30 January, 2009

“If you want to write and not rewrite, then don’t write”

Daily Nexus:

"In an earlier draft of Andrew Stanton’s “WALL-E” script, the humans of the future were “big, green gelatinous blobs” who had lost the ability to read or speak, so that “the whole movie was basically in non-English.” Not exactly family-friendly material. But after four years of rewriting, Stanton delivered the most critically acclaimed Pixar film to date.

“If you want to write and not rewrite, then don’t write,” Stanton said.
This sentiment was repeated by three of the four screenwriters during last Saturday’s “It Starts With the Script” panel held at the Lobero Theatre.

Tom McCarthy, writer/director of indie-darling “The Visitor,” told moderator and Variety columnist Anne Thompson that he wrote 24 different drafts of his screenplay. “I always think I’m going to nail it on the first try,” he said.

McCarthy’s idea began with the character of Walter Vale, who was “just kind of walking around” until McCarthy visited the Middle East and a detention center for plot inspiration.

“Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black agreed that the character should be created before the plot. Harvey Milk had been Black’s hero since the screenwriter was 13 years old, but after graduating from UCLA film school, Black discovered that his idol was also an unsuccessful businessman who “visited gay bath houses when he should have been at home with his boyfriend.”

It was Milk’s human flaws that inspired Black’s screenplay. Cleve Jones, a son-like figure in Milk’s life who is portrayed by Emile Hirsch in the film, provided Black with “word-of-mouth research.” Jones told Black the story about the suicidal teenager from the Midwest who Milk coached over the phone, which is one of the most moving scenes in the film.

The screenwriters mostly dispelled the romantic myth of the innately gifted writer (or artist in general) who effortlessly dashes out scripts, instead repeating advice about the importance of rewriting and research. Robert Knott, co-writer of western film “Appaloosa,” was the one exception.

“I drink a lot. I normally start at three in the morning; there’s just a high-speed chase going on up here,” he said as he pointed to his head. “There’s never a first draft for me. … I’m drunk as hell. … And then I look at it in the morning and I’m like, ‘That’s pretty good.’”

But it is also worth noting that Knott is the only panelist whose film went completely undetected by the 2008 Oscar Academy."

29 January, 2009

Neil LaBute, screenwriter/playwright, interview

Chicago Tribune:

"When playwright Neil LaBute broke through in the film world with his 1997 low-budget hit "In the Company of Men," here's how the business worked: Studios sought out new talent and would work these filmmakers into their plans. Now, as LaBute noted recently over lunch downtown, the process is reversed: The filmmaker is the one trying to conform to the ever-dwindling distributors' agendas. "I'm now looking at places going, 'Can I find stuff that they're trying to do that I can fit into comfortably and still make the kind of movie that I'm not apologizing for?' " he said."

Article in full

28 January, 2009

Fantastic Writing - science fiction, fantasy and magic: Writing the future, the past and other worlds

"This one day event for budding scriptwriters is taking place on Saturday 7 March 2009 at De Montfort University’s Leicester City campus.

The day will include keynote speeches from Steven Volk (creator and lead writer of the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife) and Graham Joyce (currently commissioned to work on the storyline for the computer game DOOM 4).

There will also be a Q&A panel with guests including James Moran (Dr Who, Torchwood, Spooks) and Phil Ford (Sarah Jane Adventures, Dr Who, Torchwood).

The event will conclude with a presentation on writing for online drama by writers Melanie Martinez (The Big When, BBC & Sofia’s Diary, Bebo/Sony/Five) and Neil Mossey (KateModern, Bebo & My Parents Are Aliens).

Tickets for the event are £65 per person including lunch, refreshments and car parking. Bookings can be made on this website"

The next postgraduate open evening will be on Thursday 5 March 2009

"A Crash Course in Screenwriting by David Griffith"

"Note: these screenwriting guidelines for 16-21 year olds were written by David Griffith in 2004 for Scottish Screen’s "First Writes" competition, to provide more detailed information for some of the older entrants. However, the guidelines should prove valuable for all young and new writers, and Scottish Screen’s delighted to present them here."

Also written for the First Writes scheme:

"Useful hints and tips for writing short films by David Griffith"

27 January, 2009

Alexandra Sokoloff on Story Structure

Moviescope offer

Subscribe before 31 January and get 6 issues for the price of two - £10 - which is a 70% saving on the normal subscription rate.

Digital editions of the back issues are free to access so check them out to see if you might want the print version.

"Subscribe to our great looking, great feeling, print edition and be the first to read movieScope, delivered right to your door 6 times a year for just £1.66 per issue (UK shipping included)

80 pages in full colour written By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers for less than the price of a large cappuccino and muffin. (Offer ends 31/01/09)"

Further details

26 January, 2009

Film of the Week: "The Butterfly Effect"

Written and directed by J. Mackye Gruber & Eric Bress

"THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT made quite a splash spec wise, didn’t it?

J: We were in NY for the festival when it went out and we were so wrapped up in the festival we didn’t really think much about it. Then we got called a day or two later and were told we had 50 meetings set up when we got back because everybody wanted to take it into studios.

But it didn’t sell at the time.

J: No. Because the subject matter was really dark. Everyone liked the story but were afraid it was pushing the envelope.


Eric: Because it’s a BACK TO THE FUTURE type premise dealing with some harsh elements like; prison rape, pedophilia and kiddie porn. A great overriding story with subject matter so dark nobody really knew what to do with it.

So what’s that like? When you go into these meetings where everyone’s telling you how much they want to make your film but the buck keeps getting passed.

J: It can be really frustrating because the people who were in love with it most, the ones who kept saying, ‘We must get this made!’ were all the younger execs. And the older execs– the ones with the power of the pen– were saying, ‘Uh, I don’t know about this.’

Eric. So most of the young execs were as flustered as we were. They were willing to bet their jobs on this product and went upstairs with a big smile on their face and came down with a big bruise on their ass having no idea what the hell just happened (laughs). The frustration got as contagious as the joy.

J: It all worked out pretty cool though, because it put us on the map, which led to more work and more sales, which validated us. "

Interview in full


"The Butterfly Effect is a very intelligent, thought-provoking movie with many twists and turns throughout the plot. Were you ever afraid the audience would get lost too easily or be put off?

J. Mackye Gruber: Yeah, I guess that was always a concern. It was a concern that production companies around town when they first saw it was like 'Well not only is this really dark material, but its really complex and could you guys pull it off?' And would anybody be able to understand it? Some people, you know, saw the script and loved it and a few people would read it and be like, 'Wow - it's so dark.' Sometimes, people would read it and lose track of things. It was complex and that's why when we came down to the shooting style of it we wanted to make sure that everybody was following along the way.

This movie is a total psychological, what I call "freak-out", that pretty much had me curled up in a ball the entire time I watched it. Where did you get the idea for such a brain-teasing thriller?

Eric Bress: I think when we first started writing we would trade ideas and go back and forth and say 'OK, the first script will be Jonathon's idea and the second will be Eric's' and we'll go back and forth. The first thing we did was a comedy and we knew that we wanted to, as soon as possible, branch out. Be like the Coen brothers who, every film they do is a completely different genre from the last film. You never know what you're going to get. When we started writing, it was my turn and I had this idea in my head. I had this idea about time travel and what if it were very different from a Back to the Future where you showed all the consequences of going back and changing the past. That's when we started working on it and brought this little kernel of an idea to life.

Did your work on Final Destination 2 ever influence the way you wrote The Butterfly Effect?

EB: Actually it was the other way around interestingly enough. We wrote Butterfly seven years ago and went around town with it. Everyone loved it. There's nothing better for a young executive to read than The Butterfly Effect because it's so creepy and it will never get made because its so out there and twisted. It took a while for the people over at New Line to eventually come up with the balls to make such a movie. But they read the script and then said, when we were hiring for Final Destination 2, 'Who are the sickest fucks we know for The Butterfly Effect?' And they knew those guys are fucked up so lets just get them on the case. After Final Destination 2, that's when they finally said, 'You guys are fun to work with so why don't we give you your shot.'

JMG: Yeah cause that was the most frustrating thing. When Eric came up with the idea almost ten years ago, in a way it was like a version of that. Our manager at the time was like, 'Oh this is too dark. People don't want to see this kind of movie. Go back to comedy.' So we kind of hid it away and then we surfaced a couple of years later when we met our present day manager who was like, 'Oh you've got to be working on this. This is cool.' And we felt kind of bad because we thought it was crap. So, we went back, structured it and figured it out and after we finished it we loved it. We wanted to make this. The seven-year journey began. First of all, it's a great script, but it's so dark it will never make money. It will never make a dime. People don't want to see this. And (people said), 'You guys are young directors and its so complex how could you ever think about pulling this off?' with kids and animals and every obstacle. But, I guess we are persistent buggers. That's what we are. "

Interview in full



"The ending is weak, and may be the result of the filmmakers writing themselves into a corner and not wanting to conclude things in a burst of nihilistic excess. Yet, even though it's a cheat, it retains a degree of resonance."

"As a thriller, The Butterfly Effect is iffy and uneven, but as a portrait of a people, it's effective and intriguing. "

"Inhabited by a genuine spirit of cruelty, both toward its characters and its audience. "





Thursday 29 January 2009, 10:35pm

25 January, 2009


The Hot Melts - "(I Wish I Had) Never Been In Love"


Lesser Panda - "Ghostdance"

24 January, 2009

"What I Learned in 2008"

Kevin Lehane:

#1 Never, ever pitch your ideas to your parents.

#2 Don’t debate story ideas (with a writing partner, script editor or producer) over email or through instant messenger.

#3 Less is more.

#4 Write what you love.

#5 Exercise is important.

#6 Multiple coffees throughout the day, even with the tiniest teaspoons of sugar, result in a fat arse.

#7 Network.

#8 There is no such thing as a perfect first draft, or a perfect final draft.

#9 Screenwriting is a race.

#10 Be patient.

#11 Keep secrets.

#12 Be brave.

Article in full

23 January, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Hunter"

Gareth McLean, The Guardian

"Reprising their roles from Gwyneth Hughes's thriller Five Days, Hugh Bonneville and Janet McTeer have less than three hours to find two missing boys before their abductors kill them. As Bonneville proclaims that "It's time to gamble!" and think outside the box, he comes over a bit Deal Or No Deal, while McTeer waltzes around carrying various bits of stationery. (That she still manages to captivate is testament to her presence.) Still, with a cast including Harriet Walter and Clare Holman, the conclusion of Mick Ford's two-parter is a classy, if slightly daft, affair."


Sam Wollaston,
The Guardian

"Actors, proper posh ones - acTORs - need to play a detective at some stage in their career. It's just something they gotta do. Helen Mirren did, of course. Kenneth Branagh recently notched up his, with Wallander. Sir Ian McKellen is joining the cast of The Bill - you heard it here first, so what if it's not true? And now here's Hugh Bonneville in Hunter (BBC1, Sunday).

The thick aristocratic curls have been shorn, he's been roughed up a bit, deprived of sleep and given the requisite grumpiness, complicated private life and eccentric out-of-work interest: for Sherlock Holmes it was playing the violin and a serious, class-A drug habit; for Bonneville's character, Det Supt Iain Barclay, it's stargazing. Actually, it's a role he's played before, in a drama called Five Days, which went out a couple of years ago. Now the character is reborn, and that's no bad thing, because he's a good one. The interest in astronomy fits in with his policing: where others just see random dots in the sky, he sees patterns, and that's what makes him a good cop. His favourite constellation? Orion, of course, the hunter.

The premise is a little dodgy. Anti-abortionists are kidnapping children and threatening to kill them. Pro-life killers - hmmm, that's a bit like CND bombers, or anti-vivisection puppy-bashers. But we'll let that pass. OK, while we're on the subject of moans, I'm thinking that the dead kid on the railway line, the one missing two feet and one hand (which turns up further down the track) is a little gratuitous, especially as he's not even connected to the case - just an unfortunate graffiti artist who got the train times wrong. It's almost as if they thought: hell, there aren't any bodies in this first part - we'll chuck this one in, minus a few extremities, because people want, and expect, bodies. I blame CSI. I suppose it does give us the chance to see DSI Barclay deploying his methods. He gets out his telescope (figuratively speaking), spots his constellation, solves the case, deploys a little sardonicism, and that's it, job done.

The main case is proving a tougher nut to crack, though, and requires another episode tonight. That's good news, because this is quality police drama. It may lack the aura of Wallander, but it's tight and tense, and good on character as well - not just Barclay, but his sidekick, too (every copper needs one). DS Amy Foster, played by Janet McTeer, also has an out-of-work interest: the bottle. She complements Barclay well, filling in where he lacks (people skills, management), while he does the sobriety and crime-fighting. It's an interesting are they/aren't they/have they/will they relationship.

Anyway, they'd better pull their collective fingers out, because there are two little boys in a garage that's been converted into a hospital ward/execution chamber, and a body-hungry TV audience baying for blood. Get your figurative telescope quickly, Barclay, and spot those patterns, before it's too late."


Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

"The “I hate you/Take your clothes off” trope was also in evidence in the first episode of Hunter, in which DI Zoe Larson did the angry, shouty, face-off schtick with a colleague in the office and then next moment turned up to straddle him in his bedroom.

DI Larson isn’t very popular in the office because she’s a fast-tracker and plays everything by the book, but Hunter itself isn’t supposed to. It’s a spin-off from that excellent series Five Days,which genuinely coaxed something fresh from the over-worked field of the police procedural, although, on the basis of this first episode, it’s hard not to feel that a regrettable act of taming and domestication has taken place here.

The point, I take it, is to get a little more mileage out of the double act of Hugh Bonneville and Janet McTeer – an astronomy-loving Detective Superintendant and his booze-loving sidekick – and when they’re off duty, sparring gently to feel out what it is they actually want from each other, it works well.

The lines are a mile away from the functional directness of Trial & Retribution. On duty, though, things are more predictable, and matters aren’t helped by a plotline so effortfully “different” that it threatens the low-key plausibility that should be one of the drama’s selling points. Inter-scene cuts offer you Martin Parr-like images of scudding clouds over a caravan park, or an electricity pylon framed against the sky, an artful bathos that is matched by procedural details about the importance of an office manager or the grim bureaucracy of inter-force liaison. But then the crime turned out to be so unexpectedly baroque in its execution and intentions that credibility began to evaporate.

Two young boys were abducted and turned out to have been kidnapped by anti-abortionists who aimed to use them as leverage for a change in the law, to which end they supplied the police with a steady stream of press releases and emailed photographs of the drugged victims. And the ticking clock element of this storyline turned Hunter into Trial & Retribution, with Bonneville barking out orders and getting steely and urgent in canonical bellowing-copper style.

As it happens, the anti-abortion storyline has its virtues, though these were less apparent in the first episode than they are in tonight’s, when the personal circumstances of the investigating force begin to grate uncomfortably against the self righteous certainty of the people they’re trying to track down.

There’s a nice little exchange in which McTeer’s character owns up to her own abortions – aggressively insouciant about the revelation – and the sense of an untold story floats to the surface. Even here, though, the drama needed more space to tease out these frayed ends and let us see what a tangle they might get into, space that wasn’t available given the more conventional two-part format. I reckon five days, rather than two, would have just about done it. "


David Chater, The Times

"Although the word “gripping” has been worn thin, it still describes exactly what happens when a supremely well-made thriller blocks out everything else around you and makes time stand still, to the extent that you almost forget to breathe. Without a shadow of a doubt, this two-part thriller about the hunt for two missing boys is not just the programme of the week, but is guaranteed to make the shortlist as one of the programmes of the year. Unfortunately it is impossible to preview this concluding episode without giving away spoilers, except to say that it is profoundly nasty, tense in the extreme and brilliantly performed. You would be insane to miss it."


Andrew Billen, The Times

"The night's other mini-series, Hunter, ended strongly too - if you could bear to keep watching once a child had died on screen. The interesting thing here, besides Hugh Bonneville and Janet McTeer's alert performances, is that although the villains were fanatical anti-abortionists, the writer Mick Ford gave their arguments the best lines. “Thank God for abortion, I say,” concluded McTeer as Detective Sergeant Foster, who had had three herself and was a part-time drunk. “It would have ruined my life.” “Would it?” wondered Bonneville's Detective Superintendent Barclay, whose past had featured an abortion too, and whose home life now consisted of solitary stargazing. “You think they're mad?” Barclay asked. “It's them or us,” she conceded."


John Preston, Daily Telegraph

"I had better start with a warning. Readers used to the high moral tone of this column, to the uncompromising severity of its opinions, may be in for a shock. First, though, a few words about Hunter (Sunday and Monday, BBC1).

This is a spin-off to Five Days, which went out a couple of years ago. Hugh Bonneville plays a cop called Iain Barclay, a bluff, likeable, unflappable sort of man who, naturally, has been given a weird hobby – in this case astronomy. He’s also prone to drifting off into rather intense reveries. In telly detective terms, too much thinking always indicates a troubled mind. Barclay’s home life is also in a pleasing state of disarray. He’s in a sort of relationship with his deputy, Amy Foster (Janet McTeer), who both drinks too much and smokes – the latter, of course, being a sure-fire sign of a mind that’s not just troubled, but very sick indeed.

The atmosphere had an eerie, intriguing quality reminiscent of Martin Parr’s photographs of the British at play – a family on a caravanning holiday seen at the beginning looked simultaneously lurid and exhausted. The premise too was promising: two seven-year-old boys were kidnapped at the same time, one from the caravan park, the other from a motorway service station. Both had been kidnapped by fanatical anti-abortionists who threatened to kill them unless their grievances were aired on live TV.

In Mick Ford’s script, all the policemen and women had been carefully layered – as the team tried to find out what had happened to the boys, tensions and flirtations bubbled away beneath. Meanwhile the action belted along at an ominous lick with coppers regularly looking up from their computer screens and bellowing, ‘Come and have a look at this, guv!’

There was, however, a problem – and it went like this. The premise may have been fine, but the explanation for what had happened, when it came, stretched credulity even tighter than the waistband of my fetchingly elasticated trousers. The climax of episode one revealed that the leader of the fanatical anti-abortionists was in fact the nice police doctor who worked in the same office as Barclay and his team. This, I suspect, will have been greeted with a massed chorus of ‘Oh, come off it’ up and down the land.

But there were compensatory factors – two in fact – which brings me back to my original point. These came in the shape of Janet McTeer’s breasts. They were quite simply magnificent – so much so, that you wondered why Barclay had been given an interest in astronomy when all he had to do was crank his focus down to the mighty orbs in front of him. In clear recognition of this, McTeer had been dressed in various items of clingy knitwear to show off her amplitude to best advantage.

I can only liken the effect to a performance I once went to of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture by an amateur orchestra. The cannon effects were much louder than anyone had expected, and after each detonation the musicians needed several seconds to regain their composure and get themselves back on track. Much the same thing happened here. Whenever McTeer walked into a room, conversation would falter and then, stumblingly, start up again.

Even this, though, couldn’t save the second half from following pretty formulaic lines. However, McTeer did at least get to deliver her own withering verdict on the anti-abortionist doctor. ‘You are a callous piece of ----,’ she declared, and then she strode off into an uncertain future – chin held high, back straight, chest splendidly immobile. "


"BBC controller series and serials Kate Harwood said: "In Hunter, Mick Ford has created a rare thing: a suspenseful thriller which is driven by human characters and the day to day detail of the real world.

"The combination of his exceptional script and the wonderful chemistry of the cast makes this truly unmissable event drama."

Press pack (including interview with screenwriter Mick Ford)


Episode 1, 5.4 million viewers (21%)

Episode 2, 4.7 million viewers (19%)

22 January, 2009

Oscar Nominations


"Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics); Written by Courtney Hunt
"Happy-Go-Lucky" (Miramax); Written by Mike Leigh
"In Bruges" (Focus Features); Written by Martin McDonagh
"Milk" (Focus Features); Written by Dustin Lance Black
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney); Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon; Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter


"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
(Paramount and Warner Bros.) Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
"Doubt" (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Nominations in full

21 January, 2009

Script-reading Debate

Piers kicked it off with this:

"Paying a reader to give you notes on your script is like paying a prostitute to give you notes on your sexual technique.

Yes, they're a professional.
Yes, they're good at what they do.
And yes, if you're just starting out there's a case to be made that advice from someone who's been around the blocks a few times is going to help.

But in the long term, both of them have a vested interest in continuing to receive your custom. And that means two things.

One: You're never going to be told you're that bad
Two: You're never going to be told you're that good.

To keep your custom, they have to always see that there's room for improvement, while also approving of your current skills and grasp of technique. Especially the techniques that they happen to like."

Lucy responded with this:

"However, it's just as important to remember not everyone looks at feedback the same way. For some writers, just getting the time to get the words down on paper is an achievement in itself due to family or work commitments: they hate the thought of peer review, of "owing" feedback to anyone - it's added stress, so instead they prefer to pay for feedback and then it's all done and dusted. What's more, these busy people may just not have time to create their own writers' group or even attend one, especially if there are children in their lives. For others, they may have had a bad experience with peer review, so would rather not bother worrying about offending anyone, or again having to "owe" anyone. For some, it's just a case of good old fashioned personal preference: I know writers who would rather poke their eyes out than attend or form a writers' circle (these aren't wallflower newbies either, but highly successful writers, so it's no good saying they *should* otherwise they won't do well in the industry: they do.)

Targetting writers at the same level as yourself for feedback is a good tactic, but can only take you so far. Whilst a writer who works in the media and/or film industry might already have access to peers who know exactly what's hot and what's not, there's just as many people who write who don't. Sometimes these writers will want to pay for a reader who does nothing but read scripts so they can have access to what those people who already work in the industry might have for free."


20 January, 2009

"Unique Screenwriting"

"Unique screenwriting is explosive writing. It's about trashing exhausted conventions and rejecting comfort-zone rules. It means originality, inventiveness, cinematic power and passion. And risk-taking.

Not words you usually find in the books and masterclasses of the script gurus who offer plenty of rules and blueprints for movies, but too often ignore the most vital element of scriptwriting - your unique voice.

This Unique Screenwriting Guide is a highly personal approach based on my experience of writing commissioned and optioned screenplays and on my many years as a script analyst. It's what I wish I had been able to find when I started out.

Producers, directors, acquisitions and development executives who I know have actually thanked me for setting up this site. They say there is a desperate need for my kind of innovative guidance for screenwriters because they despair at the number of poor quality, formulaic screenplays that get written by writers following the tired and outdated rules found in the screenwriting 'bibles'. "

Visit website

19 January, 2009

Film of the week: "Wonder Boys"

" It seems ironic that Chabon spent five years working on another novel before ditching it for "Wonder Boys" and that Kloves went through a similar experience before working on the screenplay. "But Michael wrote something," says Kloves, "and I didn't write a word! Part of it was from the gift and the curse of becoming a director. Whenever I started to write, I'd realize that a scene would be part of the next three years of my life. When you become a director, you realize how many questions a scene has to answer, how much pressure it has to withstand. When I was a writer, I just wrote. Then again, I always feel like I'm blocked. The exception was 'The Fabulous Baker Boys,' where the idea of brothers in a dual-piano act was enough to get me started. So maybe it was more like I was in a holding pattern. I was also sick of the business. But I didn't know anything else. I did make ice cream for a living once; that may have been what I was best at."

Luckily, Kloves fell in love with Chabon's novel. "It was like, 'Wow, and you'll pay me to do this?' I liked the sensibility. I felt a kinship with its tone. And it was a chance to do something like the movies I grew up watching."

As a first-time adapter, Kloves had to "learn on the job. I wrote a long first draft that was incredibly detailed. I found it harder to kill someone else's little darling than it ever was to kill my own. I had to run with the story more, to cut away from whatever wasn't helping move the characters."

His breakthrough came when he excised an elaborate Passover scene featuring the hero's wife and in-laws -- a family of Jewish parents and adopted Korean orphans. "That hurt! As a goy writer with a Jewish wife, I wrote this incredible Seder. But it was 25 pages that didn't do much for the film. Also, sometimes, what can be hysterical in a book can seem, in a movie, like pushing the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope. It can make an audience feel that the filmmakers are fucking with them. When absurd moments happened, I wanted you to believe them totally. My sensibility is a little more grounded than Michael's; his book has a streak of wild, unruly and anarchic farce. I'm not comfortable with farce."

What Kloves liked most about the book "was that it doesn't comment on things and it doesn't tell you what to feel," whether the hero is smoking marijuana or letting his editor seduce his protégé. And unlike most college comedies, it doesn't trivialize campus life as a centre of "Animal House" high jinks or inflate it as a hotbed of rebellion.

"There's no rebellion left for the Michael Douglas character. But he has his job, and there is life. It confronts him directly when he finds out his mistress is pregnant. Probably the hardest thing was not to let the resolution get too sappy." The key was letting the hero "stumble into what is right -- he learns what he wants, then stumbles into it. And I think the ending is ambivalent. These situations are not usually dealt with in adult films. And that's another thing I liked about the material: It felt very adult all the time."

Kloves realized that the teacher's prize (and problem) student, played by Maguire, was as crucial to his epiphany as his lover: "I had to drop crumbs along the way establishing their connection." He also had to be flexible about the supporting characters. When it came to casting Downey as the editor, "Curtis didn't want to limit his search for the actors who could play that role to actors aged 54 or 55. We started to talk about how, if the actor playing the editor seemed to be part of that Jay McInerney/Bret Easton Ellis group, there would be something graceful and ironic about having his biggest writer now be this guy who is in his 50s. All the people in the Amaretto ads have gone, and this is who he's left with. Downey was a great idea. It would be easy to go wrong by making him a 'character,' but the way Robert plays him, he's this smart, intuitive, fucked-up, talented, strange man."

Hanson and Kloves collaborated closely on and off for a year. "We kept tweaking the voice-over, doing all the usual things." And unusual things, too. When Hanson settled on his locations, he would send Kloves "real blueprints, even if it might only change one line, because it would allow me to see the scene better. We both feel that what the actors and crew read on the page should reflect what they see when they're standing there."

A screenwriter friend who was a veteran adapter had advised Kloves, "If you find something good, take it, because someday you'll be doing a book and you won't be able to take anything from it." Kloves seized on as much of Chabon's juicy dialogue as he could, including its literary references.

"One thing I am real allergic to is preciousness," he says. "But I found little of that in the book. Any references that were out in front and meant something we used; we figured it would be a bonus for anyone in the audience who would get them." When the Douglas character has lost his manuscript, and his editor brings up that [Thomas Babington] Macaulay and [Ernest] Hemingway once lost theirs -- "well, 90 percent of the audience won't know who Macaulay is, and 50 percent won't know who Hemingway is. But Curtis didn't want to talk down to the audience. Curtis said we should write this for our best audience, and not feel we had to make this understandable for kids who may know only 'Star Wars.' We wanted to make this movie for the right reasons." "



BBC1, Tuesday 20 January, 11:35pm

18 January, 2009


Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead"


Metronomy - "A Thing For Me"

17 January, 2009

Preview: "Skins"

"E4’s home-grown drama series returns in early 2009 to challenge and entertain with the verve, audacity and daring optimism of series one and two. With just two returning characters, Skins, series three, introduces a host of new and exciting unknown talent.

“We're very excited about series three of Skins and feel that our new cast are shining in roles, stories and characters which have been created by young people to a greater extent than ever before.”
Bryan Elsley, Executive Producer

The Class of 2009 is headed up by the beautiful and mysterious EFFY (Kaya Scodelario), returning as the new queen bee. Effy is as enigmatic and elusive as ever. She’s joined by best friend, PANDORA (Lisa Backwell), sweet and kooky, she keeps the gang together.

Twins KATIE (Megan Prescott) and EMILY (Kathryn Prescott) are pulling in different directions. One wanting to shed her twin, and gain status, the other hanging on, crippled by shyness. NAOMI (Lily Loveless) a beautiful idealist - passionate, political and principled, completes the girls.

The guys are led by the irrepressible and irresponsible COOK (Jack O’Connell - This is England, Eden Lake), a daring and charismatic leader of the gang. His best mates sometimes despair, sometimes struggle to keep up, but are always there. FREDDIE (Luke Pasqualino) skateboards, smokes weed, loves his mates and is very cool. JJ aka Jonah Jeremiah Jones (Ollie Barbieri), is a master illusionist and also their strategist – together they get in, and just about out, of scrapes, as they scheme to succeed. Finally, THOMAS (Merveille Lukeba), good and honest, he travels from the Congo to set up home for his family, and has to find his feet in a new and strange country. Together the gang bond as they fall in and out of love, and lust, fight one another, compete against each another, and also unite as one."


Introducing the new characters


Oozing charisma, James Cook pulls off daring and dangerous stunts, knowing Freddie will always be there to bail him out. When his dark side emerges there’s no act, no matter how selfish or destructive, that Cook won’t consider. There’s no saying how long Freddie will stick around to save Cook from himself.

Freddie Mclair’s got bags of potential but no va va vooom. He’s happily travelling through life on his skateboard, smoking weed with his mates and staying cool. But will Freddie be forced to stand up to Cook and assert himself for the first time in his life?

JJ (Jonah Jeremiah Jones)
Master illusionist JJ’s got a huge imagination. With child-like excitement, he dreams up entertaining schemes, Cook carries them out, and Freddie acts as their conscience. They are the best trio in town. What could come between them?

Enigmatic and elusive, Effy’s the queen bee - attractive to all around her, utterly in control of herself and totally independent. But as her home life starts to fall apart, she is torn between new friends too – suddenly Effy has more to deal with than ever before.

An adorable innocent, Pandora’s found a best friend in Effy. With a sweet tooth for naughtiness, Pandora is sweet, quirky and warm-hearted, and helps keep this new group of friends glued together. Pandora is desperate to lose her virginity, but might just find love instead.


Super smart Katie Fitch is shedding her identical twin skin, and establishing her individuality. She’ll try anything to gain status, and relies on her looks to help her succeed. Only Effy sees her legs furiously paddling under the water as Katie tries to make the surface appear calm.

Emily Fitch likes being a twin. She’s crippled by her own shyness and depends on her sister to be the dynamic one. But what if her twin abandons her – who will she turn to?

Naomi Campbell is a beautiful idealist. Passionate, political and principled, no one believes in anything anymore - except for her that is. She finds a friend in Emily, but it’s complicated.


Thomas is a good, honest, honourable soul. But finding your feet in a new country is hard and Thomas needs to support his family. He needs money, and friends, but his mum is on his case.

Karen Mclair, Freddie’s older sister, dreams of being famous. She’s certainly not going to let her little brother, or his mates, knock her off course. The big hole in the Mclair family, since the death of their mum, isn’t going to be easily mended though, especially with these two at each others’ throats.


Charlie Pattinson, Company Pictures Managing Director and Skins Executive Producer says:

“It was a bold decision to re-cast the whole series with a new generation of sixth formers. I am delighted with the new cast and with the new, young writing team. They bring a fresh vigour and attitude to the show and will, I hope, bring with them a new generation of Skins fans.”

Camilla Campbell, Channel 4 Commissioning Editor, Drama adds:

“I am delighted that Skins is returning to E4 for a third series with an all new cast. The last two series of Skins have launched a raft of new on and off screen talent and we are looking forward to introducing a fresh set of faces again. This series promises to be as bold, funny, and original as ever.”


Skins series 3, E4, Thursday 22 January 2009, 10:00pm

16 January, 2009

“How To Establish the Dramatic Premise of your Screenplay and Beyond”

Donald L. Vasicek:

"So, you need to take your character on a journey, by establishing the dramatic premise, then roughly timing turning points in the story and in your main character.

  • Page 1, a visual metaphor that defines the theme of the story.

  • Page 3, a line of dialogue, or an action that directly pinpoints the theme of your story.

  • About Page 10, establish the dramatic premise.

  • At about Page 30, something extraordinary should happen that spins your character and story around 360 degrees and sends it off in another direction.

  • At about page 45, foreshadow how your main character is going to be at the end of your story. Just a small action, something your character does to reveal this, like when Ryan meets Princess Anne and he is unafraid of her. From this point forward, you must have your main character creating all of the action. In other words, he/she must be pro-active in all events.

  • At about Page 60, midpoint, you must show that about all is lost for your main character regardless of the new strength he/she is showing.

  • By about Page 75, have your main character change the way he/she is trying to accomplish his/her goal.

  • At about Page 90 of your screenplay, your main character should have a direct confrontation with the villain (villain represents evil in fiction) or antagonist (doesn’t necessarily represent evil so much as representing the opposing force to your main character’s goal).

This confrontation results in your main character winning and sets up how the story is going to end. For the next several pages, your story should build to a climax where your main character goes nose-to-nose with the villain or antagonist. Here, your main character should have an epiphany. For Ryan, it was his discovery that he must overcome Komodo in order return home to his family and friends. It is here where your main character’s fatal flaw (the flaw that has caused your main character to pursue a solution to it because it is more overpowering than any other flaw) comes to the surface and must be overcome by your main character. With Ryan, it was his fear, and he overcomes it. "

Article in full

15 January, 2009

"The Business of Screenwriting"

Go Into The Story:

"It should be apparent to anyone who follows this blog that I enjoy posting about movie analysis, screenwriting theories, and the mystery of the writing process, too. However, one area I focus on -- in part because I have found a dearth of resources on it on the Web -- is the business of screenwriting. For if you are fortunate enough to write and sell a spec script, there are certain things you need to know both to protect yourself and maximize your chances at turning screenwriting into a career. Basic things like:
  • Know who the buyers (studios) are
  • Familiarize yourself with top to mid-level agencies and management companies
  • Track the buying marketplace
  • Be aware of studio business trends
  • Learn the broadstrokes of Hollywood's film history
  • Know how to get hold of recent selling spec scripts
  • Push yourself to generate lots of -- and hopefully some great -- story concepts
  • Write everyday "
Article in full

14 January, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Unforgiven"

Andrew Billen, The Times

"In a very different way, Unforgiven, showing in ITV1's wildly uneven Monday night mini-series slot, was also extremely scary. This was the story of Ruth Slater, a teenage cop killer released after 15 years in jail to rebuild her life. The writer David Evans's piece was heavy with portents that her crime could not be so easily redeemed. In the house where the police were killed, a poltergeist plays games with a nice middle-class couple's furniture. Ruth's sister, long since adopted, is involved in a car accident having fallen into the company of drug dealers. The sons of one of the dead policemen get wind of Ruth's release and plot revenge.

That these stories initially appear unrelated only increased the unease as you watched. Suranne Jones, a bit panto in Corrie and ludicrous donning a posh accent in Harley Street, produced a grimly naturalistic performance as Ruth that would bring credit to a Ken Loach movie and contrasted with some of the rest of the deliberately comfy acting. Unforgiven is risky and original. It even hangs together. So far."


Brian Viner, The Independent

"Here's a tip for any actress hoping to become a leading light of ITV drama: start by pulling or supping pints in the Rovers Return. Following Sarah Lancashire out of Weatherfield and into a spotlight all of her own is Suranne Jones, who was wonderful as sparky, spoilt Karen McDonald in Coronation Street and has done some splendid work since, but nothing better than Unforgiven, a three-part thriller in which she plays Ruth Slater, the daughter of a tenant farmer newly released from prison after serving 15 years for killing two policemen who were overseeing her family's eviction from their remote farmhouse. It is a stunning performance, the stuff of Bafta nominations if ever I saw it. Heck, on the back of it she might even get propelled into the movies, and bring a bit of North Country sense to the Golden Globes.

Speaking of the big screen, that by definition is where an actor's eyes loom largest. If you want to understand the difference between a decent film actor and a great one, watch the eyes, and how subtly they register a flicker of longing here, a flash of regret there. Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, they all start with the eyes and work outwards. On television, even in the age of the 52-inch screen, it is a harder trick to pull off. But in Unforgiven Jones does it. She acts principally with her eyes – wounded by her long incarceration, dead to the world of carefree fun – and the rest follows. The words "classy" and "ITV drama" have not always been neighbours these last few years, but Jones is one of the reasons why Unforgiven pulls them firmly together.

Another is the script, written by Sally Wainwright (another Coronation Street alumna). A thriller with revenge and redemption at its heart, seemingly comprising elements of the supernatural, could be a recipe for corn. But Wainwright (probably best known for At Home with the Braithwaites) is a writer of acute intelligence, and she has been well served here by whoever (perhaps it was she) made the casting decisions. Jones leads the line superbly, but Peter Davison, Douglas Hodge and Jemma Redgrave are the most illustrious names in a pitch-perfect supporting cast.

In a nutshell, the plot has Ruth coming out of prison desperate to make contact with her little sister, who was just six when she was sent down for murder, and ended up being adopted by the middle-class Belcombes (Hodge and Redgrave). Living in the house where Ruth committed the murders are another middle-class family, the Ingrams, and John Ingram (Davison), a lawyer, undertakes to help her find the sister. Meanwhile, the sons of one of the murdered policemen are hell-bent on destroying her life as they feel she destroyed theirs. And they know where she lives. There are moments when our credibility is, if not quite strained, then certainly challenged – after being released into the real world, would Ruth have kept the same name and returned to the area where she had earned such notoriety? – but on the whole it is an engrossing, believable story, cleverly and thrillingly told. Five stars all round, and six for Jones."


Gareth McLean, The Guardian

"Compellingly suggesting that everyone is haunted by something, Sally Wainwright's story of a woman released from prison after 15 years is absolutely first-rate. Measured and mesmerising, the script is taut and true, and Unforgiven has a bleak beauty about it. David Evans' direction is top-notch, the drama is magnificently lit, and the music by Malcolm Lindsay is spare and unobtrusive - something that BBC drama might like to consider. Aided by a superior supporting cast, Suranne Jones gives an outstanding central performance, banishing any thought of the ghastly Harley Street, and if parts two and three keep up the high standard set here, Unforgiven will be the first best drama of 2009."


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Related: "Wainwright to ‘reinvent’ BBC’s Robin Hood"

13 January, 2009


The new issue of Moviescope is about to hit the news-stands.

The cover story is about The Wrestler and the issue also includes the first in a controversial series on why some British films fail at the box office; how a writer made it onto the black list of top scripts; an interview with editing legend Anne V Coates; embracing the multi-platform storytelling universe; Bill Martell on 3D characters (his character creation method) and Andy Conway's guide to producers.

Here's the full contents

12 January, 2009

Strengths and Weaknesses Meme

I've been tagged by Potsy:

When it comes to writing, what do you know you're good at, and what aspect of writing are you worst at? (Procrastination is not permitted as either part of the answer.)

I think this is probably an exercise that every writer should do, whether we share it or not, as we can play to our strengths and try and improve our weaknesses. Although I hate doing it.


Dialogue. If there's a problem with a script then it's rarely the dialogue. Although by the time it gets to someone else I would have done a few passes on it.

Re-writing. I've been told my re-writing to notes or cutting for time is quick. Left to my own devices I'll take forever but if it needs to be changed for a production, it's no bother. As long as it's made clear to me what's needed, obviously.


Conflict. I'm annoyed this is a weakness as I'm happy watching and writing small personal stories with subtle conflicts that might be indicated by just a look or a word. However those of us who love slow-burn, low-fi or mumble-core dramas are few and far between.

So I need to go for big personal stories and really obvious conflicts, if I want to rake in the cash.

Perfectionism. If I can't do it properly then I won't bother and if I do it and it falls below my own standards then I beat myself up - literally.

What's missing with lots of writers is the ability to be self-critical but going to the other extreme and being over-critical is daft and complet
ely unnecessary.

For example I've thought I wasn't good enough to do my own British version of Buffy but we've now had Torchwood and Demons.

11 January, 2009


Sebastian Tellier - "Divine"


The Joy Formidable - "Cradle"

Download debut single "Austere" for free here (see video here)

10 January, 2009

"Opportunities for screenwriters 2009"

"Hi Everyone

I hope you are well organised for 2009, because the great news is there’s never been a better time to be a new writer or director striving to break into the industry.

Okay, I know, you probably think I am totally out of my mind, what with the trades spreading doom and gloom about loss of advertising revenues, job cuts and disappearing funding options. You would be right to think the next two years are going to be incredibly tough for a great many people. However, I am already hearing from lots of writers and filmmakers who are turning this situation to their advantage.

Right now there are many highly experienced producers, director, and actors available and willing to advise or work with new talent. Kit hire, dubbing studios and editing facilities are negotiating crazy deals and getting involved with low to no budget projects. Industry professionals that are normally way out of reach of most aspiring writers are turning their support to ideas because they are interesting and actually HAPPENING. Out of adversity comes opportunity for those who are passionate, motivated and organised.

Of course I would much rather there was no recession, that nobody had to struggle, but this is the reality we are are faced with. However, a word of caution! Always be honest and do not abuse people’s generosity. Also, if this sudden wealth of opportunities is news to you it’s time to get busy or risk missing out.

The hundreds of you who have already bought a copy of MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER have everything you need to turn the recession to your advantage by using the techniques and strategies outlined in the book. Be brave, adaptable, passionate and highly motivated and you will have an incredibly exciting year.

I really enjoy hearing about all your successes and look forward to hearing from more of you. To download your copy of MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER visit www.meadkerr.com where you can see what award winning screenwriters, script editors and producers are saying about this unique career guide.

All proceeds from sales go to Childline, the free helpline for children in danger or distress .

Best wishes
Adrian Mead"

Carrie Fisher, screenwriter, interview


"Are you still working as a script doctor?

I haven't done it for a few years. I did it for many years, and then younger people came to do it and I started to do new things. It was a long, very lucrative episode of my life. But it's complicated to do that. Now it's all changed, actually. Now in order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix the script. So they can get all the notes from all the different writers, keep the notes and not hire you. That's free work and that's what I always call life-wasting events."

Article in full

09 January, 2009

Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire", article & interviews

The Guardian:

"Two weeks ago, two years after first visiting Mumbai, I watched the news footage of the terrorist attacks. A city that for me had become almost a fairytale character in a film had suddenly become prey to depressing reality. At VT station, where the director Danny Boyle staged the brazenly uplifting dance number that ends Slumdog Millionaire, lie lumps on the platform. Luggage and dead bodies. I suddenly wondered if we hadn't been seduced by the wonders of the city and made a rather naive film."

Article in full



Chicago Tribune

The Times

Coming Soon.net

Movie City News

Daily Telegraph


Creative Screenwriting podcast (mp3)



Desi You - part 1

Desi You - part 2


Channel 4 News

08 January, 2009

WGA television nominations


Dexter, Written by Scott Buck, Daniel Cerone, Charles H. Eglee, Adam E. Fierro, Lauren Gussis, Clyde Phillips, Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, Tim Schlattmann; Showtime

Friday Night Lights, Written by Bridget Carpenter, Kerry Ehrin, Brent Fletcher, Jason Gavin, Carter Harris, Elizabeth Heldens, David Hudgins, Jason Katims, Patrick Massett, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, John Zinman; NBC

Lost, Written by Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Adam Horowitz, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon L. Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Brian K. Vaughan; ABC

Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Kater Gordon, David Isaacs, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Marti Noxon, Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner; AMC

The Wire, Written by Ed Burns, Chris Collins, David Mills, David Simon, William F. Zorzi, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos; HBO


30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Donald Glover, Andrew Guest, Matt Hubbard, Jon Pollack, John Riggi, Tami Sagher, Ron Weiner; NBC

Entourage, Written by Doug Ellin, Jeremy Miller, Ally Musika, Steve Pink, Rob Weiss; HBO

The Office, Written by Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Anthony Farrell, Brent Forrester, Dan Goor, Charlie Grandy, Mindy Kaling, Ryan Koh, Lester Lewis, Paul Lieberstein, Warren Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Aaron Shure, Justin Spitzer, Gene Stupnitsky, Halsted Sullivan; NBC

The Simpsons, Written by J. Stewart Burns, Daniel Chun, Joel H. Cohen, Kevin Curran, John Frink, Tom Gammill, Valentina Garza, Stephanie Gillis, Dan Greaney, Reid Harrison, Ron Hauge, Al Jean, Brian Kelly, Billy Kimball, Rob LaZebnik, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, David Mirkin, Bill Odenkirk, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Michael Price, Max Pross, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, Matt Warburton, Jeff Westbrook, Marc Wilmore, William Wright; Fox

Weeds, Written by Roberto Benabib, Mark A. Burley, Ron Fitzgerald, David Holstein, Rolin Jones, Brendan Kelly, Jenji Kohan, Victoria Morrow, Matthew Salsberg; Showtime


Breaking Bad, Written by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Patty Lin, George Mastras, J Roberts; AMC

Fringe, Written by JJ Abrams, Jason Cahill, Julia Cho, David H. Goodman, Felicia Henderson, Brad Caleb Kane, Alex Kurtzman, Darin Morgan, J.R. Orci, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Zack Whedon; Fox

In Treatment, Written by Rodrigo Garcia, Bryan Goluboff, Davey Holmes, William Meritt Johnson, Amy Lippman, Sarah Treem; HBO

Life on Mars, Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Becky Hartman Edwards, David Wilcox, Adele Lim, Bryan Oh, Tracy McMillan, Sonny Postiglione, Phil M. Rosenberg, Meredith Averill; ABC

True Blood, Written by Alan Ball, Brian Buckner, Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, Nancy Oliver, Chris Offutt; HBO

Nominations in full

WGA screen nominations

The awards, determined by voting among the 12,000 WGA members, will be presented 7 February.

Links open up the screenplays, courtesy of Simply Scripts.


  • "Burn After Reading," written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Focus Features
  • "Milk," written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features
  • "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," written by Woody Allen, The Weinstein Company
  • "The Visitor, "written by Tom McCarthy, Overture Films
  • "The Wrestler," written by Robert Siegel, Fox Searchlight Pictures


  • "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord; Based on the Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures
  • "The Dark Knight," Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer; Based on Characters Appearing in Comic Books Published by DC Comics; Batman Created by Bob Kane, Warner Bros. Pictures
  • "Doubt," Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, Based on his Stage Play, Miramax Films
  • "Frost/Nixon, "Screenplay by Peter Morgan, Based on his Stage Play, Universal Pictures
  • "Slumdog Millionaire," Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the Novel "Q and A" by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures


  • "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, "written by Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker, InterPositive Media
  • "Chicago 10", written by Brett Morgen, Roadside Attractions
  • "Fuel", written by Johnny O'Hara, Greenlight Theatrical / Intention Media
  • "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson", Screenplay by Alex Gibney, From the Words of Hunter S. Thompson, Magnolia Pictures
  • "Waltz with Bashir, "written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures Classics