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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Interview greatness


The Wessex Muse popped around the other day to ask for some scriptwriting insights for their new issue. The resulting article can be read here in PDF form. Worth a quick read if only to be outraged that I can be called a 'demigod'. You heard it here first folks.

Actually the Wessex Muse is always worth a quick read - even more so if I'm not in it. Its free, but only currently available in the Dorset and Devon areas. It covers all art forms.



I always feel like I should give some sort of advice in the blog posts but I'm not sure what form that should take today. Instead let me tell you about two things I noticed while I was dragged around the shops for the post-Christmas sales.

One: Books Who needs books? We can read stuff on the internet. Its cheaper and quicker and more up to date. Everyone knows this, even publishers. So what I noticed this year, more than ever, was the way that the publishers have tackled this head on. A lot of the new books are bigger, or super glossy, or use rough paper, or glow in the dark, or do something. In short they are tactile - because you can't touch a website. Books have adapted and used their difference to stand out and offer something unique. Great. What about film/ cinema? Will it do the same? If HD DVDs become cheap and easy - what will cinema do?

Two: Choices The girl in Starbucks asked me what muffin I wanted. I replied 'you choose'. She started to tell me all the flavours. So I said again 'you choose'. So she started telling me what other people liked. In the end I forced her to pick one but she didn't like it. Not sure what the morale is here - though but its a good bit of story dust!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Circumference launch


The new Circumference website is up. As a regular blog reader I'd been keen to hear your thoughts on it.

Its the same website for both the audience (who can sign up to get their free copy of the final film) and for advertisers (who get to find out about the opportunity to advertise).

Most films have two websites. One for the public and one for companies / investors. But we're making a big deal about the honesty and transparency of this film. In a blog style we'll be upfront about how we are making it and why we're doing it. And this starts with the website.

This approach also matches the style of the film itself. In the film we get to see the story and the central character Archie's analysis of his own story. And here on the website everyone gets to find out about the film and the way we are making the film.

Check it out. If you like what we're doing then sign up for your free copy already. Tell your chums!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pete Blaggit



I was looking at the Fuji film magazine and was pleased to see Mark Jeavons featured. His film 'Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggit' formed in his mind during our 2005 trip to Cannes. We kicked around the idea and laughed about the possibilities with main character and so on. A nice way to while away the time in between meetings. But what's great about Mark is that while others would have just talked about it he has gone and made it already! Its a 16mm feature and I've seen some of the rough cut already. Its shaping up well. Go to Mark's site for more.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Presentation skills part 2 - Hand outs


Hand outs sounds like we are at school. Well boys and girls we are. And the lesson is your film. Teach to people to love it as much as you do.

What do we mean by a hand out? We mean one sheet of paper, about your film that you can use as an aid to a verbal pitch or can be sent in an email. So normally we mean a word document, a pdf, or if you are a hot designer then something done in in-design or quark. The software package doesn't matter. Look again at the competition...



These are all the handouts at the short film corner in Cannes last year. These are for finished short films of course. But as scriptwriters we should learn from our directing colleagues. They know that a good handout is key to getting people to watch the film. Our goal is similar - to get someone to read our script.

Being a caring and sharing kind of a guy I'll share with you an early handout for one of my films - The Kiss of Judas.

Page One



Page Two



As you can see it is less colourful than the handouts for the short films at Cannes. But that's because this is to promote a script. Too much 'empty' design detracts from the power of words. The script is a written form of a moving image. That balance I seek to incorporate into the handout.

4 good things about it:
1 - There is one side for people who like images and one side for people who like to read. Something for everyone.
2 - If you fold it in three (as to put it with a letter) then the front neatly shows just the logo and the short synopsis. I was pleased with this little detail.
3 - The content is all there including the development stages which is needed for businesses or organisations to see where this project currently is.
4 - the paragraphs. One intro, one on development, one on plot and one on the USP. In my example I wrote about genre. Having a script in the 'medieval western' genre is worthy of some explanation. It is what makes this script different. For your film it may be more appropriate to say that this is a good vehicle for a young singer, or its based on a true story - or whatever your films best selling point is.

2 bad things about it:
1 - Spacing. The front page must be less crowded than this. And more clearly laid out.
2 - Simpler images - these images are too complicated. Less is more

In all - not a bad handout. But I do have a new version now.
Sorry for the long posting on this occasion.



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, December 18, 2006

Merry Christmas

Yes. Its that time of year again. Its time for the annual Projector Films Christmas cartoon card. Every year I write a card that Kim illustrates. Every year we always wish I had written something funnier and Kim wishes she had drawn it better. But we hope to get by on the goodwill of the season.

Just also time to reflect on the past year. That has involve the creation of the Scriptwriter's Life diagram and moving into pre-production on the feature film 'Circumference'. You can see the rough cut of pitch 'trailer' for Circumference on Revver here.

Merry Christmas to you all. If you're not a Christian then I hope you'll still enjoy the break and have a successful and interesting 2007!

Anyway, for what its worth, here is the card...



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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Presentation skills part 1a



As promised (but a little later than expected) this posting is some ideas on what to do when you want to write 'a little about myself...' for your emails etc. A key part of your Presentation Skills. Again I've tried to boil this down to simplest advice...

Use three sentences

First Sentence: write about your key achievements or successes or what you have going for you.
"I am a BAFTA nominated writer and winner of the Jerwood Film Prize whose last film was screened at Edinburgh Film Festival"
OR
"I am a recent graduate from the London Film School and my final short was in the top 10 on ifilm for 2 weeks running."


Second Sentence: write about yourself and your interests.
"Recently I've become very interested in new technologies and new film business models"
OR
"Even though I've graduated I remain a student of new narrative structures and techniques."


Third Sentence: write about the future and your goals.
"My next project brings together my writing skills with these film 2.0 ideas to form the world's first advertising funded feature film that will be free for audience to view worldwide."
OR
"Now I'm keen to get out in the real world of work and bring my energy and effort to some interesting projects."


Remember - this is just the paragraph about yourself. You still need to match this to what you know are their goals and their projects.



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, December 13, 2006

This week is a special week!



That's because its the Tim Clague short film retrospective week on the short film channel at iFilm.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Presentation skills part 1



Presentation Skills are the second part of Technical skills. Like Computer skills that we talked about before this can be a weak spot for writers. But this is only because they deem it of no interest / importance. Presentation skills are important to get right. We may wish this wasn't so - but it is. The good news is that we probably are already great at presenting - if we just apply our knowledge and abilities in a slightly different way.

For instance, we all get very uppity about the proper way to format a script. And we get very 'into' the different ways that we can structure a scene to make an impact. We like applying a good structire and we like making an impact. But we forget these skills when it comes the layout and structure of the more formal documents we have to write. And its these other documents that we'll be kicking about in the next few posts. Today its the turn of Letters and Emails.

Just after Cannes I copied up a version of my Introductory letter and got some comments on it. A bit long and perhaps almost a bit too slick. The point of any 'cold call' style communication is for you to get your foot in the door by selling yourself in a honest way. So your email wouldn't be exactly like my email. But here are some golden rules that should work for everybody.

One: Keep it short.
If it was a letter then one, nicely spaced and not cramped side of A4. Shrinking your font size to 10 points and expanding your margins to fit more on a page IS CHEATING. You have written too much. Whoever is reading it doesn't have much time. Do them a favour (by not weasting their time) and they might do you a favour (by wanting to find out more about you and your script)
Two:Boast.
We are a modest bunch, us writers. Everything is 'quite good' and 'nearly there'. Well now is not the time for this kind of talk. If you've won something then get it in there NOW! If your script is the great then say it is. So long as you go back it up. Boasting is not the same as bullshitting.
Three: What do you want?
"Why am I reading this? What do you want?" Its surprising how few people answer these questions in their introductory email. What, specifically are you asking this person to do? Does your request sound reasonable? Does it sound like you have sought them out or is this a cut n paste job? Make your email tailored to the reader, make it clear what you want, make your request easy to grant. For example "I read about your new film in Screen International. I am also writing a Sci-Fi love story. It would be great to meet up at location near to you for half an hour to hear about your experiences, particularly with regards to how you managed to make the dialogue jargon free, a challenge I am struggling with."
Four: Be positive.
In my example above I say 'I would be great to meet up' rather than 'would you like to meet'. A small point but one that shows that you are 100% up for the meeting them. Rather than wanting to do it if they don't mind doing it.
Five:What's in it for them?
The hardest part. But because its hard doesn't mean you should shy away from it. Why should they bother to meet you or email you back or give you work? What's so great about you? Find it. And write it in. I will remind you of rule 2 again!

Tomorrow we'll look at what to write when you want to write 'a little about myself...' Ahhhhhhh!



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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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Super 8 - and old idea that's a new idea



This is an old movie I shot on Super 8. Like super 8 itself, I hope forgotten about it mostly. The super 8 page on the Projector Films static website didn't even have a stats counter on it. I believed it was something from the past. In fact, that's why I sometimes like to shoot on it. Its the ultimate antidote to the digital world. Watching it on the computer monitor betrays the feel of course. The only real way to view it is for me to bring my projector to your house. But you'll get the idea.

If you don't know what super 8 is - then you may know it as cine film. The small format film that your granddad used to shoot his home movies on. These days it's the same Kodak stock as in 35mm reels. So the results can be amazing.

Last week I finally got around to putting the web stats on the page. It turns out that this is the most page on my site! So if you are a super 8 fan than check out the updated page and apologies for taking my eye off the ball. If you're of the digital video generation then I suggest that you shoot on super 8 once in your life. Its the ultimate retro experience but with a look that is unique. I only know of one other person (Andy Marsh) who shoots on the format and you can see his film here. If you've used it then let me know.

I'm glad super 8 is still so popular and people are trying to find out more.

Its been a fun video clip week. But next week - back to the Scriptwriter's Life.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How do you get ideas?

This question seems to bother a little people. It shows up in my stats a lot. People who search for 'film ideas' end up here. So, for all those people check out this advice from ZeFrank.

(note: if you are reading this on an RSS reader or via email then you may not see the film. You need to visit the blog to watch it.)



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Monday, December 04, 2006

TV is dead - evidence item number 219

Read this. CBS shows off how great it is now that's its on YouTube. That's right. The US TV giant is pleased because its download numbers are okay. Once the internet was the enemy, then it was a colleague, now its their boss (or so it seems).

It reminds of the Simpsons with Tibor who moves from being Homer's scapegoat to his boss and we don't even see him.

Its good news for us. Its official. The playing field is now level.

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First seen on Seth Godin.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Enrol today

For those that may need help with the film2.0 world...



For people reading this on email or on RSS there is a movie to watch. You'll need to visit the blog to see it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Writers in SW England

Just a quick post as this is limited geographically. Click here to read about how you can partner up with Touch films to develop your TV drama one-off or series. For writers in the South West only I'm afraid.

New book on the whole film2.0 future


A few posts ago I talked about the rules of the film2.0 world. Well Scott Kirsner over at the CinemaTech blog has gone one better. He has collected together all the thoughts and ideas from over 2 years of interviews with the top 'web video' guys into one place. His approach is much more on the business behind it rather than the art. Its a good length as well - about 90 pages.

Here is how Scott sums up the book...

"Initially, my objective with the book was to put together something that would be useful for independent "creatives" -- filmmakers, freelance TV producers, anyone with a camera and an idea -- who want to understand how they can make money in this Web video economy. I hope I've achieved that. But as I was writing, I expanded the scope quite a bit, getting into the the challenges and opportunities Web video creates for big media companies, advertisers, and entrepreneurs. There are lots of interviews, data points, and case studies."

Scotts a good writer and has written on this topic for big US publications like The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, NY Times etc.

You get it from here and it costs £10.99 for a paperback copy but there is a cheaper e-book version. Scott sent me a free preview copy as he knows this is right up my street. But, just to be clear, I don't get any commission or any benefit from recommending it. But I do recommend it none the less. I'm half way through and its given me 3 ideas for Circumference already. I don't recommend that you give it to your mum as a Christmas present.