MacGuffins (and, for some reason, a lot of men with giant quiffs). Studios gave you one type of hit, indies took you somewhere else."

Article in full

05 November, 2008

Back Up Your Files Day

"The Writers Workbench
by Robert J. Elisberg, WGA

Arguably the simplest, most important and least-used application for computers is backing up. Time was that this title went to anti-virus checking, but that now comes fairly automated and more people are covered than in the past. But with backing-up, people tend to live in a blissful Computerland that doesn’t actually exist – where no computer crashes and data is never lost. Well, computers crash and data is lost. It’s a Really Good Idea to Back Up. There are a lot of easy, basic backup programs out in the world. But here are some other, uncommon options for addressing the situation."

Article in full

____________________________________________________________________

A reminder about Matt's suggestion three months ago which does seem both simple and effective:

"I have never been able to get the hang of proper backup software and procedures. I always end up getting into a complete pickle about the various full backups, interim backups and how the bloody hell I'd back everything up if my hard-drive became shot with the backup software on it. So these days I just have a complete clone of My Documents on a portable drive and use Microsoft's Synctoy to keep the files up to date."

However I would suggest backing up your entire Documents and Settings folder and not just the My Documents part of it as it which would include emails and favourites. This link has more details.

I asked Lee about the Mac equivalent:

"Things like emails, bookmarks, fonts, templates, RSS feeds, Applescripts - anything used by an application, but not created by it when you hit Save - are kept in your Home folder, in the Library. In Mac speak, that's ~/Library. Apple apps such as Mail, Safari, and iTunes may have their own folders. Non-Apple apps like NetNewsWire, Montage, Final Draft, Scrivener etc, will keep all their stuff in ~/Library/Application Support. The truly paranoid might want to back up their preference files as well. I know I do. These are in ~/Library/Prefences.

For safety's sake, back up the entire Library folder, it's probably only a few hundred megs."

*******************************************

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

02 November, 2008

Soundtrack

Thomas Tantrum - "Work It"



******************************************************


Free Blood - "The Royal Family"