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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Podcast Episode 44: The UK Scriptwriters Survival Guide

In this new podcast episode myself and Danny Stack talk about our new book we've just finished writing. It will be out soon and sums up just about EVERYTHING in the podcast SO FAR in many ways. It's basic question is; how can you earn a living as a writer? This book, the UK Scriptwriters Survival Guide, isn't about how to write, its about how to be a writer!

In this episode we discuss our favourite parts of the book and our top advice - as well as how to overcome knock backs to your career - how do you survive and thrive?

More about the book soon, when its released. Podcast listeners will of course get a special price. In the meantime, here's an extract from the introduction, so you know what it is about...
This guide is less about the craft of scriptwriting and more about being a scriptwriter, a working scriptwriter. A writer who earns a crust day-to-day. A writer who pays the rent AND still finds time to work on new ideas, and that next amazing spec script.
We’ve all got books on our shelves already about the craft of being a writer and the different techniques and structures you may use. We don’t cover those.
There’s also looks of books about rare occurrences of someone selling it big. This book is about being part of the hard working majority, not a one-off fluke. If you picked up a book about investing your money, you’d be rightly disappointed if the advice inside was “win the lottery”. There will be no ‘sell a script for a million dollars on your first go’ nonsense here. This book is about long term success through graft. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Second free 4K light leak download - film burn / glow style

Here is my second 4K light leak - available for free download (and also you can watch it it in 4K / UHD on YouTube)

This, along with the rest, will all be collected on a special page, so bookmark it.

These fade up from black making them ideal to be used to transition from one clip to the next in your edit timeline. They have a 'film burn' feel to them. 7 in total in this one download. Speed them up and reverse them for more variation if you need it!

Download here (176MB) -

If you are using these clips for a commercial project with a budget then get in touch. I make the leaks free for non-commercial use (short films etc). Creative Commons details on the main page.

If HD leaks are of interest to you (under the same conditions) then I have loads here.

If you want to do me a favour because of all this cool stuff - that would be great too. Cheers. A few suggestions...

If you are super kind and get something out of using these then please donate a small amount via the button below...

Friday, January 02, 2015

New Year, new 4k light leaks!

Last year I did a lot of HD light leaks and film burns and lens flare clips you could download for free. This year there are new ones - but now in 4K or UltraHD resolution.

Here is the first one. The rest will all be collected on a special page, so bookmark it.

These fade up from black making them ideal to be used to transition from one clip to the next in your edit timeline. 8 in total in this one download.
Download here (174MB) -

If you are using these clips for a commercial project with a budget then get in touch. I make the leaks free for non-commercial use (short films etc).

If you want to do me a favour anyway - that would be great too. Cheers. A few suggestions.

If you are super kind and get something out of using these then please donate a small amount via the button below...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Treat Part 2!

And more Christmas fun - here's the new podcast! For this podcast we spend over an hour talking to script editor Andrew Ellard. We felt this extra length was worth the level of his insights into some of your favourite shows. Plus we couldn't shut him up.

Here is how he describes himself - "I'm a writer and script editor. I’ve worked on various shows including Red Dwarf, The IT Crowd and Miranda. I also offer (paid) rewrite notes for your script. You may know me from Twitter (@ellardent) having seen my opinion/review #tweetnotes."

We recorded this at the Royal Festival Hall, so you get free background music with this one. Lastly, I hope 2015 is a good one for your writing projects.

Double Christmas Treat Part 1

Every year I make a film instead of sending out Christmas cards.

This year's effort is called Ho Ho Horror. This is now my sixth year of doing it. The ‘rules’ are always the same. Whatever can be done in a single working day. It used to be Christmas Day itself, but then I realised no one checked their emails on the big day so I now send it earlier.

Ho Ho Horror - Apparently, on Christmas Eve, it is okay for a strangely dressed man in a red suit to break into your home - nothing scary about that - or is there?

BUT SERIOUSLY, MAYBE DON'T LET YOUR REALLY YOUNG KIDS WATCH THIS. While its not a horror per se, you don't want Father Christmas being attacked with a stocking and shiv made from a pencil on Christmas Eve.

This year sees a return of co-star Kim, her first appearance since 2008’s Christmas Film "Stocky". Anyway, watch it. And have a (Night)marey Christmas!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Podcast Episode 42: Structure

Structure - the most important skill of a writer or the basis for generic and boring stories? Danny talks about the '5 act pixar poker idea' and I talk up non-linear structures (as always!).

I mentioned Linda's book on unusual structures a couple of times in this episode and here is the link - The 21st Century Screenplay

Lastly, Danny mentioned Nelson Nutmeg Links...

And its not too late to support the film, which has some cool rewards (including an exclusive podcast) by going to this page.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to find great child actors - the top 3 thing I learnt

Currently I am filming a low budget children's adventure feature film called "Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?" with my good friend Danny Stack. It is a classic kids-solve-a-mystery-on-holiday story. Perhaps, from a film industry point of view, this is a bit out of fashion right now, but children still seem to love this kind of narrative anyway. So we thought we'd make it.

Central to the tale is a gang of four kids and an older brother. The dynamic of the group is really the drama of the film. How they work together, and how it starts to all fall apart as the mystery deepens. This, therefore, needs to be a proper 'gang', not just four kids who happen to be standing next to each other!

If I say so myself, we got this right, and it is one of the best parts of the film. Each actor is good in their own right, but they also gel together well.
How did we pull it off? How do you get four kids to act together and get along with each other for 10 weekends in a row?
In reflection, here are the three things we planned that really paid off and made it happen.

One: Spread the net wide and for a long time
We had three main sources of potential actors and we started reaching out in March, knowing we weren't aiming to actually start shooting until August.

The first source was going to every local acting school that we could get in touch with and who were open to us coming along and giving a talk and doing auditions. Some of the smaller classes are the better ones. A lot of these classes and schools focus on theatre, so the kids who do well there may not be the best ones for film! We met James (aka Woody) at one acting class that specialises in drama and doesn't do any musical numbers or dancing.

The second source was online casting sites such as the special kids version of casting call pro where more experienced actors such as Hattie, above, have profiles. We then did a closed audition day for people we liked from the casting web sites and from the acting schools. This also gave us a chance to interview the kids in a more informal manner. At the end of this process we had a short list.

The third source was an open audition. We had to start planning this in March for a June open audition date. The reason for this long lead time was because of the time it takes to get information out there and in the hands of parents. One of the main ways to communicate to local families is via magazines sent out to all parents by the schools. These only get distributed twice during a school term, so the long lead time was essential. The open audition was amazingly well attended with 280 young actors coming along. The fact we already had our short list from the closed auditions in our minds helped, in that we knew we were looking for young actors who could bring something different to what we'd seen already, something fresh or a new take on it. This was how we found Jonah (aka Swindon) as well as some of the smaller unusual roles. Some actors make such an impact we knew we'd have to get them in one way or another.

Two: Mix things up
At this point we had the short list from both the closed audition and the open audition. The task then was to try and mix people up and see what worked overall. Everyone involved by this point was a great actor and had a good take on the character. So this stage was really concerned with getting the overall mix working.

How do you do this? The answer is simple - you do as many different scenes from the movie as possible, with the biggest variety of people possible - and film them. It can be tempting to do special audition pieces or games. This is a distraction. Audition people with the actual thing you want them to do! It was also useful to ask the young actors who they liked for the other roles. It was this way that we ended up with JJ in the role of Shiv.

Three: Audition the parents
All through the casting process (and especially near the end) we were also auditioning the parents. Not for their acting abilities of course, but for their commitment to the film. Although the kids are doing the role, it is the parents who need to make the dedication. They would need to give up their own time too!

At the end of the process we had a group of young actors who:

  • had worked together a lot already during the various auditions
  • had had a hand in selecting each other
  • who had proven themselves committed to the film by returning many times
  • who already understood the film and our process in realising it 

Key Point
The overall method we have used throughout is one of transparency. We have tried to always be totally honest and upfront about this whole process and also the potential of the film with the kids as well as the parents. So no tricks or hidden agendas.