30 June, 2009

Checking what they've written

The venerable Stephen Gallagher says on his blog: "The downside is that there are a lot of books, courses and how-to's out there that ain't worth a bucket of warm spit." Which is very difficult to argue with but then he says "when somebody's telling you stuff about writing, check out what they've written. " Which is very easy to argue with as I've learnt loads from critics for a start.

Mr Gallagher goes on to plug William Akers course/book promotion on Thursday. If, before buying the book or taking a ticket, I decided to check what Akers had written, here on IMDB, I wouldn't give him the time of day.

However going on to his website, (check out the free handout) I find that he's been a script reader for 20 years. Writing Ernest Rides Again (or Citizen Kane for that matter) is no guarantee that a screenwriter is going to tell us better stuff about writing. Reading and analysing scripts for 20 years isn't necessarily a guarantee either but it's much more likely. Now he gets the time of day.

Writing and teaching writing are two different skillsets. Of course some can do both well but let's reserve judgement for those who can't do either well.

Sir Danny did a Twitter survey yesterday on the best screenwriting books asking for the one book writers would choose. The results are here. Only William Goldman and Russell T Davies, are famous as writers. (Although someone, being contrary, lists a website, Wordplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.)

Few, if any, of the books were named twice, which proves something, I'm not sure what. Perhaps not that we should buy every book and do every course until we find a method that suits us. I've known writers who have done that but that's the fear talking.

28 June, 2009


23 June, 2009

CBBC/ writersroom information

Now I've finished my first draft for the CBBC comp, I'm looking to see what I need to do in the rewrite.

There are obvious things that I've spotted myself like lack of clarity and lack of emotion which needs to be dealt with but it's also a good time to pause and look at what the CBBC/writersroom actually want.

I have done printer-friendly pdf versions of the following writersroom pages:


This is the transcript for the event. (original web version)

"The Perfect 10" by Paul Ashton, writersroom boss

This was a series of 10 blogs over a several months covering every aspect of writing a script. It's an expansion on his First Ten Pages article. This acts as an essential checklist. (original web version)

This is a lot of information at a late stage but although I'm going to try and finish in time for the competition, I'm not going to panic as they welcome scripts throughout the year. Since starting I have had other ideas, which may be much better, but they can wait.

Peerage is a peer review site and writers are welcome to ask for reads of their first ten pages if they haven't already got a reader.


First 10 Pages

Archived articles and the first 10 minutes of several pilots

21 June, 2009

Finish the Frakkin' First Draft

Lisa Klink:

"You know you’ll have to rewrite the thing, many times, so don’t kill yourself trying to make the first draft of your script brilliant."

Article in full

(via Chris Chibnall )


Billy Mernit:

"It was a continual perplexity to me, how many obstacles got put in the way of writing a first draft. Outlining was a tooth-pulling process in itself; some not only wanted their ducks in a row, they wanted to count the feathers on each duck. Don't get me wrong: I believe in outlining, to a point, and doing character bios and all the rest of it. It's just that, at a certain point, you have to take your toes out of the water and freakin' dive."

Article in full

20 June, 2009

TENacity workshops (Midlands)

Forging a career as a writer requires drive, determination and a certain degree of staying power. TENacity is a targeted workshop programme designed to support writers along that path, to challenge pre-conceptions of the industry and to identify talented writers in the West Midlands who would benefit from further development.

Delivered in collaboration with ten venues across the region, TENacity will draw on the experience of professional playwrights, screenwriters, producers and theatre practitioners, to offer a unique focus on the creative process. Where possible tying into local productions of new work, Script will give writers the chance to learn new skills and ways of working in a practical, dynamic environment.




Writing Genre Material that is fresh, ground-breaking and original

Saturday 27th June 2009, 10am-5pm

Led by TV/Film Producer Claire Ingham and screenwriter and TV co-producer Phil Ford

How can writers write TV/Film genre pieces and still keep their work feeling fresh and new?

What strategies can be employed to satisfy the conventions of genre and the genre audience – without becoming formulaic? This day-long workshop will discuss and look at TV and film genre examples that moved our ideas of the genre on, dealing particularly (but not exclusively) with thriller and science fiction pieces. By the end of the day, writers should have some new ideas about how to challenge themselves when writing genre material.

Cost: £50 (£45 concession)

To Book: Visit the Screen page




Saturday 4th July, 10am-5pm

Led by TV/Film Producer Claire Ingham, with Dan Lawson (Screen WM)

What kinds of feature films are currently being greenlit in the UK? Who's funding them, and how do you get your foot on the ladder as a new writer? An overview of the films that have been made in the last few years: trends, funders, writing schemes; and how to gain access to development funding, commissioners and producers.

Cost: £50 (£45 concessions)

To book: Visit the Screen page




Saturday 11th July, 10am-5pm

Gateway Arts Centre, Shrewsbury

Led by TV/Film producer Claire Ingham and novelist, screen and games writer Graham Joyce

From the traditionall structured TV and film stories that attempt to appeal to wide audiences (the audiences ITV controller Peter Fincham called '3G' - 3 generations watching together), to the 3D structures of games and online drama that cater for specialised or niche audiences, this day-long course looks at new ways of telling dramatic stories across screens of all sizes.

Cost: £50 (£45 concessions)

To book: Visit the Screen page




Saturday 18th July, 10am-5pm

Led by Malika Booker

Where do characters come from? How do you create, develop and nurture a 3-dimensional, believable individual and give them a voice that will transcend the page? Storyteller Malika Booker will take you through the process of exploring and building characters in script and performance using practical exercises and examples from existing dramatic monologues.

Venue: The Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Cost: £50 (£45 concessions)

To book: Visit the Stage page




Saturday 25th July, 10am-5pm

Led by TV/Film Producer Claire Ingham and award-winning novelist and screenwriter, Helen Cross

Writing for the screen demands many of the skills a writer uses in creating short stories, novels, radio and theatre plays - but it also requires new ways of visualising and thinking about plots and characters. How difficult is it to make the transition from prose storytelling to writing for the screen, and what are the tricks of the trade?

Using a mixture of film clips, writing exercises and practical advice, this course will encourage writers to think visually about stories, characters, delivering information and developing a visual style. It will also include a session with award-winning novelist and screenwriter Helen Cross, whose book My Summer of Love became a BAFTA award-winning feature film. Her first original screenplay, Stratford Road, is currently in development with Red Room Films and the UK Film Council.

Cost: £50 (£45 concessions)

To book: Visit the Screen page

16 June, 2009

CBBC Comp Blogs

There was a Q & A regarding the comp and these peeps have reports:

Michelle Goode

Katie McCullough

Neil Baker

Jez Freedman

Simon Guerrier

But the following also had useful info regarding scripting for sprogs:

Lucy Vee

Paul McIntyre

12 June, 2009

Danny's short

But enough about his personal problems! (I even LOL at that brilliant gag myself)

Danny Stack has made a short film and post-production is going to cost a lot. Considering all the information he has generously shared for the past four years, I think we can all agree that he shouldn't have to shoulder the whole lot himself.

Now I don't ask for much, not even for reciprocal links, but I average about 2000 'unique' visitors a week and if all of you were to donate one pound then that would put a sizeable dent into the amount needed without too much hassle.

You can, of course, donate more if you want. D
onate £5 and you get a Get Your Movie Made booklet.

This does mean opening up a PayPal account (if you haven't already got one) but it's quick to do and secure. It's useful to have an account anyway.

Go on, a pound's nothing, you can't get anything for just a pound nowadays, not anywhere at all. Apart from Poundland.

09 June, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Hope Springs"

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"Hope Springs (BBC1, Sunday) probably could be described as scrappy. And a bit crappy, to be honest. Four attractive lady crims - Ellie, Hannah, Josie and Shoo - do one last job that nets them three million squids so they can retire to Barbados and drink cocktails on the beach for the rest of their lives. And they stitch up Ellie's bad-boy sexist boyfriend (boo!) too, so that's a result for sisterhood. Except it goes wrong and, hilariously, they end up in a remote Scottish village, complete with comedy Scottish people, instead. It's like a drama version of that show where two families swap holidays.

So there are midges, and an incident with a sheep, and some friction with the locals, as well as a bit of how's-your-father. Sex out of the City. They buy the pub, there's a fire, the money gets burnt, one of them gets mouth to mouth from a swarthy local, someone else gets jealous, and there's a body under the floorboards. He he he.

It's hard to imagine how they are going to fill seven more episodes of this. I wasn't expecting The Wire, given that Hope Springs is made by the people who are also responsible for Footballers' Wives and Bad Girls. But this one doesn't have the outrageous archness of those two shows. It's just silly, without being funny."


Andrew Billen, The Times

" I have been searching for something poetic, or at least nice, to say about Hope Springs, Sunday nights' new “comedy”-“drama”. Well, the sheep that traumatised the tarty ASBO-breaker Shoo put in a nicely understated performance, I suppose, which is more than can be said for Christine Bottomley who played the screaming con, so cool on a jewellery heist, so alarmed by Scotland. Shoo is one of four glam cons on the run from the police and a rival gang, who, by virtue of careful plotting, find themselves running a shabby, dourly Scottish hotel. As a crime caper, Hope Springs started briskly but was soon bogged in the Highland mire. As a McPastoral, it lacks Local Hero's charm. As a study of professional women, you'd have been better off with The Apprentice final (reviewed in the main section). Like most of what is made by its producers, Shed - Fooballers' Wives, Bad Girls - it is so trussed up in high street fashion and its visual correlatives, that real emotion fights for breath. Alex Kingston is the best of the mystery cats, if you can forgive her mockney accent. It's early days and hope springs eternal - but a better critic than I might add, “Man never is but always is to be blessed”."


Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

" "Oh, don't call it that," I thought, when I first saw the publicity for Hope Springs, the BBC's latest Sunday evening series.

Hope Springs might be the obvious title for a drama set in a small village of the same name, a drama which, I'm guessing, will demonstrate that, even if £3m of your money goes up in smoke marooning you and your friends in a Scottish backwater, life will eventually compensate you with less material rewards. But it's also a hostage to fortune and, it turns out, a really bad title for a drama as clunky as this. Hope is very poorly, you think, as it begins to dawn on you how far-fetched and laborious the set-up is. And by the time the final credits roll, the undertaker is erecting the headstone on hope's grave.

It might be argued that my hopes were unreasonably high anyway. Ann McManus, Maureen Chadwick and Liz Lake's drama comes from Shed Productions, the company that produced Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives. So, obviously, this account of four female ex-cons, accidentally diverted from a prosperous retirement in Barbados, was never intended to be another Brideshead Revisited. It's there as an end-of-the-weekend wind-down, the only problem being that it's never quite tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top enough to make you forgive its shortcomings.

Even its virtues – such as the reassuringly unprettified surroundings they find themselves in, all electricity pylons and radar domes rather than postcard Scottish glens – only makes things worse. You've got the setting for something that might be mordantly funny (like the first series of Shameless, say), but the plot and psychological depth of a children's comic.

The essential plot is this. Having scammed £3m out of her crooked boyfriend, Ellie plans to leg it to the sun with three friends. Unfortunately, the woman delivering their passports expired on the luggage carousel, leaving them with no option but to hop a train to Fort William and find somewhere to lay low, while Ellie's vengeful boyfriend searches for them. Then, for a reason that I still haven't worked out, Ellie decided to buy the local hotel, somehow convinced that this will make a better cover story when they apply for new passports. She didn't seem to have noted that paying for a hotel with a stack of crisp new £50 notes might arouse suspicion, even in the sleepiest Scottish village.

But then that hardly matters since nothing else makes sense here, not even the acting, which, with the exception of a nicely deadpan sheep, was coarse enough to grate carrots on. "What the hell have we got ourselves into?" wailed Ellie – after an arson attack by the local thug incinerates all their loot – and it's hard not to read the line as a cry of pain from Alex Kingston the actress, rather than the character she's playing."


Catch up on iPlayer


Official site
Press pack

07 June, 2009

"You're boring"

Seth's Blog:

"Sorry, someone had to say it.

Your products are predictable. Your insights are recycled. You don't bring surprise with you when you enter a room.

That's why people are ignoring you.

The only path left is to lean out of the edge and become interesting, noteworthy and yes, remarkable."

via Tips for Writers on Twitter

06 June, 2009

Ivan Raimi, "Drag Me to Hell", interview


"It was always a little story. Every time we had a B-story, we’d work hard to integrate it into the A-story, but it never wanted to be that. It always wanted to be the very simple, nonstop story of a curse and the clock’s ticking and what to do to remove it. It went through a lot of permutations but eventually got back to what it was originally intended to be. It’s almost completely an A-story. There’s not much subplot or subtext. The main character is on the screen 95 percent of the time."

Article in full

02 June, 2009

Ideas Week: "Finding the Inspiration to Write a Screenplay"

Candace Kearns Read, Suite 101

"There are many different kinds of writers – some write fast, some write slowly. Some write early, some write late. Some write easily, and others have a more difficult time. Regardless of individual writing styles, all writers need to find inspiration. The following five strategies should serve as a basic overview of effective techniques for stimulating the right brain, where creativity is housed, and getting in the zone quickly.

Break a Sweat Beforehand

Set the Mood With Music

Try Free Writing

Be an Early Bird

Write Every Day "

Article in full

01 June, 2009

Ideas Week

Stephen Gallagher has written an interesting blog about the differences between UK and US productions. One particular comment struck me:

"So from my ever-ready stock of ideas I pitch them five or six springboards."

I realised I haven't actually got an ever-ready stock of ideas. I've got a quite a few but not nearly enough, really. Many of those are going to be useless when I come to actually try and make an outline out of them so I need to be constantly churning them out.

The producers didn't want all six of Gallagher's but they had the option. Another reason for having many ideas is that your favourite one may already be being done. Or they might just not like it, however brilliant it is.

We can call producers all the names under the sun but an amateur sulks and whines and a professional just offers something else to them (while sulking and whining on the inside).

The first step to an ever-ready stock of ideas is to carry a notebook and pen everywhere which many of us do but we need to write down everything - even if it seems a bit rubbish at first. The second is to be pro-active in looking for ideas.

Dearly departed (from the blogosphere)
Lianne blogged about Post Secret and We Feel Fine yonks ago. And you may have come across other such story-starter sites.

There's also newspapers where we can find inspiration from the news pages to the obituaries.

Tony Jordan said this about creating characters for TV:

"You need to find your characters first and your story second when you create a show. It's madness to go story first, characters become story vehicles."

"Great stories are great, but great shows have character. They're character-based, not story-based. Get your characters right and you'll get longevity in series creation."

"The way to success in creating shows is character, passion, emotional truth.

In the RPP Project I linked to some good articles about character creation at the bottom of the page.

Mining Your Mind: Journal Techniques for Writers