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Thursday, March 30, 2006

That's it - I'm off!

A bit of a break of me. I'm off down under!

"That's just what this country needs: a cock, in a frock, on a rock."
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Minghella says...

Some of you may remember I went to an 'in conversation with' between Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack. And recently I was lucky enough to hear Minghella again at the launch of the Screen Academy.

The academy has put up this article but I thought I'd pick out my own personal highlights.

1: There are no such things as acts. Follow the emotional story and the reasoning of your characters.
2: As a director you only get paid for your taste. Do not compromise.
3: The script (and remember he is a writer) is a guide to allow exciting things to happen.
4: Directing is a balance between 'playing the game' and being an anarchist. Ask difficult questions. From the asking comes interesting things.
5: Why do we do all this? Why tell stories? Cinema and storytelling is there to smash the jail that we've put ourselves in.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A quick link on getting value for time

Following on from the Time Bandits post here is a short thought from guru Seth Godin.

He says that it our responsibilities to get the most out of every occasion. I hope some producers are reading it!

10 Seconds

Quick news: 10 Seconds is the featured film on the BBC Network. The BBC Network (along with YouTube and the like) just shows that there is so little money in making shorts. But if we make shorts for fun / exposure / experimenting / increasing our gravity then its great. More people than ever will see it. And vote for it (hint, hint).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Like the eye of a fly!

As part of our TV2.0 platform we've been trying to propose a number of ideas to broadcasters that reflect the web2.0 idea of everyone participates. What would a moving image blog be like? One show proposed that we hand the camera around a group of people. Another (in colloboration with Whitelantern Films) saw a camera making its way on a journey with the people that pass it on filming a bit.

The TV1.0 crowd didn't really go for it. But the Beastie Boys have. Their new concert film was filmed by giving out 50 cameras to people in the audience. The trailer is poor - but the idea may be good!

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'm a writer - I write.

Agreed. If you are a writer you must write. But that doesn't mean you only write. Who is this fine looking fellow above? Why, it's Patrick Stewart in his younger days. Why are we looking at Patrick then?
As we all know - he is a Shakespearean actor. He is part of the mammoth complete works of Shakespeare event at the RSC. But that doesn't mean that he only acts on the stage, doing Shakespeare. We all know him from Star Trek and X-Men also. But also he doesn't only act! He is being interviewed on TV, he is doing one man readings, he is going to Star Trek events - all sorts of things. The working life of an actor is more than acting. Even for those at the top. Those that have 'people' who can do things for them.

So it must be for writers.

And the benefit is clear. We all have a story that we want to be told - heck, we're writers. But the story on the page is only half of it. The story is also told in the conversations with the audience, with producers, with financiers. We need to be good at telling that story too. A story that is told in proposals, in meetings, on blogs, at talks, at Cannes etc.

If we get it right then our career benefits from this variety of skills. It will make you a better writer. Just like the range of work that Patrick Stewart does makes him a better actor AND allows him to plug RSC work while talking about X-Men 3! We talked way back when about how writer's aren't respected enough. But that's because no one knows who we are and what we do. And that's because we sit in the back room quietly. We can't increase our Gravity from there.

In short: A career as a writer isn't just about writing. Getting out of the back room will benefit both our writing and our industry visibility. We must be good at telling the story on the page and off the page.

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Photo from here

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New distribution - same old bean counters.

From the Hollywood Reporter. This is an interview with the film maker Ben Rekhi who released his feature on Google video.

But then Google Video told the filmmaker that their numbers were wrong. "They told me last week that there was a glitch in their accounting," he says. "A design flaw. They said they never misled me, that they were giving me estimates that were not accurate. What had been 3,000 downloads went down to 300. It was shocking and depressing. It was one-tenth of what I thought it was."

Rekhi is obviously disappointed. Yet the young filmmaker is glad he took the leap into the unknown. "Over time, Google will address these issues," he says. "It was exciting to work with Google to try and help indie filmmakers find a democratic distribution process. I feel like I made the right decision. I took a stand to hold on to my rights to the film, online, TV, foreign sales. Too long the power equation has been in the other court. Distributors put your back up against the wall and own your films for 20 years. That we can empower ourselves and circumvent that distribution method is amazing. People are looking for content. I only believe that the online distribution model will get bigger and better."

The cynic in me says that Google has therefore just become a distributor. A new distributor, on on-line one, but with the same old mentality. Exagerrating figures and paying up less than you expect. How could we have ever thought it would be any different?

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Example Query Letter

A few of you asked for more about agents / working your own sales. This post tackles both. Here is my query letter to one of the agents I met at the workshop recently. I expect Blogger will screw the format a bit, but hopefully you'll get the flow.

Dear Rob,

Thanks for your good advice and your time at the ‘Meet the Agents’ event. Certainly food for thought there. To remind you - I was guy in the braces who cheekily asked if the panel would pitch their skills back to the audience.

Whilst I won’t hold you to our handshake deal I would like to just quickly give you an outline of who I am, my recent successes and future opportunities. The aim is to see if you agree that it would be beneficial to meet up and discuss how we could kick off even more opportunities together.

I started in short films with my greatest success being the writer of the BAFTA nominated film “Eight” directed by Stephen Daldry. This came about after I won the Jerwood Film Prize for young writers, judged by Emma Thompson, Richard Curtis, The Coen Brothers and others. Since then I have written and directed a strong catalogue of short films and animations that have been broadcast and shown at festivals worldwide.

Recently I have moved into features. Following on from a successful first visit to Cannes I have had one feature treatment optioned. I have also been commissioned to do an adaptation by RKO Pictures (New York). Having completed this work, which is currently being considered by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Orlando Bloom I am returning to writing a spec script, a post-modern love story. I want to hit the ground running when this is completed and am also looking for additional avenues of further work. Onwards and upwards and all that!

My main strength is in new cross-genre ideas and new structures. I am confident at selling and promoting myself as I am also regularly asked to create sales training materials for HSBC and many other companies.

I am proud of all my work to date and would be happy to share any of it with you before the meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Obviously the stage before writing your letter is to think about what your best news is. Then think about what they are looking for. Only then can you concentrate on the overlap - where you will both work well together.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quirky point

A bit off topic - but only a bit. Ian's shoe lace knot site features new knots for shoe laces. Ian finds new knots for shoes even though he knows it will be hard work to get them adopted because we are lazy and the old knot works okay. Its the same with structure. We know it will be hard work to sell the idea but its still worth it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Structure 2.0 - at a glance

To clear up some structure 2.0 thinking here is an easy cut out and keep table:

Structure 1.0

Structure 2.0

You may know it as

3 act structure

Tim's screwball new idea

The storyteller as...


Workshop facilitator

It uses the thought process of


The Internet

The audience is



A good example

Die Hard




The Machinist

Likes to be shot on


Any and all media at once in any order

The ending is a



You feel



That's how bad its got.

In America the MPAA is thinking of making adverts to sell the idea of going to the cinema.

Of course it would be stupid of me to put forth the idea that perhaps they should be looking at:
one: what cinemas are like to visit and how they might be made more interesting and enticing
two: making some films that people want to watch

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Structure - 3 act or otherwise

A new thought to kick around.

I received an essay written by MA student Liz Coward recently. It compared Eight with Joyride, both films being on the previously mentioned Cinema 16 DVD.

She found it slightly difficult to get the 3 act structure to fit when she examined Eight. This was mainly due to the fact that it is from the perspective of a young boy who is random in his thinking patterns. But also because we want a mystery in the story (for the audience) - where is his dad, what is the truth?

That got me thinking. Is there another structure? A new structure? A structure that is more in the style of the internet and TV2.0? What do I mean by that? I mean a story that throws out facts and opinions and challenges the audience to put together the story. In Eight this would be the random facts about Dad that build a picture of him.

This style of structure drags the audience into the story more. It makes them work. If we stick rigidly to the 3 act structure we are a "teacher in a lesson" for the audience. This new idea makes us more of "facilitator in a workshop" for the audience.

I think this idea has some merit in exploring. I have just finished the first draft of Circumference and this script is very much in this new style. I think other films will follow. I realise this isn't a completely new idea (heck I've already made a documentary version in Quartz Shorts but I'm going to give it a name anyway. What else could it be but structure 2.0

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Get it out there

Good news from Luke Morris at Cinema 16 that he is following up the Cinema16 and European16 with (guess what) American 16.

These DVDs are still one of the best ways to see great short films in a great quality. Of course I would say that as Eight is on there. Each DVD shows some great films from the UK, Europe and now America. The best shorts from the best directors.

I met Luke for the first time at the BAFTA event when he was part of a panel discussion on the distribution of short films. This panel discussion was a little bit downbeat for me. Only Luke really had a passion. Some of the others were depressed about the state of shorts distribution - you can only get about 25p per film through most channels per download, not much out of TV and the BBC Film Network gives it away for free anyway!

But in my session earlier we had discussed, as a group, that we weren't into shorts for the money. We want people to see them! Then it makes sense why Cinema16 has been a hit. Its a hit because Luke used it as vehicle to get his own film out there. And you can feel that passion.

So when we think of distributing our film we must ask ourselves what we are doing to distribute our film in an exciting way. Not rely on others all the time.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Time Bandits

One of the phrases that really caught the imagination of the audience at the BAFTA event was when I said that we sell our time too cheaply.
As film makers we find it all too easy to let time slip away. Here are my top three reasons:

  • I need to get a proper amount of time - we can't start that script as we need a full day to get into it
  • I get distracted - I should be writing the treatment but I'll look up some pictures on Google first for inspiration
  • I'm helping out my friend by doing a script read for him instead

I do these things myself if I'm not careful. The answer is to be more rigorous with our time. We can ALL these things. We don't need to give anything up. But it must be done in a structured way. If you are doing a treatment DO the treatment. If you are looking for Google images - do that. If you try to do both, guess what, you'll do neither properly. If we have an hour, use the hour. Get into it. Danny Stack wrote a feature in four days! I heard from some writers who are also mothers of young children that they get as much done during playgroup time as they used to do in a whole day. Why? Because they have to. They can't waste time.

As in writing, structure is key. That way the Time Bandits won't strike and steal away our lives!

Extra bit: The link below shows you how to make your own time bandits map if that's of any interest to you! (only after you've done your writing obviously)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

New structures

Is it all over for the 3 act structure? Greg McQueen said this on Shooting People:

Recently, I sat and watched the Back To The Future films.

Each film runs to the standard of that time, which was about ninety minutes. The first film is a self contained story using the classic three act structure, however, parts one & two are basically one film split in two halves, each half running at three acts

If Back To The Future were to be made today, the second two films I think would actually be made and screened as one longer film, which would run at five acts (one act from each film would be fused together, making five and not six acts in order for the story to build more progressively and for the acts to work off each other.)

I really do think that when we hit the cinema these days, we expect a minimum of two hours. So, longer films, means more acts.

I think one of the reasons that The Fantastic Four didn't do so well was because it ran at ninety minutes and had only three acts... Therefore the story was perceived to be too simplistic.

Is the three act structure dead, or at least dying? Is it too simplistic for the story savvy public of today?

I think Greg makes an interesting point. The audience is getting wise to ALL narrative techniques. Its up to us, as writers, to keep one step ahead. It may be the number of the acts, or may be something else, but these days you need something fresh.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Things to REALLY do

At the BAFTA talk the other day this seemed to be something that really caught everyone's eye. Its a job list essentially. But not a list of tasks. Its about the balance of work that you need to do. So if you are a writer you may need to spend 50% of your time writing and 50% of your time promoting your work.

This is my list of jobs. The list of jobs that I need to keep in balance. If I don't I may be successful in the short term, but not in the long term.

In the workshop itself we brainstormed some ideas. This in fact added some things that aren't on here. Things like Technical skills and Artistic challenges. Everybody's list is different. But the rationale remains the same - listing out what you need to do. To repeat - what you NEED to do. Not what you LIKE to do. It is all too easy as writers (for instance) for us to spend 100% of our time writing, because we love it. And then we finish the script - who do we send it to, what's next, what does the market want. We don't know because we didn't work at our list of jobs properly.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Two rules for scripts

Back from BAFTA, with a good feeling of a positive day. Lots of lessons learnt. But seeing how bitesize chunks is the best way to digest all this here is a simple lesson I learnt.

So - you are reading your first draft. What are we really looking for? Two things:

Do I get it?
Do I enjoy it?

That's it. Advice courtesy of Angeli Macfarlane

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Its like the blog - but live!

She won't be there - but I will!

On Wednesday I am a guest speaker at an event called Short and Sweet being run by BAFTA and held at their offices in Piccadilly. Its a day long event (for only 40 notes) that covers everything you need to know to make a top short film.

There are experts giving advice on writing / post production and distribution and more!

Personally I'm doing a stint that tries to bring together the day. Everyone else is doing a 'how' talk, I'll be doing a 'why' talk. Why do short films. Why do we love it?

I'll put the answer up when people tell me!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Its Monday - so feel good!

Seeing as it is Monday (well it is as I write this) I recommend this new site / vodcast. It picks up the same idea as the Quartz Shorts website of putting up a new film every week - but on a single theme. The theme for Monday 9am is 'short films that do something'. Each film features someone with a message about living a positive life. Its seems strange, but the USP of this site is being positive. Its a shame that there isn't more sites like this, but Nic's built this one and seems to manage to keep creating great content. So do yourself a favour and visit it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The power of the edit (again)

Remember the Shining re-edit. Check out Brokeback to the Future.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Take advantage of a lower price registration for the Cannes festival / market before March 3rd (tomorrow!). As you know, I've been promoting the importance of Sales for writers and film makers. Cannes is about that. As such I'll be using my own preparation for Cannes as a structure to talk about gaining meetings and making contacts.

Clearly, looking like a stupid English guy is not really part of it.

I'm not on my own though as support is crucial. I'm going with my old friend Suki Singh who is promoting his feature in development - Invisible Day. Also in attendance are the guys behind the completed low budget, high energy Small Town Folk - check it out on IMDB. Last, but no means least, is the writing blog top dog Danny Stack.

So that's the Bournemouth cohort.

Let me know if you'll be going and we'll see you there.

Story dust source

A great source for story dust.