30 December, 2009

What the Papers Say: "The Day of the Triffids"


Brian Viner, The Independent

"As for the passage of time blunting the impact of television, I watched the first episode of The Day of the Triffids with my children, expecting at least the youngest of them to be as spooked as I was when, at about the same age, I watched the 1962 film on the telly. Yet he pronounced it no scarier than an average episode of Doctor Who.

Still, we all thought it was jolly good. Writer Patrick Harbinson had a creditable stab at updating John Wyndham's 1951 story for the 21st century, presenting the psychopathic plants as the source of an oil that has replaced diminishing fossil fuels and saved the planet from global warming. And the acting was as splendid as you would expect of a cast including Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson and, entering the fray tonight, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. Not to mention Eddie Izzard, who might in fact be the scariest thing of all about the production, the amiable comedian looking entirely at home as the sinister villain of the piece.

All credit to director Nick Copus, too, for making the Triffids about as intimidating as he could, and not allowing them to look too much like killer rhubarb. I wonder, though, whether he might have missed a trick. At this time of year, there is a ubiquitous plant that frankly alarms the hell out of me: poinsettias are taking over the world, and nobody seems to have noticed."

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Alex Hardy,
The Times

"You know that scene in Scary Movie, in which they pastiche the sexing up of horror movies by having Carmen Electra flee, screaming, nearly naked, through a sprinkler system? Well, that’s how the opening seconds of the
Day of the Triffids remake felt — only this wasn’t a parody. A lovely-looking lady screamed, soaking wet in the jungle rain — and I knew straight away that the daft bits of the Triffids makeover were going to utterly eclipse any good stuff that an extra 28 years of special effects could pour on.

And lo, this became a study in how we now make telly shows big and sexy. Gone the theatrical stillness of the original mini-series — the stagnant faces of the opening titles enough to have you hiding behind the sofa — that was like so 1981! No, here’s what we need for sexy 2009 TV!

Let’s big up an X Factor-style tragic back story for Bill! Give him a pretty mum (the wet lady) and have her killed by triffids in Zaire! And his dad, they don’t talk any more, but he was the one who genetically modified the plants so they could replace fossil fuels! Cue Dougray Scott earnestly debating: my dad — hero or villain; in between dazzling flashbacks to his dying mum and a load of bonkers tribal masks! Let’s not give Bill one love interest, but two! (One implied, and killed of course, at the start; the second, a stiff Joely Richardson as Jo — if they don’t cosy up in tonight’s finale, I’ll wear the original Jo’s yellow jumpsuit throughout 2010 . . .) Oo, and we need a mass-media angle, so let’s make Jo a radio star!

Everything, everything, faster, bigger! If one silhouetted hand pawing a frosted window did it in 1981 — we’ll have Shaun of the Dead-style blind zombie crowds! And triffids, not just a few clacking quietly like overgrown celery, but huge epidemics that eat you from the sky! Might as well, given that we’ve spewed the whole triffids-bad premise within minutes.

Yes, yes; different times, different values. Or perhaps even a starker message for more urgent times: Triffids’ enviro-gospel made it absolutely ripe for a remake; many of the bigwigs who recently had a mini-break in Copenhagen would doubtless sell someone else’s right arm to solve global warming. And some of the effects were epic: the light shows above beautifully devastated city skylines.(They couldn’t do much for the triffids though — giant celery is still giant celery, whether it’s made from papier mâché or a million megapixels of CGI fairy dust.)

But the remake could have done with hanging on to more of the less-is-best of the original. Some slower deliciousness arrived by necessity when each sighted person was handcuffed to a blind charge — but mostly this quality was reserved for Eddie Izzard’s very bad baddie. On the backdrop of the more-is-more chaos, how could you not be charmed by his arched-eyebrow expressiveness as he sauntered silently around a crashing plane to steal everyone’s life jackets; quietly bonded with a Churchill statue; or stopped to tell the person he’d kidnapped: “Seatbelt on please, Hilda.” Will I watch tonight? Probably, if only to see what Izzard’s eyebrows did next, and how preposterous the tribal-mask subplot gets."

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Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"In the land of the blind, Gordon Brown should be king. But he doesn't even seem to be prime minister any more; he is nowhere to be seen, Downing Street has been deserted and Eddie Izzard has taken over. That could make for a refreshing change. Should we worry for the economy?

Eddie was snoozing on a 747 with an eye mask on when the Big Flash happened, so he got to keep his sight; then he survived the plane crash by locking himself in the loo with a load of inflated life jackets (would that even work?). Now, inspired by Winston Churchill's statue in Parliament Square, he's gone power crazy. There are a few other lucky ones, including Joely Richardson, who kept her sight but appears to have lost the ability to act, and Dougray Scott, who's still going to fall for her – as well as trying to save the world. Otherwise, it's just the blind . . . well, you know who they're leading. Plus the killer plants, of course, whose day this is.

We met them – the killer plants – early in part one of The Day of the Triffids (BBC1) on Monday night, after which it became very hard to take any of it very seriously. No screen adaptation of John Wyndham's classic post-apocalyptic novel can ever really compete with the book: when it comes to creating menacing flora, special effects and computer graphics still lag a long way behind the human imagination. These triffids are laughable. They seem to be based on quite a common species of cactus (I don't know the name, but I've definitely seen them in the plant section of Homebase). Then, rising from the centre of the plant, is a kind of red hoodie – possibly playing, like a Daily Mail editorial, to our fear of modern feral youths. The Day of the Asbo Cacti. Pah! They don't frighten me: they're cute, I want one, for my conservatory. Well, I call it a conservatory . . .

The triffids' collective performance is still better, and less wooden, than Joely's. In last night's second and concluding part, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, attempted to restore some dignity to the family's reputation with a spirited performance as the mother superior of a rural convent. Dougray has ended up there, injured and in need of help if he's to save mankind, though Vanessa turns out not to be the saint she appears to be. (Was anyone else concerned about the wound by Dougray's right eye, I wonder, and the way it seemed to appear and disappear? Maybe that's just symptomatic of a triffid sting).

Anyway, the convent is a beautiful place, filmed – I think – at the Hospital of St Cross in Hampshire, with St Catherine's Hill covered in snow (and waving triffids) behind. I enjoyed all the locations, and trying to identify them – the views over London, the Gherkin in the City, the Ark at Hammersmith, the A4, Cobstone Windmill (possibly) in the Chilterns. This was a big-name, all-singing, all-dancing, big-budget production and, hoodie triffids aside, it looked fabulous.

It was also pretty faithful to the novel, in terms of character and plot. So they modernised it a bit, gave it a new eco makeover, with the triffids being grown as a source of renewable, clean energy, instead of something to do with the Soviet Union. And it's a loony plant-rights activist who liberates the triffids in the first place – for which he pays, as he should do, with his life.

Under these bodywork modifications though, the chassis is basically the same. I'm glad they kept the ending, too – the Isle of Wight and an uncertain future for mankind – instead of the happy discovery that seawater works as a triffidicide, which is what one screen adaptation had.

But – and it's a big but – what it doesn't do is anything the book doesn't. In fact, it does a lot less – there is none of that feeling of foreboding or doom. Maybe it's because I was (much) younger when I read it, but I remember a certain darkness. I'd like to have tried it out on some children, but unfortunately there weren't any to hand. I've been more scared watching Doctor Who. I don't think I'm even going to have a problem going to the plant section of Homebase."

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Catch up with iPlayer:

Part 1

Part 2

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Overnights:

Part 1 = 6.1m

Part 2 = 5.6m

20 December, 2009

Soundtrack - 20/12/2009

Le Corps Mince de Françoise (LCMDF) - "Something Golden"



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OOIOO - "Sol"

17 December, 2009

Filmmaker gets Hollywood contract via YouTube



Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez uploaded a short film to YouTube and within a few days, his inbox was full of offers from producers to make a feature. After taking meetings with, possibly, every agency in town, he has accepted a £18.6m ($30m) contract with Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures.

Alvarez is developing a new story in the same genre for the movie which will filmed in Uraguay and Argentina. He said: "If some director from some country can achieve this just uploading a video to YouTube, it obviously means that anyone could do it."

Already a backlash has began saying that all because he can do a short it doesn't mean he can do a feature. Which is true. He might have to do some work or hire a screenwriter or get help from his boss who is one of the most popular writer-directors in the world.

This sort of story always produces two sorts of responses: jealous loser whining or copy-cat pro-activity. I think, perhaps, the latter will prove more productive.


15 December, 2009

Preview: "Glee"


"A phenomenon in the US, Glee follows an optimistic high school teacher as he attempts to inspire an oddball group of students to realise their star potential and restore the school's show choir - the glee club - to its former glory."

There's a sneak peak of musical comedy Glee tonight on E4.


The pilot is brilliant and, even if this genre isn't your sort of thing, is worth a watch. It created a huge buzz when it aired in the spring and expectations were largely met in the autumn.

E4 are doing the same thing as Fox: showing the pilot and then the rest of the season later - next year.


The Glee pilot is near perfect which can't be said about the season that followed. You get a sense of the story struggles they had and the inconsistent tone can be off-putting but it remained watchable throughout. I recommend, when it eventually arrives, that you 'go with the flow' instead of thinking, 'hold on a minute...'.

It's co-created by Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck which had its own fair share of bonkers storylines but I have to acknowledge that Glee being different and a bit weird isn't necessarily a bad thing. (Which is kind of the theme of the whole show.)



Glee, 9:00pm

The Story Works


The Story Works is a high-level screenwriting initiative aimed at experienced screenwriters which will be delivered by the partnership of story editor Kate Leys - as project director, producers Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey as creative advisors and with us, the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The programme is supported by an advisory board which includes Ronan Bennett, Christian Colson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tony Grisoni, Christine Langan, Kevin Loader, Cameron McCracken, our own Hannah McGill, Allon Reich, Tessa Ross and Robyn Slovo.

The programme is for ten experienced British screenwriters and will run for a year from March 2010; at the centre of the initiative is a residential week of masterclasses for participants with A-list screenwriters - and film practitioners (editor, DoP etc). The residential week will run immediately prior to the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2010 so that all participants can also attend the EIFF. Over the year, participants will have the chance to work with an experienced mentor on their chosen script or feature film idea and there will also be several further masterclass and group sessions held in London.

Submissions are now invited and participants will be confirmed early next year. Writers experienced in other media such as theatre will also be considered as long as they have feature screenplay ideas in development.

Click here for an application form

Click here for an equal opportunities monitoring form

Application deadline: 5pm, Friday 18 December 2009

14 December, 2009

Linkage - 14/12/2009


Screen

Must read story about the birth pangs of a new British film
"The Hollywood star refused to come out of his trailer, the leading lady's hair melted and the actor hired to play the joy- rider couldn't drive"
The Guardian
Link

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Dear Directors
Phill Barron
"will you stop tweaking minor things and demanding a fucking writing credit?"
Link

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Dear Writers
Phill Barron
"SCRIPT WRITERS DO NOT WRITE FILMS, WE WRITE FILM SCRIPTS."
Link

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Million Dollar Screenplay Tips
Living the Romantic Comedy
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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25 Ways to Polish Your Screenplay for Producers
greenwriter.org
Link

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Writing A Screenplay About Your Life? Don't Forget the Compelling Concept
greenwriter.org
Link

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Question: Does a story hook (1st ten pages) have to be suspenseful?
Go Into The Story
Link

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"Free online screenwriting and media-production software and resources"
Five Sprockets
Link

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The 7 Steps to a Successful Screenplay
Raindance
Link

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Why Story Structure is the Key to Success
John Truby
Link

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Three Less Orthodox Story Structures
The Last Reveal
Link

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Collection of beat sheets, step outlines and treatments.
Beat Sheet Central
Link

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"Sometimes you're gonna lose the patient"
Bitter Script Reader
"But never be afraid to walk away from your own writing. You'll learn something from it, and chances are it can make you a better writer. "
Link

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"Horror Filmmaking: From Script to Scream"
Filmmaker IQ
Link

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Screenwriting and Character Development
David Spies
Link

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Stage

"For people in theatre to connect, collaborate and publish plays in innovative ways"
Bush Green
Link

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A golden age for theatre? Yes and no
The Guardian
Link

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"In spite of the hard times, British theatre is flourishing"
Sunday Times
Link

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Creativity

Connecting with Creativity
Adrian Reynolds
Link

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10 Simple Ways to Instantly Boost Your Inspiration
Inspired mag
"We’re creative beings, we modify our world in ways it was never modified before. And inspiration is our normal state as human beings. The only reason we can’t always be in that flow is because we’re blocking it. Consciously or, most of the time, unconsciously."

Link

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"Try Fun, Quick Exercises to Boost Your Creativity. "
Psychology Today
Link

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Self development


"You’re Not That Talented, and Other Advice"
All Bets Are Off Productions
"I’ve broken it down into 4 categories:

* Bettering yourself
* Bettering your professional image
* Finding work and getting paid
* Being happy with life and work"

Link

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100 Ways To Live A Better Life
Dragos Roua
"You don’t like your life? Change it! Change your life for the better! Don’t have any clue on how to do it?"

Link

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100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life
Dragos Roua
Link

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Miscellany

Lessons Learned
Michelle Lipton
Link


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Dear BAFTA
Danny Stack
Link

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100 Greatest Films of the 20th Century
AMC Filmsite
Link

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HBO interactive multi-dimensional drama
Link


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Free Speech is not for Sale
Libelreform.org
Link

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When piracy isn't theft
The Guardian
Link


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06 December, 2009

Soundtrack - 06/12/2009

Vampire Weekend - "Cousins"



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The Temper Trap - "Fader"



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Ellie Goulding
- "Under The Sheets"



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Death Cab for Cutie
- "Meet Me on the Equinox"

03 December, 2009

Guiding Lights


  • Are you a talented, ambitious filmmaker with at least two years professional experience?

  • Have you reached a critical point in your career where high quality industry support would help you reach the next level?

  • Would a mentor’s expert guidance enable you to achieve your full potential?
If so, Guiding Lights is for you.

Following two successful rounds of Guiding Lights, we are looking for another 25 up-and-coming film professionals to match with top industry talent. Successful applicants will benefit from 12 months of one-to-one mentor support from an established practitioner. Previous mentors include Danny Boyle, Paul Greengrass, Gurinda Chadha, Kenneth Branagh, Alison Owen, Christopher Hampton and Bill Nicholson.


We welcome applications from across the community and will select participants from a range of industry disciplines. The scheme is open to directors, producers, screenwriters, cinematographers and professionals working in sales, distribution, exhibition, marketing, publicity and business affairs.


Please check the website www.guiding-lights.org.uk for eligibility criteria, guidelines and FAQs

APPLICATION DEADLINE:

1pm, Wednesday 23rd December 2009


“Having a formal bond where someone learning about their chosen career in the industry has ongoing advice from someone with great experience is invaluable and helps demystify all our roles.”

Tim Bevan, Working Title Films

“Not only has the relationship with my mentor been invaluable in terms of increased knowledge, it has also given me greater confidence in my abilities, focused my future aims and helped me visualise a successful career – which is key to making it happen.”

Faye Gilbert (mentored by Danny Boyle, Guiding Lights 08/09)


FURTHER INFORMATION:


Website:
www.guiding-lights.org.uk
Email:
guiding@lighthouse.org.uk
Textphone:
01273 686320
We are able to facilitate access for deaf and disabled people.


All information is available in large print format.
Copies can be downloaded from the website:
www.guiding-lights.org.uk

27 November, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Cast Offs"


Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

"Cast Offs is a new comedy-drama from Channel 4 about a fictional reality show about six disabled people (played by actors who share their characters' disabilities), voluntarily marooned on a British island. Each episode focuses on a different character, their backstory alternating with scenes from their stranded present; last night belonged to wheelchair-bound Dan, beautifully played by Peter Mitchell. The show-within-a-show conceit so far seems unnecessary: just as the flashback narrative is drawing us in (last night's was full of tough and tender details of life as a newly disabled man), everything stops for stilted banter on the island. Unless this is intended to do something as crass as prove that disabled people can be as dislikable as any non-disabled reality show contestants, it seems pointless. Maybe this strand will reach the standard set by the other element soon – the second episode is tonight, so we shall see."

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Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

"Cast Offs
, Channel 4's new drama about six disabled people comes with a narrative scaffolding designed to get you over any viewer prejudice that might be aroused by the phrase "drama about six disabled people". It presents itself as a kind of Big Brother reality exercise, in which a selection pack of the "differently abled" are marooned on an island for three months to see how they survive. "This isn't a camping trip, April..." said one of the participants. "We're here to prove something." One of the things they're there to prove, it seems, is that the disabled can be just as dirty-minded and grumpy and clumsy in the face of disability as anyone else – the early scenes offering a positive orgy of political incorrectness of various kinds. That's all a little laborious, as is the reality show armature itself, which is never used to satirise television itself (as it might easily have been) but only as a way of getting these very disparate people into one place, so that they can have flashbacks about their ordinary lives. But the flashbacks are surprisingly good, far exceeding the gimmick that has winched them into place.

Each episode cuts between ensemble scenes on the island and a more focused version of one character's back story. Last night, it was Dan's turn and this account of a young man coming to terms with his paralysis was beautifully done, including some touching scenes between Dan and his parents, in which all the self-conscious gaminess of the island sequences dropped away to be replaced by something that looked awkwardly true to life. It may be that future episodes do more with the gimmicky frame, but for the moment it's what's inside it that's worth watching.

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Alex Hardy, The Times

"Jack Thorne, the lead creator of Cast Offs, has a mission statement for the taboo-breaking comedy drama in which six disabled people take up a Survivor-style reality TV challenge: “To get away from the usual patronising division of most disabled people on screen into ‘acerbic or tragic’.” Ushered into existence by writers of Skins, Shameless and The Thick of It pedigree, and reinforced at script-writing stage by the experiences of its disabled cast, there’s no reason for mission unaccomplished, right? But here’s the rub — and it’s possibly an easy trap to fall into when you’re trying to smash taboos — last night’s opener felt so heavy-handed that acerbity and tragedy ran through it like SodaStream bubbles.

If the main message was that disabled reality TV contestants can be just as odious as “normal” reality TV contestants, that was certainly achieved (although blind Mikey from Big Brother 9, with his vile shoutiness and nose picking, has already blazed that trail).

Filmed in mockumentary style, each of the six episodes focuses on one of the castaways. Last night we learnt that kindly Dan, recently made paraplegic by a car accident, was just as likely to be bullied on “Spastic Island” (their words) as by his wheelchair basketball team-mates back home. In flashbacks his chair-bound buddies stole his pants; now his reality show peers desert him, sans chair, on a dark beach after skinny-dipping, just as he was feeling at home with his new self. How could we not feel wretched for him?

The “comedy”, alas, wasn’t skilfully done. Deaf Gabby smited Carrie, a dwarf, for having a mouth too small to lip-read — but so often that it lost any comical smack. A clumsy layer of crude was then poured on; “little lips” becoming one of the show’s many too-easy euphemisms. Surprisingly, the writing became even more clunky when they tackled disability head-on: Dan used forced lines such as “old me, new me, f*** me” to describe his post-accident chagrins.

Its darkness, silences and quiet asides did much more to build genuine poignancy. Moments of Dan’s backstory were reminiscent of The Street — when a girl came home with him despite his wheelchair, his dad bobbed around with meerkat-on-Ritalin curiosity. This quietly delivered the message that disability is as much about people around you coming to terms with it as coming to terms with it yourself.

Some lovely lines flowed when the focus drew away from disability. Dan’s dad recounted that Dan’s accident happened when he lit a fag; his mum interjected, all motherly: “I didn’t even know he smoked.” The less we confronted the castaways’ physicality, the more intriguing they became. Deaf Gabby was most amusing when she was just the dappy-girl-on-reality-TV, saying things such as “I like fire”. Will drew us in by being ignored at the campfire — not by being thalidomide-affected.

Perhaps it was a mistake to start with Dan, who is more explicitly tragic because he’s still adapting to his own disability, so nice that he makes others look mean. Perhaps Cast Offs just isn’t well-written enough to fulfil its goals. Perhaps it’s me as a spectator who is still too self-conscious, not sure whether it’s OK to laugh at synchronised wheelchair dancing. Wherever the awkwardness lies, I’m intrigued enough to watch tonight’s episode, featuring blind Tom. Hopefully Cast Offs will grow more of the courage of its apparent conviction, and let the characters farther transcend their disabilities as it moves away from this harsh first-episode initiation."

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James Walton, Daily Telegraph

"None the less, at this stage, Channel 4’s Cast Offs (whose second episode is on tonight) looks much more promising. In theory, a comedy-drama about disabled people, with a disabled cast and two disabled writers, might imply something well-meaning but ultimately too pious. In practice, this one perhaps overestimates the shock value of disabled people being interested in sex – but otherwise goes about its business with an impressive lack of self-consciousness.

It even manages to rise above the clichéd framework of a fictional reality show: in this case one where Channel 4 has sent the characters to a remote island “to prove differently abled people can achieve self-sufficiency”. The supposed show itself is neatly interwoven with flashbacks to the participants’ lives in the months beforehand, creating an effect not unlike a plucky British version of Lost. The flashbacks duly illuminate the characters’ island behaviour, but with a cast of only six, and a series budget that would fund about three minutes of the average American drama.

In each episode too, the flashbacks will focus Lost-style on a different character. Last night it was the turn of Dan (Peter Mitchell), a young bloke from Northern Ireland recently paralysed from the waist down in a car crash. As we watched him building his new life, the strongest and certainly the most original sections concerned the clumsy attempts of his loving parents to put on a brave face. There was even the dark (and very courageous) suggestion that at some deep-buried level they were almost pleased that his disability meant he needed them again – just as he had when he was still their little boy."

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Catch up:

4oD


26 November, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Paradox"



Phil Hogan, The Observer

"
The clue was probably in the title, but even by the yardstick of plausibility cheerfully ignored by most popular TV sci-fi, the BBC's new five-part series Paradox hit new heights of trying one's patience. Still, I suppose we all love a mystery, and when rugged, unsmiling space scientist Dr Christian King suddenly started getting disturbing images streaming live on to the conveniently huge screens in his office, well, who wouldn't call the police? Look, a dead girl! And what was this – some sort of explosion, and a discarded mobile phone with this afternoon's time on it alongside close-ups of familiar but maddeningly not quite identifiable objects? Why, it almost seemed that someone was trying to tell us that something awful was going to happen in 10 hours, and that all we had to do was rearrange the above jpegs into a feasible local calamity!

Enter high-heeled, mini-skirted Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint (Tamzin Outhwaite), who after some preliminary dithering and obligatory sexual chemistry decided she could either dismiss Dr King as a scheming nutter ("Perhaps you have been overworking, Dr King… ") or accept that these visual fragments had somehow been blown from the near future into the present by last night's unusually blustery geomagnetic solar storms.

I don't know the current science on this, but as a chance natural phenomenon it did seem awfully selective in its choice of shots and narrative-friendly cropping of pictures. I mean, wouldn't you be more likely to get a dozen snaps of someone putting the bins out?

But DI Flint didn't have time to think. With the clock ticking down (and I'm afraid it was more Anneka Rice than Jack Bauer), she was busy charging around, trying to see which bit of the puzzle went where, though by the time she'd worked out that it was a petrol tanker hitting a railway bridge it was too late to save the day. Here was the dead girl after the explosion (excellent fireball effects), the mobile phone and the other clues. But what do you expect? Everybody knows you can't change the future once you've been given photographs of its contents. That would be just nonsense."

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Lucy Mangan, The Guardian


"In the first episode of FlashForward, the US series about an unexplained phenomenon that causes everyone in the world to black out for 137 seconds and receive visions of their future lives, CGI waste was laid to Los Angeles, London and several points in between. FBI agent Joseph Fiennes clambered among the burning wreckage of cars on the ruptured freeway and got busy launching a website that would unite everyone's visions. He soon had leads assembled that took in mysterious men in black in Detroit, incarcerated Nazis in Germany, mass crow deaths in Africa and conspiracy theories up the wazoo.

In the first episode of Paradox, BBC1's new series about an unexplained phenomenon that causes an astrophysicist's computer to receive images from space of events 18 hours in the future, the action centres around a forthcoming traffic accident at 8.33pm on the B204 between Tedsford and Marlingham. At first, I couldn't decide whether this made my heart fill with an unreasoning love or bitter, bitter hatred of Great Britain. As the programme unfolded, I settled, with regret, on the latter.

Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint (played by Tamzin Outhwaite) has 18 hours to piece together the computer's fragmentary images. It is a task that, to the viewer, seems to unfold in real time. Sometimes it is hard to believe that time is not actually going backwards, as exchanges such as this unfold: "You're a distinguished scientist, Dr King – it must be hard to admit you need help." "That's all you've got? You mouth platitudes and I'm supposed to confess?"

The future vision is of a fuel tanker hitting a bridge as a delayed train crosses it. That this is apparent to the viewer long before the investigators further aggravates the sensation that time and narrative are not running quite as they ought. Perhaps Paradox is the first meta- titled show. Or perhaps it is just not very good. Tune in last week to find out."

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Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

"Sometimes you can predict déjà vu. The moment that Life on Mars became a big hit, for example, it was a pretty solid bet that within a couple of gestational cycles we'd be looking at another time-anomaly cop show, and sure enough here comes Paradox. You can't always predict how déjà vu will operate, though. The odds against Paradox getting commissioned would have been a lot stiffer if Life on Mars hadn't paved the way, but what you find yourself thinking of most frequently here is not that series but Minority Report, the Spielberg adaptation of Philip K Dick's story about policemen who solve crimes before they happen. Paradox begins in a futuristic research lab with a saturnine young man staring at a bank of television monitors. He looks curious... then quizzical... then mildly apprehensive... as something called the Prometheus Innovation Satellite Downlink spontaneously downloads a series of photographs of what looks like a civic disaster. It may occur to you at this point that the Prometheus Innovation Satellite Downlink offers a perfect acronym for the state you'd have to be in to take this kind of thing seriously. But ignore that thought. It isn't helpful.

The saturnine young man is called Christian King, a name that may or may not turn out to be theologically significant but in the meantime will give the chatroom theorists an appealing chew-toy. He is what you might call a geekopath, clearly brilliant, but adopting a Hannibal Lecterish air of lethal indifference to human concerns. If you were any ordinary detective inspector, called out to hear his veiled threats that something terrible was going to happen in just a few hours, you'd have him in a straitjacket before you could say "Unabomber". But Rebecca Flint (flinty, in a hot sort of way) isn't any ordinary DI. She decides to follow up the fragmentary clues PISD has supplied and decides that something awful is about to happen. Has King prearranged it all, as part of some murderous power game, or is something uncanny going on?

The pleasure for the audience here offers a variation on those teasing bits of Casualty when you see the epileptic crane operator beginning to swing a load of plate glass over a primary school playground. We have the enigmatic fragments of the catastrophe and are waiting to see how they will fit together to make a whole. Oh, no – look! The sweet guy who's been internet dating drives a propane lorry! And he's sleepy because he's been online all night! And his faulty sat-nav has just made him swerve towards the low-headroom railway bridge above which sits the stalled train of the man who was meant to be miles away by now! It's at this point in race-against-the-clock thrillers that disaster is often narrowly averted – major civic catastrophes being something of a strain on the special-effects budget. But I'm glad to say that, as this was a curtain-raiser and as it was important to convince the sceptics, they followed through on this occasion and delivered a really satisfactory train-wrecking explosion. "Is it going to happen again?" the shattered DI Flint asked King in the aftermath. Oh, I rather think so, love – at least four more times in the current run."

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Alex Hardy, The Times

"If Cast Offs was meant to be funny but wasn’t really, then Paradox had the opposite problem. In 18 hours something “cataclysmic” is going to happen — so say the Rumpelstiltskin-style riddles being laid by the mad space scientist whose lab has somehow “downlinked” photos from the future. Put opposite him an ambitious copper (Tamzin Outhwaite, below) in earnest overdrive, who needs to figure out, against a flashing red digi-clock and a perma-soundtrack of heavy strings, how to halt impending disaster; if there is one at all; whether he’s the baddie; whether she wants to fight him, or snog the tension out of his clenched jaw.

So pronounced are the eccentricities of his closed world, so stompy her inability to rise to his challenge, that it could have been adapted from a Crystal Maze pastiche. The keep-it-real details add to the air of self-parody — his giant plasma screens, throbbing with oozing suns, are flanked by ... a microwave. Mad scientists need their soup too, you know. But the biggest act of sabotage is in its pace: the clue-reveal-clue-reveal velocity is far too rapid to merit all that red-clock tension.

Perhaps ironically for a time-bending drama, this might have all been OK if not for ... its timing. FlashForward, for all its ridiculous patchiness and Joseph Fiennes’s wooden acting, is currently doing a much better job at such space-time contemplation; while Collision’s recent “working back from an accident” format unfolded much more deliciously."


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James Walton, Daily Telegraph

"Here’s a useful tip for you. The next time you have trouble getting the police to come round and investigate a crime, simply ring the station and explain that you’re a top scientist and that you want to see “a clever police officer” at once.

Certainly, this worked a treat for Dr Christian King (Emun Elliott) in the first episode of BBC One’s Paradox. Barely had he put the phone down than DI Rebecca Flint (Tamzin Outhwaite) arrived at his laboratory. She didn’t waste any time, either, demonstrating the requisite cleverness. King showed her several satellite photographs that he’d downloaded of a blown-up railway bridge. “It looks,” she said thoughtfully, “as though there’s been an explosion.”

There was, however, a twist – one that might have been mildly familiar to anybody who’s seen Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report. According to the time code on the photos, the explosion wouldn’t happen until 8.33pm that evening, 10 hours later. Weirder still, having called in the police so urgently, Dr King now refused to be drawn further, or indeed to help in any way whatsoever. Instead, he just stared moodily into the middle distance, pausing only to sneer at Flint’s admittedly hopeless attempts to understand what was going on. In her defence, mind you, the explanation wasn’t that obvious. A solar storm had caused some sort of slippage in time, enabling King to see (very slightly) into the future.

In short, Paradox entirely failed to solve the problem posed by this kind of high-concept show. On the one hand, Flint had no reason to accept that King’s prediction really would come true – or even that it really was a prediction. On the other, if she didn’t, there’d be no programme. Unwisely, the script opted to thrash about between the two positions – and far too much time passed with her unconvincingly pretending not to believe in the impending catastrophe while also haring about Manchester trying to prevent it.

If this were an American series, my guess is that it would have started by simply taking the premise for granted and getting on with it: Dr King could see (very slightly) into the future and DI Flint’s job was to find the clues and save the day. The “scientific” explanation would then have been filled in several weeks later. As things stood, the biggest mystery last night was how such an opening episode could have gone through all the many meetings required for a prime-time BBC One slot without anybody ever saying, “Hold on a minute, nobody’s behaviour here makes any sense.”

In fact, the climactic scenes were quite exciting – thanks largely to the ever-reliable device of an on-screen clock ticking down to the disaster.Sadly, by then the show’s complete absence of internal logic (or, if you prefer, its overwhelming silliness) meant that it was beyond help.

Of course, now that the premise has been put so laboriously in place, Paradox may perk up a bit in the coming weeks."

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Lizzie Mickery interview (audio)
Lizzie Mickery interview (video)

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Broadcast feature
Press Pack

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Catch Up:

iPlayer

24 November, 2009

Preview: "Cast Offs"


"A darkly comic drama series telling the story of six disabled characters sent to a remote British island for a fictional reality TV show."

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Jack Thorne, co-writer:

"One island. Three months. Six disabled people. Tom, Dan, April, Gabby, Carrie and Will are adventurers of our modern age. Ambassadors selected by a TV company –we will follow their journey as they attempt to harvest crops, rear pigs, deliver babies and save chickens.

Do blind people know how attractive someone is? And if so, how? Amir, a cheeky chappy from Glasgow and profoundly blind, certainly claims so. In his audition with us he describes himself as a bit of a ladies man. In fact, a bit of a shark. We ask the obvious question – how do you know who’s attractive and who isn’t, i.e. how do you know who you want to shark? “Oh, I know” Amir replies. “OK” says Miranda, our director, “what do I look like?” Amir smiles, “size 12, long hair, full lips, and do you want me to say your bra size because I have a pretty good idea?” Miranda laughs. Yeah. He’s got a pretty good idea of what she looks like. Amir is clearly a bit of a magician.

In contrast, Alex Bulmer, my co-writer on Cast-Offs and a close friend, has absolutely no idea what I look like. Like Amir, she was born with sight, so if you give her information she can compute it, she knows what the colour red is, she knows what grass looks like. But during one of our final read-throughs she started reeling off her impression of what I looked like and went for her own version of Pre-Raphaelite poet. Long-dark hair. Slightly girly. Moderately attractive. Nothing like the gangly balding geek-t-shirt wearing freak I actually am.

So why did Amir seem to get it right and Alex not? I don’t know. Maybe it’s something in a voice. Maybe Amir wanted her to look like that and got lucky. Maybe Alex doesn't care what people actually look like, but prefers to design them in her mind however she chooses. What I do know is that blind people aren’t that into touching faces. Amir would probably touch anything to be fair to the guy but when we got Tim Gebbels, our extremely funny blind lead in the show, to touch one of the other actor’s faces, he acted in revulsion. It turns out Lionel Ritchie got his research wrong and that touching someone’s face would do nothing for Tim, blind more or less since birth; he’d really rather not.

The reason why I start with these examples is because every single time the responses we got surprised me, and that’s what Cast-Offs is trying to represent. Surprising stories about disabled people. In fact, more than that, surprising stories about people. "

Article in full at WGGB

Jack Thorne article, The Independent

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Previews

The Times

The Independent

The Guardian

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Interviews

Tony Roche, Alex Bulmer and Jack Thorne, The Arts Desk

Jack Thorne, Disability Arts Online

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Cast Offs
Tuesdays and Wednesdays,
11:05pm for 6 episodes

20 November, 2009

Screenplay Adaptation Contest (USA Only)


It says something that while I'm watching a cheerleader movie instead of saying: "Corr!", "Wha-hey!" and "Hubedah, hubedah!", I'm actually saying:"what a brilliant screenplay!" That's how I felt about "Bring It On". I actually became quite evangelical about it and tried to convert genre snobs.

Well, the screenwriter of that movie, Jessica Bendinger has a new book out called
The Seven Rays and tweeted me about a USA ONLY adaptation contest based on it.

The idea is to read the book and choose a section to adapt into a 2-5 page screenplay. Although you do get the first chapter free on the competition page.


The prizes are a one-on-one script consultancy with Ms Bendinger herself and second prize is an opportunity to pitch a script to Jessica and various industry bods. Final Draft copies go to the runners-up.


Deadline: 15 February 2010.


Fee: $20


More details

09 November, 2009

Preview: "Collision"

collision picture


"This tense, thought provoking drama, made by Greenlit Rights, tells the story of a major road accident and a group of people who have never met, but who all share one devastating moment that will change their lives.

The five part serial is a modern epic tale which explores how fragile our lives are. It focuses on how fate and the feeling of immortality behind the wheel play a part in our lives, where events are not always in our control.

Amid the tangle of twisted metal and emotional turmoil wrought by the tragedy of a crash of this scale, are the stories of the victims, and the impact of the accident on their families, friends and colleagues.

As the terrible task of investigating the cause of the carnage begins, a series of revelations emerge: from Government cover-ups and smuggling, to disturbing secrets and murder."

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INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY HOROWITZ - CREATOR AND CO-WRITER


What was the inspiration for Collision?

I’ve always been interested in car accidents. In a sense, every car journey is a story and a car crash is, by its very nature, an extraordinary, unprecedented way for many stories to come together. The short answer to this question is that I travel a great deal between London and Orford, Suffolk so I am well acquainted with the A12.

When did you start writing this?

I had the idea about ten years ago, began work on it but then abandoned it as I couldn’t make it work. The problem was the structure which was always very complicated. Then, last year, my agent (Anthony Jones) mentioned it to ITV and suddenly I found myself revisiting my ideas.

I always knew it would be a five-part series. It just felt the right length. But I was thrilled when ITV decided to make it an “event drama” by scheduling it over one week. It’s a gripping story, I think, and will work very well in that format.

How would you describe it?

It is moving, tense, thrilling, compelling. I’d like to think it’s fairly unpredictable. I tried hard to make the stories move in unexpected directions so that often things aren’t quite what they seem. What is hidden in the Home 2 Bed van? What is Stanley really up to? I’m also interested in the metaphysical side of car accidents, the idea that the tiniest things can have huge, life-changing results. Cindy, the other waitress in the service station, doesn’t get involved in the car crash simply because she forgets her keys. How do we recognise these crucial moments in our lives? The answer is, of course, that we can’t – which is what makes them so compelling.

Collision is very much set in the real world and does hopefully connect with the way people live.

Does it show how the lives of people in a collision collide in the same way as the vehicles?


You could say that we’re all in a dance of death and we never know who we’re going to be waltzing with next. I love all the secret connections in Collision which the characters never discover. When Karen steals her secret files, she has them photocopied at the shop owned by Brian. Tsegga is on the run from an East African conflict which links in with Richard (who is on his way to an East African charity event). There’s almost a sort of inevitability that all the characters will somehow collide with each other.

What is the main focus?


The focus of Collision is the investigation carried out by the two police officers – John Tolin and Ann Stallwood, along with their own tangled relationship. That was the thread that allowed me to tie everything together. But of course it’s the car crash itself that lies at the very heart of the series. That’s what every story and every incident keeps on coming back to.

Does it explore how events cannot always be in our control?

I think we already know that events are often out of our control. But perhaps what Collision shows is the way that we are often at the control of events. You have to wait for the very last shot of the series to get the point. I do sometimes get the feeling that we’re being shuffled around by an invisible hand.

I am extremely proud of this programme. It’s certainly massively different to anything I’ve ever done before and I’m proud of the fact that the scripts managed to attract such a fantastic cast and such a talented director. In a sense, I’ve already achieved what I wanted. Now I just hope that the general public find the show intriguing and enjoyable.

Do you think it will be thought provoking?

The few people who have seen Collision so far have found it thought provoking. Certainly, there’s been a lot of discussion about what might happen to the characters next – some of the stories are left purposefully open-ended

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Official
Press Pack

Anatomy of an Accident (The Independent feature)

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Collision: Monday 9 - Friday 13 November, 9pm,

06 November, 2009

Grammar

Interesting debate on Twitter about grammar today. I was told that whenever you address someone you're supposed to use a comma. Personally, I always use a stamp.

But seriously, apparently "Hello, Katie" is grammatically correct and "Hello Katie" is not. I'm of a generation where grammar wasn't considered important for children to learn. Never mind the antiquated rare rules, the very basics wasn't taught. (Or is that "weren't taught"?)

If someone mentioned pronouns and adverbs, I would pretend I knew what they were talking about while panicking inside.


The Twitter debate brought back those old fears of being found out as not a true writer. What writer doesn't know the basic tools of their trade? But I've changed. I now believe that maybe my politically correct anti-elitist educators were right: the only thing that matters is communicating clearly. And only the grammar rules that help us to do that matter.

"A comma goes before the name of the person you're addressing" may well be true but how does it enhance the communication? A lot of grammar rules were arbitrary or invented and then put in a book where they became gospel and sacred. The only Internet source I could find about that particular rule suggests that both "Hello, Katie" and "Hello Katie" are acceptable.

However, nowadays, using the comma in that way in fiction or screenplay dialogue indicates a breath or pause. Even if the reader understood it was grammatically correct, in the context of a book or script it would be wrong and lead to miscommunication. The comma means pause in dialogue just as a full stop means the end of a sentence^

Accepting this does not mean accepting the collapse of civilisation. Those of us who accept that the language and its rules evolve are not barbarians who will next want to bring in phonetic spelling and discard punctuation completely. That couldn't happen because it is contrary to my earlier point, "the only thing that matters is clear communication."


Links:

30 October, 2009

Linkage - 30/10/2009

Why Britain can’t do The Wire
Prospect
"The critically acclaimed US television drama could not be made here. We have writing talent in abundance, but its output is controlled by a stifling monopoly—the BBC. Plus, an interview with The Wire's creator David Simon"
Link

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We must embrace failure to find great success in drama
Broadcast
"It’s worth the risk if we find the next great British drama series, says Ben Stephenson."
Link

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Can the writers change the script?
Screendaily.com
"On paper, these cash-conscious times look particularly tough for screenwriters. But, as Geoffrey Macnab reports, the sector is also developing a powerful sense of collective identity which may help to redefine the writers’ role in the film-making process"
Link

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10 Story Techniques You Must Use to Sell Your Script
Truby's Take
"The key question that all screenwriters should ask themselves is: how do I write a script that Hollywood wants to buy? Most writers mistakenly think that success is all about connections and star power. Not so. The real trick to writing a script that will sell is to know and use Hollywood’s central marketing strategy. And that can be summed up in one word: genres."
Link

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The Three Fundamental Problems of Screenplay Development
Fast Screenplay
Link to video
Link to reports

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The art of pitching
Broadcast
"Television needs to take the art of pitching more seriously, especially in today’s winner-takes-all media environment, writes Paul Boross."
Link

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Storytelling is Eternal, Great Stories are Timeless
Walterhisownself
"Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms. We can surmise that storytelling was an integral part of our standard repertoire when our primitive ancestors sketched their hunting exploits on the walls of caves. "
Link

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Screenplay Tips Archive (101 articles)
Life Tips
Link

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Acts or reels?
Filmmaker.com
"If you’re like me, from your genesis as a screenwriter, from the very first screenwriting book you read, you were exposed to three-act structure – or from your first playwriting book, if you come from the theater. And if you’re even more like me, you felt even then that something was lacking. And if you are me, you’ve always had a nagging feeling there must be a better approach to story out there."
Link

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Hey Screenwriters, Enough With The Backstory-Rationing Already!
AV Club
Link

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Hey Jealousy
Julie Gray
"Ah, jealousy among writers. I know it well. Believe me, I’ve felt that green-eyed monster rise up with me more than once, and I’ve both seen it affect writers I know personally and infect anonymous writers on message boards like a veritable 28 Days Later. Why, my former writing partner recently experienced some wonderful news and (along with some congratulations, to be fair) was attacked on a message board by a few jealous/angry sorts who didn’t think the good news qualified as actual good news and couldn’t let it go"
Link


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Where Do Ideas Come From?
LIfehack
"What separates the creative from the not-so-creative isn’t so much the ability to come up with ideas but the ability to trust them, or to trust ourselves to realize them."
Link


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Creating a Biopic Brings Peril, Pitfalls
Backstage
"The trick to writing or making a biopic is: Don't make a biopic. Meaning, it has to be something else that's bigger than the life that you're writing about. The details of someone's life are just not that interesting. You really have to cut the line between making a compelling drama and being truthful to what actually happened. Facts are boring; the truth is fascinating."
Link


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Download "Turing's Test": an exclusive new radio play
Independent
Link


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Links to 80 literary magazines
Virginia Quarterly Review
Link


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Nice writing assignments via competition
Scifi Scanner
Link


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50 Essential Web Apps for Freelancers
webappstorm
Link


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