31 July, 2009

"I’ve written a script, what next? Part One"

Hayley McKenzie, Script Angel:

"That’s the question I’m most often asked by writers just starting out. Here are my top tips:

1) Put it away. Let it gather dust for a few weeks, then take it out, brush it off and get your red pen ready. Do that several times until you can’t make it any better yourself (or you’re going barmy, whichever comes first).

2) Ask an expert. Get the opinion of someone else, family and friends don’t count, unless they’re experienced writers, directors, producers or script editors. If you don’t know anyone in the industry, then have a look online at some of the experienced industry professionals offering script feedback. Don’t be lured in by the one with the jazziest website or the lowest rates, but do your homework."

Article in full

27 July, 2009

Breakdown of a Fawlty Towers episode

Micheal Jacob, BBC writersroom blog

"So here, with apologies for the length, is my breakdown of a Fawlty Towers episode (we also looked at an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in a similar way). Fawlty Towers, of course, is effectively farce plotting, which is probably the most difficult form to pull off. But the engineering of the scripts, the ruthless application of consequences to every action, and the brilliance of almost every joke line being part of the plot means that there are general lessons, irrespective of comic style.

I'm here for the rest of the week, then on holiday, so if there are any comments I'll do my best to answer them before I go. And (disclaimer) this analysis is my own and not to be regarded as definitive. I watched a DVD and made notes on each scene, which isn't a bad thing to do if you want to teach yourself."

Article in full

26 July, 2009

"Adaptation Week: Interview with Helen FitzGerald and Sergio Casci"

Vulpes Libris:

"As a special, and very different offering, as part of Adaptation Week we talk to writer, Helen FitzGerald (novelist), and her husband, Sergio Casci (screenwriter) asking such penetrating questions such as the difference between writing novels and films, what they look for in a good adaptation and why their children have to beg them to stop talking about murder all the time."

"RosyB: What would you say are the main skills a writer needs to write a good screenplay/be a good screenwriter?

1. An ability to think and tell stories visually. Lots of writers have something to say. With screenwriting, you must also have something to show.
2. An ear for dialogue. I’m amazed at how many published novelists write as if they’ve never actually heard two people having a conversation.
3. Thick skin."

Article in full

20 July, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Monday, Monday"


"Monday Monday is a brand new seven part comedy drama series for ITV1, created by new writing team Ben Edwards and Rachael New and produced by talkbackTHAMES. Set in the head office of a struggling supermarket chain, it is a tale for our times about a group of workers forced to re-locate to a new city. With their friends and family left far behind, they’ll be in each other’s pockets (and beds) like never before."

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Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"Ah, here's some respite: Monday Monday (ITV1), a new comedy drama. I do love a comedy drama. The head office of a supermarket chain has moved from London to Leeds, which gives some of the characters the chance to leave messy lives behind and start again. We're talking the office environment as a source of comedy here. So the head of HR is a hopeless alcoholic. The boss is a bumbling fool. A new hotshot manager is parachuted in, complete with tarty bimbo secretary, whose job description includes sleeping with hotshot manager boss . . . No, you're the sexist, for thinking that she's a he, and he's a she. Unless you saw it, of course, in which case you're an idiot for not switching over to The Street. Because Monday Monday is hopeless – lame and laboured, tired and predictable, it's as if The Office never happened. It's my fault, I'm the idiot, for wanting respite from the misery. Come back Jimmy McGovern, banging home the messages with your big pile driver, all is forgiven."

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Andrew Billen, The Times

"The rewards likely to be delivered by Monday Monday will be rather less: a few smiles, perhaps mild curiosity about who will cop off with whom and the pleasure of seeing Fay Ripley playing a drunk. This new comedy drama is set in the human resources department of a supermarket company that, for no discernable reason, commercial or dramatic, has relocated to Leeds. Episode one began with the very old device of a girl who has a one-night stand with a bloke who turns out to be her colleague and continued with the similarly venerable plot-starter of introducing a new ball-breaker boss to the team. The script bravely lunged towards bad taste with a line about a sick colleague's “Kajagoogoo cancer”, so named because she was as unlikely as the band to make a comeback."

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Tim Walker, The Independent

ITV1's new recessionary comedy drama, Monday Monday, is set in the head office of a struggling supermarket chain, though it could be the head office of pretty much any struggling business, so generic is the writers' idea of a white-collar workplace. Departments like "marketing" and "human resources" are more or less interchangeable; the only visible staff members are the heads of said departments and their PAs; and the plot of the first episode was hung on such overfamiliar dramatic hooks as an office party and a hazily rationalised PowerPoint presentation.

As we joined the staff of Butterworth's, they'd just completed a move to new offices in Leeds, and we were rarely allowed to forget it. The hour was filled with panoramic shots of the city centre, as if advertising it as an attractive nightlife destination, or to prove beyond doubt that ITV was fulfilling its obligations to the regions. A power struggle was quickly underway between chief executive Roger (Peter Wight) and Alyson (Holly Aird) the ballbreaking new chief operating officer, whose rallying address to her troops was full of yawnsome platitudes.

Perhaps the business-speak was deliberately hackneyed, but Butterworth's is no Wernham Hogg, and after a while the office clichés seemed merely an excuse for the lack of any original dialogue. I chuckled reluctantly at the antics of Neil Stuke as Max ("acting head of marketing") and his PA, Vince (Saikat Ahamed), who would do anything – anything – to get a promotion. But Jenny Agutter, as Roger's PA (who spent most of her scenes sitting quietly in the corner while Alyson and her boss traded veiled insults) was reduced to delivering such gems as: "We all have [BlackBerrys] now, dear. Didn't you get the email?" "Didn't you get the email"?! Yeesh.

The main storyline concerned human resources' ditzy department head, Christine (Fay Ripley), and her long-suffering PA, Sally (Morven Christie), recently left brokenhearted by a cheating ex-fiancé. Christie makes an immensely likeable lead, but the romantic subplot developing between her and the rogueish Steven (Tom Ellis) has been pieced together from old scraps of other on-screen romances.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Christine's wackiness was in fact a result of her crippling alcoholism. Sally's first job each morning was to rouse her boss, invariably sleeping off a hangover in her car, with a large cup of tea. While drunk during the working day, Christine engaged in unfunny slapstick routines with glass doors, overhead projectors and coffee-stained suits. And in the evening, when she was meant to be at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, she was glugging merlot in her hotel room, leaving Sally to go in her stead (which I'm pretty sure is not allowed).

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That all seems rather harsh. What did you think?

Catch up with ITVplayer

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Official site

Press Pack

“New writing team Ben Edwards and Rachael New have a wonderfully distinctive authorial voice and we are delighted to have been able to put such a strong team together, both in front of and behind the camera, to bring their work to the screen’."

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"Monday, Mondays", ITV1, Mondays, 9:00pm for 7 weeks

19 July, 2009

Deadlines Calendar

This has been updated. See the panel to your right or click here.

While not as hectic as the spring there are still a few things to check out for the remainder of the summer to keep us motivated.

At the end of this month there are a few stage opportunities. One is for a one-act play so there's perhaps still time to get something new written.

All you need to know about writing a play is on the highlights panel to your right or click here.

15 July, 2009

"How to kill creativity while claiming to help it grow - a lesson in New Labour double-think".

Tony Garnett, WGGB:

"If you want to make dramatic fiction for the screen you must first strangle your creative impulses. The alternative is even more painful. It is to put your creativity at the service of the formula and take instructions from the executive apparatchiki. They need to feed off your creativity because they have none, and to control it because they are told to.

This totalitarian micro-management is not confined to just one area of television, nor even to television. It’s just the one I know best. It grew up under Thatcher as the bosses recovered their self-confidence and new management was encouraged to crack the whip. It has achieved its apotheosis in the grand years of New Labour’s incursion into every crevice of our public services. We cannot understand what is happening in screen drama unless we place it in the context of the wider society."

Article in full

Update:

Ben Stephenson defends the BBC here
Writers defend the BBC here.

05 July, 2009

"Screenwriting and psychology"

Go Into The Story:

""Screenplays are structure." That's what William Goldman once famously said. And that's true in some ways, most especially because a screenplay serves as a blueprint for a movie's production.

However, most movie viewers and script readers don't make an emotional connection with a movie or script due to its structure.

Rather it's the characters we connect with. And developing and writing characters is fundamentally about psychology."


Article in full


This is essential reading. if there is a problem with scripts I read or things I watch it's this area, more than most, that's to blame.

04 July, 2009

Congratulations...

...to Martin Adams.

He is a quarter finalist in both the Blue Cat and The Page international competitions. Blimey.

Martin is just an ordinary writer like you or me (some say "very very bloody ordinary") so if he can do it then any of us can. Some people also say that "Martin is a bastard who I hope rots in hell for being better at writing than me" but those people are wrong, whoever they are.

We need to show support, be positive and get cracking on our own next features. There are no excuses. There is only now.

Good luck reaching the semis, Martin.

01 July, 2009

Back Up Your Data Day

It's the first of the month which means it's Back Up Your Data Day (although it should be done day-to-day!).

We can also use this day to delete stuff we no longer need and defragment our hard drive(s) to keep our machine lean and clean, do you know what I mean?

Windows guide to defragmenting
Mac users don't have to defragment, apparently.

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Many of us have CBBC scripts that need to be copied but I'm also typing up and backing up the ideas I rejected, which may come in useful later. It doesn't take long to do and if...no let's be positive, when prodcos or the BBC ask what other ideas we have we can go back to the file and see if they can be made to work.
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A reminder about Matt's simple and effective back-up:

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

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

I asked Lee about the Mac equivalent:

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

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

Thank you Matt and Lee!

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Don't delay, do it today. It's Back Up Your Data Day, hooray!