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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Email


Today's post is not actually about the Hanks / Ryan film. As we all know this wasn't a new idea at all, but rather a remake of The Shop Around The Corner. Instead today's food for thought is around sending out emails. Why? Only because I've done so many recently (around 250 leading up to Cannes) and because I've had some great feedback about their strength. In fact some people admitted they had already 'stolen' some of the formatting and structure ideas. Of course this isn't stealing - its all part of the Projector Films Blog vision of sharing these ideas!

A typical email is below. If you remember the main goal with the meeting is about having a conversation and ensuring that any meeting is a two way event. The email is the same. It mustn't be a begging letter nor a bragging session - but a foundation for a meeting of people with shared goals and aspirations. It must also say why you're writing. There must be a specific reason for picking this person to email. So say it! As with a lot of things its easier to see it rather than talk about it.

Below is an example email as if I was writing to Pete and Chris, the guys who made Small Town Folk (read their Cannes round up here.)


Dear Mr. Musselwhite and Mr Ward,

I see from the Cannes database that you will be at the market this year.

I am writing to arrange a meeting to discuss how we can help each other with future productions.  Over the past year I have been extremely busy helping companies by bringing in new ideas. New scripts and stories obviously as I am first and foremost a scriptwriter, but also new ideas that have helped them move their projects forward.  I am writing to you specifically as I also love dark stories with a comedy twist and am following the progress of Small Town Folk avidly. As local film makers I'm sure we'd have a lot in common and a lot of information we could share.

You can read about my ideas on how we can help each other on a simple one page website: www.timclague.com

Who am I? I am a writer / director with over 10 years experience.

  • Winner of the Jerwood Film Prize in 1998 for the short script "Eight".
  • Emma Thompson said "The screenplay has a huge heart" while Richard Curtis said it was "Tremendously evocative".
  • BAFTA nominated after script was directed by Stephen Daldry through Working Title.
  • Written and directed of a string of shorts commissioned by the Film Council and terrestrial TV. 
  • Commissioned to write and direct material regularly for HSBC, Siemens, Nat-West and others - budgets up to £300k
  • Commissioned by RKO Pictures at Cannes last year to write feature script - first class feedback upon delivery


Let’s talk about how I can help you. I specialise in cross-genre ideas and unusual narrative structures. This means I can breathe new life into projects that require that 'little bit extra'. I am used to working to tight deadlines and delivering a good script. If I feel that I can't effectively help I will say so up front.
Let’s talk about how you can help me. Circumference will go into production in 2007. This post-modern love story features a traditional boy meet girl story with a structure designed for the Google generation. In addition I also have a medieval western (perhaps similar in style to Knights of the Cross) and a road movie documentary in development.  Can you help me move these exciting projects forward?
Let’s talk about the future of film. New distribution models, new marketing ideas, new ways of writing and new ways of funding a film are coming and have all been discussed on my blog. Projects such as Quartz Shorts (the documentary sketch show) and 365films (a film a day for a year) are just the beginning.  Are you interested in exploring these new ideas together?

If that sounds like a worthwhile trade then we should meet.  If you'd rather hear 'more of the same' then I'm not really your man.  I'm in Cannes from the 20th to the 28th. I suggest we meet 'after the rush' - let's say Friday 26th. 

Tim Clague
Writer / Director
PROJECTOR FILMS



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Monday, May 29, 2006

Quick comment


Don't know much about this film. But the picture sure looks like the artwork around the game Final Fantasy 8. Eh. That's it! The film sounds like a romantic version of Suki's film Analogue!

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The Theme of Cannes


As writers we look for themes. We look for meaning. Here is my meaning from a week at Cannes. The theme is second chances. So why the stapler? Because like the guys in Office Space I'm talking about people who just say 'I don't want to do this anymore' - and they don't. They get a new life. A second chance.


Just time to quickly tell you about two. Mathi Alagan left his job as a lawyer to shoot his film Destiny. He still has a long way to go (as he himself admits) but at least he his doing what he wants. Secondly Tony Hinkens. Both myself and Suki met this great guy. He was an industrialist who worked hard in his career. So hard in fact that he gave himself a heart attack by his forties. What he has had since he describes as a second life. A second chance to do something else. To make something that mattered, that he could be proud of. That's why he is looking to make social films with a strong message.

The lesson that these guys teach us is obvious. We must ask ourselves, "What do I want to leave behind?" It is all too easy to be side tracked and distracted. And put off that dream project. Tony and Mathi show us we must do it now! Life 2.0

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ken Loach and his root vegetable


This analogy is sweeping Cannes. Ken Loach uses it to describe how he feels about characters. Your characters are a field of root vegetables, lets say carrots. To examine the character (the carrot) you don't need to dig it up - you know it is a carrot. Its obvious from just the top. Digging it up and showing it to the audience (look its a carrot) seems like a good idea, its a clear way of showing us what a character is about - but it is also condescending. You do need the carrot to be there - you need your characters to have depth. But let that depth be hidden from view. Trust the audience, they know it is there. They know what people are like - they have seen a carrot before!
Ken's advice then. As a writer or director - know your characters. But tell us about them through small points of the actions. Exposition is the enemy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Too many new ideas

Too many new ideas in Cannes - so I will let them trickle down over the next few weeks. In the meantime here is some news:

The form is going well and some people I've had a meeting with may actually adopt it for next year. Not quite the result I wanted from the meetings - but a result all the same.

I saw Babel last night, the new film from the director (and more importantly in my view - the writer) of 21 grams. Another interesting structure that shows that the 'standard' way is not always the best way.

Tonight is the Straight 8 event. Its been going for a few years now and you can watch on line at any time also. It is a challenge in the same way that 365films is. You must shoot a movie in camera, no editing - and the first time you see it is live in front of the audience. This event sums up the new thinking here. This is a lot of peoples favourite thing at Cannes. That's right - their favourite thing! People want something different, simple as that!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Old idea is a new idea

I had a meeting Bob Atwell at Camelot Films. He has an interesting new model that is based on the 1920s Hollywood Studio model. That means having a full time crew / staff and shooting to keep these guys busy continously. This can now be tackled in a more efficient way through new digital technologies. He also has an idea of releasing shares as a method of payment. Recognising a fellow dude who is excited, rather than scared, of a new direction I talked to him briefly about the 365 films proposition. Obviously this is to be followed up later.

To my Singapore readers


Hello to my Singapore readers - I know you are out there!
A quick message to say that your film guys are doing some top work out here with a great looking stand and they are really pushing Singapore films and Singapore as a location.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

New distribution methods

I'm very pleased to see that new distribution models are a hot topic around here. I've been talking to Michael Gubbins (editor of Screen International)about this for a while and he has held a seminar on it here in Cannes. But by in large most of the big boys are putting their heads in the sand. They know there is a problem (falling box office etc) but they refuse to find an answer. Mainly because an answer will have a large impact on their workforce and the way they work.

One company I did meet who seemed to be in with the new way was Blue Star Movies. Yes - they are a distribution company. But they are open to all new ideas. As a small scale, yet mid impact, company they are ideally placed to weather the changes. We had a good chat about 365films and I'm sure I'll be keeping in touch in the future.

Special update: As I write this now Suki is talking to Rick Porras. How did he get this contact? I had a meeting with Rick who outlined the sort of project he was looking for. I knew Suki had a project like this - but I only knowthat after our recent get together I posted about. Working together will always be more powerful than fighting against each other!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rendezvous

So I'm at Cannes now after a week of frantic organising. As you know I've been trying out some new ideas on meetings.

First new idea - having a conversation rather than a pitch. This is an idea where you are trying to build relationships rather than just flog something. I believe its a better way for long term business. I was talking to fellow film maker Suki about that this morning and he has seen this work in action. Some of the producers he met 3 years ago have now grown to a position where they can help him more. And he was in at the start.

Second new idea - using the form. The form is, of course, only because I have a bad memory. But we'll see how it goes. Suki says it looks like I sell double glazing. Maybe I will after this!

I have about 40 meetings. First one in 15 minutes. Lets see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Oh dear


Now I know that this is the start of a dangerous slippery slope. But this clip is a gem. Poor old Guy Goma. He comes along to the BBC for a job interview and some how ends up being interviewed on air. Watch the clip here - at least the BBC has the good humour to put it on line.

There is no special reason for this post. I could try and stretch some point out of it but all I can think of are these two:
One: You have to move quick. This guy became a legend faster than the Star Wars Kid! He even got his own wikipedia entry.
Two: A good bit of StoryDust. The next time you see a comedy situation in a film where someone ends up on air in a cliche way, well now you have to just shrug and say, 'Ahh - it could happen!'.

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too long

Quartz Shorts is too long.

These guys are making a one second film! on IMAX! Check out how they got on at Sundance.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New way for writers to work on scripts

One of the guys who I am a mentor to (called Stewart) is working on a fantastic new idea. It really hit the mark for me and he said I could share it here.

Its an idea of mind mapping your script - so laying out automatically through software all the characters and locations etc. I thought this would be handy in pre-production before you do the first draft. But Stewart also pointed out how helpful this would be at the pitch stage as its you story in visual form. It would certainly be a useful prop for me anyway.

Here is website for it
Or you can download a PDF here

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The new form


Here is the meeting form I mentioned a few days ago. You can download it here as a pdf.

The top box has the standard info of when and where etc.

The second box has info from the Cannes website and other research you've done - what are their recent films etc. This box reminds you to do your prep and not look a clueless tit.

The third box is the agenda - using the idea that they might also want to raise some points in addition to what you want to talk about.

The fourth box is what you agree to do and by when. For instance to send a hard copy of the script by July to Mr X the agent. Easy to forget and then you've wasted the opportunity at the last hurdle.

The fifth box is the most important. What is stopping any project from happening. Don't they like the genre? Don't they deal with people without an agent? Whatever it is - write it here. That way you know when to go back and say, "You know you liked the idea but... Well now..."

The sixth box is a sly one. It reminds you to ask the question, "Do you know of anybody else who I should talk to about this?". That's how you increase your list of contacts.

The final box is about reminding me to give people stuff. Sometimes I forget.

The purpose of the meeting


It seems like a stupid question - like most of the things I ask! But its only seems stupid because it challenges our preconceptions. My preconception to challenge today is: What is the meeting for?

We don't always ask that question. We just want a meeting. We know we want a meeting because we saw it once in The Player and it seemed kind of cool. Forget Get Shorty - get a meeting!

That's how you feel. But what about the other person. They might be trying to get out of it. So what's in it for them? What do they want out of the meeting?

I could write a big long post about getting into the mind of a producer / distributor / commissioner etc. But there is another way, an easier way. You ask them. You tell them, at the start of the meeting, what you want to talk about, and then you ask them if there is anything that they wanted to talk about.

Its simple. And it makes it a two way conversation. I would always prefer a conversation to a pitch.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

All grown up

Nice to see other people getting on the whole 2.0 journey. So it begins.

Making notes in a new way

Another question to make you think about your meetings (for Cannes or otherwise).

How do you make notes? In fact, do you make notes?

You have a good meeting and get on well with someone. Maybe they even have some good ideas or want to talk further. Great! But then what happens next? What was decided?

The normal thing is to jot down some half baked and half remembered things on the back of a business card. But is this enough? Of course not. Get some good note paper and make some proper notes after the meeting, or during. It doesn't look amateur, rather it looks professional.

Get some notes on the person you are meeting BEFORE you go. Things to talk about, what you know and what you assume they may want to discuss. Its not a strict agenda, but rather a guide to get the most out of the valuable time you have.

Then DURING make sure you are clear on what you agree. Do they want to see the script? When do they want it. How - by email (in pdf or word or final draft) or hard copy. What address?

I'm thinking of making up a sheet with my logo on it with these sort of headlines. Like a very simple form. That way I'll never forget again the person they thought was just right for the project that I should get in touch with.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The more I practise, the luckier I get


As Danny mentioned recently we've got together to talk about Cannes. A lot of activity is around sending out emails. But one of the things that we really wanted to do was get together and practise our pitches, something we must do more of. When I say pitch of course this includes the often forgetten self-pitch. The self-pitch is the answer to the question...

Tell me about yourself

This is about 75% likely to come up in every meeting. But so few people have a prepared answer. It doesn't take long to do - just be clear on your key achievements, your USP and your goals. Wrap it all up in a bundle of about a minute tops. Tease the poor pitchee to want to know more. The self-pitch is ideally just an index for them to select what they want to talk further about.

And then, remember the title of this post, you need to practise it. There is a big difference between thinking you know it and having it on a scrap of paper and saying it out loud. But lets take a tip from our actor friends. When they learn lines they rehearse. They don't just read the script and then start performing. How could they? That would be stupid! Wouldn't it???

Still from Fade In.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Niche within your own industry


Bob Dylan has launched his own radio show on XM in the US today. XM is a strange format anyway - its a satellite radio station. I don't think they have these in the UK. But that's not what I want to kick around today. What I want to kick around today is how people slot themselves into just one slot in the film industry. They limit their activities. No one does it to them, they do it to themselves.

Bob Dylan is a musician. Why is he having a music show, playing other people's music. But nobody needs to ask that. They just think it sounds an okay idea. He'll have an insight, anecdotes and experience. In fact the more you think about it the more you question the idea of a standard DJ playing music. What do they know?

Now apply that to film. How many film makers are also film critics? How many write articles? Not that many, and I think, usually the better ones. Scorceses' critical views are excellent and we know that he knows his onions. So why doesn't this happen more often? Or more personally why do you let it happen to yourself? Do you think Bob Dylan's makes an excuse that he doesn't have time.

We need to get out of the gap that we only make films. If we are into film we should be into all aspects of it - and let people know about it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New look You Tube

Casting a quick eye down the page shows that the YouTube flash video player has been updated. Purely just a cosmetic change however it appears.

New take on digital cameras


Here is a picture from the Red site. They are seeking to jump the queue with regards to digital movie camera development by making a large leap rather than a step change. All the way up to 4k images - I guess by using digital stills CMOS sensors. The development has been ongoing for some time now but Suki noticed that some specs are now up even if real photos aren't.
Myself and cameraman Shaune Fradley had a chat about it. It seems possible, but you just get the feeling that the big boys (most likely JVC as they don't have a native HD format) will undercut at the last moment.

Think of all the Apple features that move across to Windows.