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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stop moaning about it - and start moaning about it

You may have noticed (but probably not as I've only just noticed after 5 years) that Apple Trailers pages don't feature the writer. Come on now writers - what are we going to do about it? Probably tut into our rich roast organic fair trade coffee and moan on a blog. That's one way...

Or...

Write to Apple like I did. They even wrote back within the hour. Here is what they said:

"Hi Tim,

We have had a couple of emails about extending the film data to include additional cast, writers, etc.

We are following the lead of the studios to offer primary cast and the director info they give us and list on their film sites. They don't offer the extended info to us yet.

We'll look into it and offer them if provided. Thanks for the great suggestion!

-Movie Trailers Team


So not an amazing result. But a start. Keep an eye out for people that you can put writers issues in front of. We need to take a lesson from other 'campaign groups'. So its not really about approaching people in the direct business. We know that some of them don't give a shit. I mean approach people in the 'new' business - in the film2.0 business.

Not just Apple. I'm pretty sure I can single handedly take them on! But who else? And do it. Do it once at least. Or I never want to hear another moan about writers being undervalued again.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Character & Dialogue part 2 - gender and race



The Gender and Race segment sits within Character & Dialogue section of Storytelling Skills.

To answer what this mean its worth first saying what it isn't! It isn't a pass through near the end. It isn't going through draft 6 and saying that the police chief is black or that the judge is a woman. In fact my advice is never mention gender, age or race if it doesn't matter. For some smaller characters maybe it doesn't. But for most characters in your script it should matter. The gender and race of a person is a big influence on their lives. So tweaking around last minute is not the way. So that what it isn't. It isn't a tweak. And it isn't a quick PC fix.

What it is should be a challenge to your own standard writing. Have you made assumptions? Have you missed some great character richness by automatically playing it safe? An example film...

So its about a cop and he's trying to track down the serial killer. Okay. Why isn't it about a cop and she's trying to track down the killer? The killer being an elderly man of course. Just those two changes make this a richer source of characters for a better plot. Basically - there is more potential.

Some good examples:

  • Ripley in Alien/s
  • Samuel L Jackson in Die Hard 3.

Both of these challenges to race or gender really add to the film and inform it. They are not just a nod in the direction. They steer the film.

Some more for fun...

  • What if Indiana Jones was black? What would the Nazi's think of that?
  • What if Jules (Samuel L Jackson) from Pulp Fiction had been an old Indian woman?


One last question, a challenge: Can you think of a black serial killer in a film?



New to this diagram?
What is it? - How do I get a copy? - Read from the beginning on the blog.

The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Milestones

Its always important to celebrate your successes so I'm pleased to say that I've reached a target. I always wanted to reach 1000 downloads of the Scriptwriter's Life diagram and today we passed that. So thanks to all who downloaded it and I hope you're finding it useful. Keep the great feedback coming in.

On another note the Steven Wright animation on YouTube passed the 10,000 downloads.

Just goes to show. People would rather watch a stupid cartoon that get on with their writing!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

YouTube spoof

Been under the weather the last couple of days. But this cheered me up. Its a spoof youtube site taking a satirical look at ad agencies trying to get in on the act. Its almost like mini clips from the TV show 'The Office'. Watch a few of the clips. Hearing the main character go on about how quickly he wants the footage on-line, the importance of branding, and checking his colleagues are all blogging has convinced me that my life is a now worthy of satire. Which is a shame as I now need a new life. Back to scriptwriting then. No laughs there!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

No lighting required



Luckily no lighting was required for this scene from Adrian Ward's film which was shot on Sunday. So I didn't need to involve myself. Watch out - bad language ahead so turn down the speakers if at work.

This mini making of is called "Crashing cars - the English way".

Where you been?


Yes blog readers. Its me, holding a light - on a film set. Quite why you put a writer in charge of lighting I don't know. But then such is the nature of Adrian Ward and his feature film "Heading South".

For all those that complain of lengthy productions and difficult times check out this tale...

He started work on it 6 years ago and shot 85% of it. In the intevening times people have come and gone. By the time he got around to doing the pick ups (6 years later) his original 16mm rushes had been destroyed when the developers went bust. This leaves him with just a BetaSP one light transfer.

Despite ALL that he still finished it. Its easy to see the moral of the story as being - "Be better organised and don't twat about for 6 years". But that isn't it all. I'd rather celebrate Adrian's tenacity to get the damn thing done. I'll see you all at the premiere I hope - probably in another six years.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Character & Dialogue part 1


Character and Dialogue is crucial. Obviously. Its as important as structure. And its not an accident that these two elements are together. Character insight is 50% driven from dialogue and dialogue can only flow from an understanding of character.

Great. So what? What do we do about it? In this post we'll look at two things.

1 - Perfect cast I've written about this idea before. But here it is again. The idea is to cast the film before you write it. The aim is not to actually get into a production corner where only one person could play the role but rather to help you, as a writer, get a feel for your character. Write it as if Bill Murray was the character. Whoever plays the role eventually won't sound like Bill Murray but the world-weary feel will shine through. Your perfect cast need not be drawn from the film acting world. We played Archie in the Circumference trailer in the style of Tony Blair.

2 - Research A big idea that can be explained simply. Take a cue from our actor friends and do your research. A lot of writers will do secondary research (read some books / articles etc). But what about primary research? Are you speaking to people who do the job your main character does? Are you spending a day in a school if your film features schoolchildren? Things will have moved since your day! Are you getting on the phone and speaking to experts? David Cohen is one of the worlds greatest Cellists. He has read my script that features a cello player and he has given some expert insights. I didn't know David before. But I do now. And he wants to continue to be involved. That's the benefits of research - better script, great contacts in other industries, building a core following, getting things right early in development to save costs later.



New to this diagram?
What is it? - How do I get a copy? - Read from the beginning on the blog.

The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Andy


This is a guy called Andy. He played after the films at Future Shorts. And what a great contrast to have him play then. After seeing some great, but complex, films this guy can come on stage, on his own, plays and gets off - to vast applause. Film - bah. Who needs the hassle! The one-man band is all you need.

Quick story

In the spirit of James Moran here is a feelgood story. I've noticed that hearing about the success of James (due to his film Severance) is a great tonic. On a smaller scale here is what happened to me yesterday.

A few of us went to the local short film night - FutureShorts. A couple of hundred students also had the same idea. Which is great. This kind of alternative cinema circuit could be a big thing in a few years time. Its the kind of idea that I know a lot of American companies are looking at. Going one further I heard in Cannes about films (mainly political films) that get 'distribution' by arranging screenings in peoples homes. But I digress.

The story is about a girl called Amy who came up to me to tell me how much Eight had meant to her. She had arranged a screening of it in her home town and everything.

That's the kind of story that sticks with you. And drives you on. And makes you wish you made more films.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Goal!


I was speaking to my old school friend "Dave the Rave" over the weekend. Mr Rave is in marketing - and successful at it in terms of doing well within an established company. We talked a little about goals etc. He remarked that a lot of the copywriters at his firm also dream of becoming TV writers, whether that is for sitcom or drama. It surprised him that this was no longer a big goal for me. Its not a big goal for me as I don't see TV as an interesting medium at the moment. I'm hoping that it will come back better than ever.

I believe in TV generally. An analogy to help explain this. I believe in socialism. But I don't support the Labour Party anymore.

Dave is well aware of the 'fall of TV' from his marketing point of view. He needed no convincing about that. But he hadn't made the connection that this business impact may in fact taint the view of the creative people or, ultimately, the audience.

Also on the goal front we have been approached as "video viral experts" to produce a series of comedy clips to go on YouTube by an online games company. Its football related. More details if we get the gig. Interesting that this is seen as a bone-fide advertising method now. They are also pursuing other avenues, but not TV at this time (sorry Dave).

So is it a downward spiral. Does Dave stop promoting TV to his clients, so it gets less money, so the quality lowers, so people watch less, so I don't want to write for it, so other people stop writing for it as well, so the quality drops further, so its less attractive generally, so Dave stops recommending it to even more clients.

In short, was our 365films slogan 'TV is dead' coming true?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Structure part 3


What is your story?
A couple of extra things that can go into structure and story. And they are a couple of unusual things. Both techniques are designed to help you know what scenes are in and what scenes are out. In our rough sea of good ideas and story cards - these help focus us (check out the mixed metaphor fellow writers!)

The first one is Off-Screen Story. This is, clearly, the story that occurs during the edits, or elsewhere while we are looking at the scene in front of us, or even backstory. In short - what we don't see. What happens when 'we' aren't looking. There can be a tendency to show all the story on screen. After all, that seems obvious. But is it? The audience in fact appreciates the excitement of trying to keep up with the story and fills in the gaps. We don't need to see everything. However, everything has to make sense. So, as we work out our structure why not consider the full story before you consider what scenes we see. What happens off screen should be just as exciting and vital. For me, this is the key to my next draft of Circumference. You can read more about this idea at Wordplayer.

The second technique in the segment is called 'Whose POV?'. Another way to think about it is - who are we? Who are the audience?
Are we the hero? Do we go where only she / he does and become her / him?
Are we cupid? Do we see two people and the contrasts between them?
Are we God? Do we see everything and go anywhere?
We can't be all these things. We (usually) must be one. Each has its own merits and drawbacks of course. We might get sick of seeing only Travis Bickle. Conversly we might find a film that doesn't linger on the hero uninvolving and wonder what its about.
Choose wisely. But choose.


New to this diagram?
What is it? - How do I get a copy? - Read from the beginning on the blog.

The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Time for a break!


If you need a quick break then I urge you to check out the DePict finalists. (Don't worry. Examining new films by new talent is allowed during the working day. Its is the scriptwriters life diagram!) Each film is only 90 seconds long. And each is a gem. The site is here.

Worthy of mention is Shit Happens by Rob Brown. I read the script about a year ago and it came out great.

What if - it had already happened

What if I was too slow with my 'what if' post. These show fans are now making the show - never mind just writing it! Paramount gave them permission to shoot new Star Trek episodes. Check it out.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What If?


Sam and Jim talk about professional writing as they see it. They are new writers in Hollywood. Its a great podcast. Check it out. On one show they talked about all the comedy writers who suddenly fell out of work. They fell out of work when reality TV (or unscripted entertainment as they call it there) took off. We all know that the landscape is in upheavel at the minute. Money is moving into the internet. The old studios are owned by new companies. TV ratings are falling. 100+ channels was bad enough. Now we have infinite channels thanks to on-demand and Sky+. And that's stuff that has already happened. Here are some what ifs. Things to think about if you are trying to get into the industry. Maybe it will be easier to answer these questions and get into the 'new' industry - whatever it turns out to be.

WHAT IF...

What if MySpace users started to hire writers to make themselves seem better?
What if you had to write tomorrows episode of a soap today - based on viewers feedback?
What if viewers wrote the episodes via a forum? What would your role be?
What is there wasn't time to write down scenes for actors? How would you work?
How would you explain the fact you need 3 months writing time to blogger.com?
How would you explain a 'final draft' to Google where everything is in Beta?
How will you feel when your movie is pirated?
What if the Film Council closed down tomorrow?
What if you started to get paid from TV broadcasters on a per viewer basis?
What if you got paid from ITV on how well your show had shifted products for the advertisers?
What if you did win an oscar? What would you actually, really do?
What if you had junior writers below you? How would you treat them? Would you listen to there pet ideas?
What if you could fire the director and producer?
Which would you rather have - 50% more writers fee, your picture on the back of every DVD (like a novel) or the chance to tour with your film and introduce it?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Structure part 2 - concept


Concept

Concept, for some people, has a bad connotation. We think of high concept films - and these aren't everyone's cup of tea. If you look at the Wikipedia definition of 'high concept' you can see it includes "The plot of a high concept movie is easily understood by audiences, and can often be described in a sentence or two, and succinctly summarized by the movie's title."

For some films this is easily evident. Let's say "Sixth Sense" - I see dead people - etc. But what about "I Heart Huckabees" or "Eternal Sunshine" or "Pushing Tin"? We may choose to describe these as low concept if we are feeling a little mean. But all the same, they do have a concept.

So is this concept to do with marketing? It is. But that's not the point of this post. If anyone has going to have half a chance to market it (and by marketing I also mean you pitching) then you do need to be able to sum what the film is about. So that's the question isn't it? Before the marketing. Before the writing. Before dialogue. Before structure. Before story! What is it about?

And now to add emphasis rather than extra clarity - WHAT IS REALLY ABOUT?

Personally I aim for my films to be able one thing. What is the one thing you are looking at? It doesn't have to be a concerning the plot. It doesn't have to be about "There's a bomb on the bus". It can be about "What happens if you wake and discover you lost a day" or even "Its about isolation in the modern world". Once you have this one thing all other questions regarding your script become easier. Because you have that one thing to hang everything off of.

An additional comment: Make sure you really know what your film is about. The Full Monty may seem to be plot driven (Guys who become strippers) but is in fact issue driven (In a world of male unemployment how does man gain respect?).

Get your concept - and hold onto it tight.



New to this diagram?
What is it? - How do I get a copy? - Read from the beginning on the blog.

The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Help me, help you


The grand master of all things to do with scriptwriting software needs your help. Stewart McKie is doing his PhD in writing software. And he also develops software and keeps an eye on all the available packages on his site.

He wants to know what we need to be in the next gen of story telling software.

His survey is here.

Help him, help us.

Still (and quote) from Jerry Maguire.
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Structure part 1


Let's dip back into the Scriptwriters Life diagram again today.

Within What is your story? and placed at the top is Storytelling Skills.

This would be your traditional script skills. The sort of thing that occurs in most script courses and the sort of thing that is mentioned in most books. As I write this I worry that it seems as if I am dismissing the importance. I am not. Knowing your craft, knowing your skills, being good at your job (basically) is fundamental and its no coincidence that this part is top left - where most people start reading. The reason its called Storytelling Skills rather than script skills is to make it clear that in this slice we are dealing with the artistic craft of good story and not things like layout, courier font, putting copyright on the front page and all that other stuff that gets in the way for new writers especially.

Within it is structure.

In my mind (and others do disagree I know) structure is key. Get your structure right, and have at your fingertips a range of structure ideas and methods, and writing becomes easier. Easier not easy! Structure is the architects plans. You can have nice fancy tiles to put on the outside later. But get the structure of the building right first. Continuing the analogy a bit further - many writers dislike structure talk as they see it as dull. But this is because they see only one kind of building that can be built. But good architects can design a small semi, a palace, or an office block. We must be the same and revel in the excitement of new structure 'design'.

One method is the use of cards that people are probably sick of seeing me write about so I won't go through that again now. Just to add that their power comes from the ability to move them about and try things out - so do it.

Another method is to get in tune with different structures. Here's a short summary of the 3 act structure and also a page of some reasons against using it. Then there is the nine act. There's also a seven step version of the hero's journey.

They can't all be right. Or rather they are all right - for the right film. Keep an open mind. Or maybe you need to invent your own structure if that's what it takes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

For all the doc people out there.


Spelling error there. What I am more keen to talk to you about is Current TV. Its an interesting TV1.5 idea. It is a cable channel (in the US) where the content is pulled in from an upload YouTube style site. However the over-riding theme is about citzenship / politics / opinion but its a great outlet for documentary people. Just to get you a bit more interested - you get paid. Films latest friend Al Gore is involved at some level.

Speaking of past political leaders check out the interesting case study of Bill Clinton on Fox News. Bill decided in an interview not to play along with the line of questioning that he saw as one-sided. Fox News spun it as 'Clinton out of control' while people who uploaded the clip to YouTube all labelled it as 'Clinton fights back'. In my mind this may be the ultimate benefit of the web. No editorial slant by a single company or person can stick - we'll add our own.

More about it here. YouTube got leant on by Fox and took it down - but you can watch it on Google instead here!

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