30 September, 2009

Free Bill Martell classes


The 17th Raindance Film Festival begins today and lasts until 11 October.

As well as showing a load of top movies (as Film Festivals tend to do more often than not) it also incorporates courses. This year the legendary Bill Martell hops over the pond to do one of his masterclasses for the first time in Europe. Leading up to that paid event there are five free classes.

If I have to choose a favourite guru then it would be Bill Martell. His Script Secrets website is a treasure trove of tremendous tips on all aspects of screenwriting. Martell's basic philosophy doesn't differ from McKee but he is more practical and accessible and in addition, as a working screenwriter, his industry nous is useful.

Martell has had 19 action/thriller scripts filmed of the 30 he has had optioned. Although he mocks them, that's obviously impressive. However, it's his cross-genre knowledge and ability to impart that knowledge simply that's more impressive to me.

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Guerilla Marketing Your Script
Saturday 3 October 13:00-14:30
Raindance Film Café FREE

Who needs an agent? Learn the best tips to help you get your script picked up by a producer without any help from an agent.

Details here

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Tweak Your Idea Machine
Sunday 4 October 12:00-13:30
Apollo Cinema, 19 Lower Regent St, SW1Y 4LR [general cinema admission prices]

A dull idea means a dull script. Let Bill teach you tools to develop ideas people will want to see on the big screen.

Details here

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More Sex and Violence
Tuesday 6 October 13:00-14:30
Raindance Film Café FREE

Write hot love scenes without resorting to porn, use diversion & anticipation to make your script unpredictable, and create great heroes and villains.

Details here

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Making A Scene
Wednesday 7 Oct 13:00-14:30
Raindance Film Café FREE

Learn how to use conflict, suspense, to create unusual, unpredictable and original scenes.

Details here


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Structural Freaks
Thursday 8 Oct 13:00-14:30
Raindance Film Café FREE

Explore different methods of structuring your screenplay, including alternatives to the three act structure.

Details here


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Script Secrets: The Big Idea
Saturday/Sunday 11/12 October 10am - 5:00pm £250 + VAT [£125 + VAT to Raindance Screening Pass Holders]
10 Craven Street Rehearsal Studios, London WC2N 5PE
Nearest tube: Charing Cross & Embankment Online map

Bill"s award winning masterclass - first time in Europe.

Read full details of this intensive weekend masterclass here

29 September, 2009

Preview: "True Blood"


True Blood makes its terrestrial début on Channel 4 just as season 2 has finished in the US. Now I have to try and forget my disappointment in Season 2 (especially an incredibly annoying incident in the finale) and plug the quite good Season 1.

The series has been adapted from the Charlaine Harris novels by Alan Ball best known for American Beauty and Six Feet Under. I was expecting something in the same style and it took me a couple of eps to get rid of my expectations and watch the show for what it is and not what I wanted it to be.

True Blood, like Six Feet Under, deals with death but, unlike Six Feet Under, no thinking or self-reflection is required; it's just pure escapist entertainment.

The series is set in a world where vampires are out of the closet and no longer need to drink human blood to survive because of the invention of a substitute called "Tru Blood". Religious bigots and wing nuts, however, are pretty much anti-vampire and don't believe they should have equal rights.

The main characters are Sookie Stackhouse, a psychic, and Bill Compton, a vampire, who goes to the bar where she works.

The incident I referred to in the season 2 finale was plot-driven hack stuff. I stopped watching The Shield in an early season when they did the same thing. Even though that may have been more my loss than The Shield's, I can't see myself watching season 3 of True Blood. But make your own mind up on both seasons.


Q: Your previous work didn't have bad guys, per se, but morally ambiguous characters dwelling in dark areas. What's it like working with characters in "True Blood" who are just flat-out bad guys?

Ball: "Certainly, in the source material, they're bad. That's part of the joy of it. It takes place in such a fantastic world where vampires exist. I think it makes me less inclined to seek the humanity in every single character. In 'True Blood, it's pretty clear that these are bad people and you're not supposed to want to see them do well. There's enough moral ambiguity going on elsewhere."

Q: You've said you've never been a big fan of vampire tales, but there's a cult addicted to the genre. Why do you think there're so many huge fans?

Ball: "I only have my own half-baked theories. Vampires are certainly a huge sexual metaphor. At one point, Chris Albrecht, back when he was [running] HBO, asked me, 'What is this series about?' And I thought, 'I can't say, (in a dopey voice) "It's about a lot of vampires, 'cause I think they're real fun,"' so I said, 'It's about the terrors of intimacy.' (laughs)

"But the more I think about it, the more I think that's true. It's about how terrifying it is to really let your guard down and open your psyche up to another creature. And with vampires, you're not only opening yourself up emotionally, you're opening yourself up physically - you could die.

"We live in a world where emotion and the need to connect with something deeper and more profound has been distilled into these negative doctrines - 'Feel bad about yourself. You have to behave; you have to be controlled.' We live in a culture that wants people to be afraid and protect themselves from everybody else, which is the exact opposite of what the human soul wants.

"We all have that part of ourselves that needs abandon. We all have a need for transcendence, so maybe people turn to this fantastic fiction for that."


True Blood,
Channel 4, Wednesdays, 10:00pm

(from 7 October)

Pilot screenplay
(Via Lee)

28 September, 2009

Preview: "FlashForward"


"When a mysterious event causes the entire world to black out, humanity is given a glimpse into its near future, and every man, woman and child is forced to come to grips with whether their destinies can be avoided or fulfilled."

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"Tonight marks the start of a brand new series on Five, "FlashForward," which is loosely adapted from the Prix Aurora Award-winning sci-fi novel Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" writer Brannon Braga and "Batman Begins"/"The Dark Knight" writer David Goyer are the showrunners, and the duo took time out of their busy San Diego Comic-Con schedule in July to chat with MTV Splash Page editor Rick Marshall.

"The premise of the show is that everyone has seen a glimpse of the future on the same day six months from now, so we're constantly jumping forward to those six months," Goyer said. "In terms of continuity for costumes and props and things like that it can be a nightmare."

"[Goyer and I] were just chatting the other day that there's something about this show in these really uncertain times, the whole idea of being able to know, for better or worse, what's going to happen six months from is an interesting conceit," Braga added.

In the world we live in today, the idea of a global happening -- an event that every single person on the planet is aware of, pretty much from moment one -- is a constant concern. A lot of it is fear-based, with emerging new nuclear powers, social and political unrest ravaging various parts of the world and, of course, the ongoing threat of terrorist activities.


"I remember, I was in Paris on 9/11," Goyer said. "There was... this huge outpouring of sympathy for Americans suddenly. I found myself in bars and bistros... talking to complete strangers, saying 'Well where were you when it happened? What were you doing?'"

"We definitely have that in our series," he continued. "What we call the 'Blackout Day'-- everyone in the world experienced it, so what you get is, suddenly, all these people from different walks of life, different social strata... saying 'What did you see? What did you see?' Some people saw bad things, some people saw good things."

As foreign a concept as time travel might be to rational thinking people, there's certainly a something to relate to in this idea of a globally shared experience. Braga and Goyer are behind "FlashForward" now specifically because the time is simply right.


"I think that you usually see an uptake in science fiction and fantasy when times are uncertain," Goyer said. "Afghanistan and Iraq and the economy-- people want escapism. Also people want hope. So a show that traffics in the future, and possibly a brighter future, I think is something that people find appealing."

The question, of course, is what people can do about this future they've seen. Once "Blackout Day" occurs and individuals are aware of where the future will take them, could it be possible to change things? Prepare for undesirable elements?

"That is one of the big themes, questions, that we'll be exploring in the course of the series," Goyer said. "We'll get into that answer kind of midway through the first season. The first season will catch up to the end of those six months and all of the flash-forwards we see with our main characters, we'll know whether or not they came true."

And what then? Once "Blackout Day" is old news and our main characters fulfil -- or change -- their future, where might the series go? "We have a map for five or six seasons and we definitely know how the series ends," Goyer explained. Naturally, there's always the question of what caused "Blackout Day," which could spin off in any number of directions." (MTV News)

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My only reservation was how this could be stretched beyond one season. The flash forward is, co-incidentally, to a date six months in the future around about the time of the season finale. But rather then worrying about season 2 I'm just going to enjoy season 1 for as long as the quality lasts.

The pilot sets up so much intriguing stuff, not only the central question of what the frickity-frack happened but more importantly how the characters and their relationships are affected by that incident.

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FlashForward
Mondays, 9:00pm, Five
Tuesdays, 10:00pm, Fiver


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John Hunter:

"...there’s some funky online accompanying material in the shape of the The Mosaic Collective

Mosaic Collective

This is the actual project featured within the show that tries to piece together a global big picture from every one in the world’s perspective. However the show turns out, I think this is a great site that really expands the world of the show for any audience who really want to immerse themselves in it. I hope this is a trend that continues in drama shows."

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20 September, 2009

Preview: "Trinity"



Recreational sex, recreational drugs, random murder.The three R’s – Trinity style.

From Roughcut TV, Ash Atalla’s (The Office, The IT Crowd ) new production company, comes Trinity, a brand new drama for ITV2. Set in the gothic, oak panelled halls of residence and lecture theatres of the fictional Bridgeford University, Trinity College, the eight part series will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘first term nerves’.

Starring Charles Dance (Starter for Ten, Fallen Angel), Claire Skinner (Outnumbered, Life Begins, Life Is Sweet), Christian Cooke (Demons, Echo Beach/Moving Wallpaper) Reggie Yates (Dr Who, Grange Hill) Antonia Bernath (St Trinian’s) and Isabella Calthorpe, (Harley Street, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) going to college has never looked so good. Or been so dangerous…

For over 900 years, Trinity has been an elite playground solely for the über rich and powerful. However for the first time in its long and illustrious history, Trinity is about to throw open its doors to students from, well, the lower social classes.

Two weeks before Charlotte Arc (Antonia Bernath) is due to go to university to study medicine, her father, Richard Arc is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Formerly a professor at Trinity, Richard left the institution suddenly and with no explanation. Convinced he was a changed man, and certain his death is linked to his abrupt departure, she enrols, determined to uncover the truth.

As Charlotte and her fellow students settle in, they begin to realise that all is not what it seems at Trinity. Beneath the glossy, glamorous veneer of wealth and privilege lurks a much darker world, one governed by strict codes of conduct, secret societies such as the mysterious Dandelion Club and the whims of a select group of over privileged students used to getting their own way.

Into the closed world inhabited by the likes of languid, spoiled and manipulative Dorian (Christian Cooke), his stunning, emotionally cold cousin Rosalind (Isabelle Calthorpe) and the arrogant and sinister Professor Maltravers (Charles Dance) comes a new order. From the streetwise and fiercely intelligent Theo (Reggie Yates), total stoners Angus (Mark Wood) and Raj (Arnab Chanda) to the progressive new female Warden (Claire Skinner), along with Charlotte, these new arrivals threaten all that Trinity has stood for.

With change sweeping through the elite academic institution, those traditionally protected by the old order find themselves increasingly exposed. And as Charlotte begins to unravel the mystery of her father’s death, she realises that Trinity’s ancient halls of learning and those charged with protecting the secrets within, aren’t about to give them up without a fight.

Director of Channels and Acquisitions Zai Bennett says: “Hot on the heels of the phenomenal success of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Trinity is set to further cement ITV2’s growing reputation as the place to see dynamic, sexy home grown dramas. Breaking a host of gorgeous, up-and-coming new talent alongside great established names, the heightened world of Trinity is a place I’m sure our viewers will want to spend time in.”

Executive Producer Ash Atalla says:
“Trinity is a high octane, ball-breaking drama. It’s full of casual sex, casual drugs and casual murder. What more could you ask for? I’m very excited to be making it and it’s great to be working with the good people at ITV2.”

Written and devised by Robin French (Man Stroke Woman, Roomates, Roomies) and Kieron Quirke (Roomates, Roomies, The Armstrong and Miller Show)

TRINITY is a Roughcut TV production for ITV2, commissioned by Laura Mackie, Director of Drama for Zai Bennett, Director of Channels and Acquisitions. The series is Executive Produced by Ash Atalla. It is produced by Sue Howells (The Bill, Casualty Drop the Dead Donkey) is and directed by Colin Teague (Dr Who, Torchwood), Stephen Woolfenden (Echo Beach, Harry Potter), Declan O’Dwyer (Being Human, Wire in the Blood, Robin Hood), is 8 x 1 hour and filming starts in Summer 2008.

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Official site

Presss Pack (Word file)

Ash Atalla interview

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ITV2, Sundays, 10:00pm (or watch now at the official site)

18 September, 2009

Frank Deasy 1960-2009



WGGB blog
Link

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Wikipedia
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How to Be a Script Reader

First step, lobotomise yourself with a rusty hammer so you can't tell good bloody writing when you see it!

Sorry. I don't know where that came from.

The real answer is to go on Lucy's course this Saturday. Lucy is the script-reader's script- reader.

Course details here.

There will be another course in London in the near future.

15 September, 2009

Troy Kennedy Martin 1932 – 2009


(via Screen Daily)

"Troy Kennedy Martin, the British screenwriter whose credits include The Italian Job TV series Z-Cars, has died of cancer today (September 15) aged 77 years old.

The award winning writer began his career at the BBC in 1958 and wrote several plays for the broadcaster before creating his first series, Storyboard, in 1961. His most famous TV creation was Liverpool-based police drama Z-Cars, which ran for 15 years although he was only involved in the first two series.

He moved into feature films in the early 1970s with the original screenplay for Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job, which starred Noel Coward and Michael Caine. He followed it up with Kelly’s Heroes, The Jerusalem File and Sweeney 2, based on the popular TV series, The Sweeney, created by his brother Ian Kennedy Martin. He also co-wrote the screenplay for Red Heat with director Walter Hill in 1988 and Red Dust, directed by Tom Hooper, in 2004.

He returned to TV work during the 1980s, including the critically acclaimed political thriller/science fiction drama Edge Of Darkness, and the popular ITV drama Reilly, Ace Of Spies. He also adapted Andy McNab’s book Bravo Two Zero for the BBC.

Although he was best known for his work spanning TV and film, he also penned a novel, Beating The Damask Drum, published in 1959, and gave many lectures including the McTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival in 1986."

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Blowing My Thought Wad
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The Times Obituary
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The Works of Troy Kennedy Martin - Screenwriter
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Wikipedia
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The best of Troy Kennedy Martin in clips: beyond The Italian Job
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11 September, 2009

Linkage -11/09/09

"I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script" by Josh Olson, Village Voice

"It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)"
Link

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"True Tales of Conversational Vengeance" by Simpsons writer, Matt Selman
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Melissa Rosenberg on Silencing your Inner Critic - Making Of
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"Taking your reader and or audience OUT OF THE STORY": list of things to avoid - Unknown Screenwriter
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Mike Judge interview - AV Club
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Travis Milloy - Pandorum (psychological horror thriller)interview
Link

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Special Report: “The Death of the Screenwriter” - Marvin V. Acuna
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Adam Szymkowicz is up to 49 in his playwright interviews
Link

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An Interview with Robert McKee - Storylink
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100 Screenwriting Tips - ScriptXRay
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Claire Denis writer-director - interview
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Matthew Robinson - The Invention of Lying - interview
Link

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"How to get your story started" By Barry Pearson - Write Vision
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What's the Point of the Scene - Scott Myers
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15 Tips For Writing Scene Description - About a Screenplay
Link

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Film Studies For Free - Commentary on and links to online open-access film studies resources of note, by Catherine Grant
Link

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Bruce Joel Rubin interview - Time Traveller's Wife - Cinema Blend
Link

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Time-Traveling for Dummies. A physicist looks at The Time Traveller's Wife. - Slate
Link


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The 10 Rules Of Time Travel - Empire
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And finally, by screenwriter Andrea Gibb, a must-read blog post, "My Sister, My Mate"
Link

07 September, 2009

Land Girls


"Set against the backdrop of war-weary Forties Britain, Land Girls is set on the Hoxley Estate, as the girls balance their working lives at the run-down Pasture Farm, and the opulent Hoxley Manor.

Nancy, Joyce, Bea and Annie have all joined the Women’s Land Army for very different reasons, but they all have one common goal – to serve their country and help win the war.

The drama follows the women as they try to live out their lives in very challenging circumstances, with lots of laughter and tears along the way.

The series will be stripped across one week as a one-off special event."

BBC One at 5:15 pm, Monday-Friday

Screenwriter interview

BBC Drama

BBC Press Release

iPlayer

03 September, 2009

Radio comedy opportunity


(via BBC writersroom)

Recorded for Training Purposes is a sketch show for BBC Radio 4. Its remit is to be about modern communication - a wide brief, perfect for new writers.

The third series went out in January 2009. For that run there was a core writing team of people who’d written on the first two series but the show was also opened up to, well, anyone who wanted a go. Of the 110 sketches broadcast, exactly half were from the core writers, with the other half being sent in by non-commissioned writers.

Every sketch sent in (about 2,000) was read by at least two people from BBC Radio Comedy, with the best stuff gradually being filtered towards the recording scripts, and the stuff that got most laughs getting on air.

It has a cast of six - three men, three women - who can, between them, play most ages.

Series four will, like series three, be written by a mix of a) some people who have written on previous series and b) everyone else in the world.

As in previous series, we’re looking for sketches about modern communication. Our experience with this show indicates that:

  • If you’re going to parody a TV/Radio format, you should look to do a parody of a genre rather than a specific show (so: arts programmes rather than simply Imagine or The South Bank Show).
  • Thinly-veiled attacks on recognisable celebrities/personalities work quite well (eg, politician/journalist Boris Moron; dandy TV presenter/stand-up Danny Vain)
  • You’re more likely to catch our attention with a shorter sketch. If you can’t do the sketch in three pages, ask yourself whether it’s worth it
  • Not enough people know you can’t really swear on Radio 4, even at 11pm
  • Sketches work better when they contain distinct characters, rather than just dialogue between anonymous people
What aren’t we looking for?
  • Someone reading their blog over the top of a sound effect of a keyboard being tapped - we have a talented and varied cast, bring more voices in
  • Parodies of specific programmes/adverts
  • Impressions (although the cast probably could do them if asked, we try to avoid direct impressions)
  • Meetings where a series of people pitch terrible ideas for TV shows/adverts/that sort of thing
  • SatNav sketches
  • Or, come to that, Twitter/Facebook/Bebo sketches. Which isn’t to say we won’t do them, but we’ve done quite a few and it would really have to stand out for us to consider it

Series three seemed - through more accident than design - to focus more on the method of communication than on the content. So we'd like to encourage a broader interpretation of the term communication, because there are only so many SatNav sketches we can bear to read.

Here are six themes that we've spuriously come up with.

  • Power
  • Idiots
  • Obsolescence
  • Instinct
  • Abundance
  • Lies

Those are (all things being equal) the themes for the six shows - so, however tangentially, what you send in should have something to do with communication AND at least one of those (it could, of course, fit more than one). Send no more than two sketches to rftp@bbc.co.uk by 12:00 midnight on the evening of Friday 2nd October 2009. All submissions will be read and considered. If we like what you’ve done, you'll hear from us soon.

Deadline: 12:00 midnight 2 October 2009

Sketches should be attached as a .doc or .rtf file (not Final Draft or .pdf, please) and titled [YOUR NAME] - [YOUR SKETCH].

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One way to break into radio comedy:

Jason Arnopp tells how he became a commissioned writer on the show

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02 September, 2009

Linkage - 02/09/09

"Jerry Bruckheimer Picks Up Derek Haas' Short Story 'Shake'" (Via FirstShowing)

Derek Haas is a screenwriter of Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma (I hated those films) who has a cool fiction site. Uber Producer Jerry Bruckheimer read the story online and offered him 7 figures for the rights. Unfortunately the story has now been removed from the site but you can read it here for, I suspect, a limited time.

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Speaking of Jerry Bruckheimer, Time magazine had a Q&A with him:

"Stewart Stafford, Dublin: Does an unknown writer have any chance of getting a script read by a studio or put into production?

Bruckheimer: Of course. Every writer in Hollywood started by writing a screenplay and getting recognition. If the movie didn't get made, it at least got noticed by somebody--a producer or an agent. If someone is prolific and keeps working at it, they're going to do it. You've just got to keep writing. I'm sure we could show you instances of very famous screenwriters whose first screenplay wasn't very good. They just kept at it."

In other words whinging about Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma is no substitute for trying to do better. And, more importantly, to keep trying through the initial inevitable incompetence.

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The only film making advice you really need - Cinema Advanced
Link

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Loglines by Linda M James - Screenwriters Festival
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How to Write a Logline for a Movie - eHow
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The 50 Best Movie Villains - The Times
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20 Best/Worst Horror Villains - EW.com
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Paul Dini - writer - Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) Interview
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The Four Act Structure - Rob Tobin - Script
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Choosing A Career For Your Characters - Write Vision
Link

01 September, 2009

It's 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, if you know what I mean.

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

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I had a computer scare last week but it would have been even more scary if I hadn't backed up. Instead of worrying about losing my pictures of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and Sophie from Big Brother, all I worried about was whether I could afford a new computer.

Backing up to external hard drive and flash drive is one thing but they also crash. DVD-Rs are safer but they could get lost or accidentally damaged. Besides, unless they're stored off-site then we're still at risk in the case of theft, flood or fire.

Online back-ups are therefore an alternative worth considering. Sir Jason uses Carbonite and recommends it but other online back-up services are available like BT Digital Vault, Mozy, SOS Online Backup, Intronis and IDrive.

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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."

Jason Sutton added:

"Backing up Macs is impossibly easy. Buy an external hard drive and use Time Machine. It's built in to OS X. The best back-ups are the ones you don't have to think about. Brilliant application."

Thank you Matt and Lee and Jason!

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


My podcasts


After many emails (1,718, to be precise) saying the same thing: "I don't want to read your stupid blog anymore" (minus the swearing and personal insults) I have set up a podcast option so people can listen to it instead!

Now if you're driving or jogging or working, you can download my blog to listen to instead of music or audio-books. Please don't all rush at once you might crash the servers.

Seriously though, in terms of accessibility for the visually impaired, perhaps my fellow bloggers may like to consider it also.

This is my Odiogo page but go here to get your own, if you want.

At the moment it's free but the terms and conditions gives them the option to charge in future. There is minimal advertising at the moment but the intention is that revenues will be shared with the blogger.