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Friday, February 29, 2008

What makes a short film successful?

Added bit: You can now download my scripts and adapt them for free under a creative commons license - from here.

My film making friend and co-writer Suki emailed me with some good news. His film is number one on the BT vision download store. Which is great for a short. But why is it number one. I asked him for the blog. What makes a short film successful and sellable? Here is his reply...

Interesting provocative title: Rubber Johnny
A synopsis to get you interesting and a sexy picture
Price – 99p isn’t much of a gamble
Chart position validates the film – so others will take the plunge too
The film has also been given the CULT status by BT alongside other famous cult films
A 3 minute film will not take long to download

All of which is really about general film marketing good practice. Except the last point. Shorter is now better. Especially as shorter will also be cheaper. Point 3 is also a good one as some people will want to try the service out. But spending £15 just to try it is a bigger gamble.

Other news...
Type in "scriptwriters on blogger" into google and you get Danny Stack.
Type in "filmmakers on blogger" and you get - you guessed it - this very blog. Ahhh.

Image from Rubber Johnny. I hope the sexy picture drew you in!
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Film is dead - so they say (kinda)

If you wonder about the future of film and the future sources of business for your ideas and scripts then this article will be of mucho interest to your good self. It is about a current music conference in NY. The topic of which is nothing short of a total reconstruction of the music biz. It is often said that film follows the music trend with regards to business hence my interest. The larger players are struggling to think through their role and considering how to downsize as the new digital sources of revenue don't match the loss from decreasing CD sales. Here is an extract from former EMI exec Ted Cohen ...

Consider the statements that were made today without controversy:
  • DRM on purchased music is dead
  • A utility pricing model or flat-rate fee for music might be the way to go
  • Ad-supported streaming music sites like iMeem are legitimate players
  • Indie music accounts for upwards of 30 percent of music sales
  • Napster isn't losing $70 million per quarter (and is breaking even)
  • The music business is a bastion of creativity and experimentation

Now replace music with film - or TV. This is what I called film2.0 - except that seems cheesy now as everyone is using terms like this. If, or rather when, these changes occur for us what will that mean? Does this change how we write or the genres we should concentrate on? Do people expect different kinds of stories in this new world - or not?

What is crucial is the last point in the list. This is true for us. We, as writers and film makers, have to get our hands dirty here. The business guys aren't sure where to go, that is obvious. They need our help. If you have a great idea for a Bebo series - write to Bebo. They won't write to you.

People 'know' what they want from a feature script. No one knows what they want from this DRM free world. They don't know if they want Circumference style features or Mr Vista style shorts. So they don't know the form let alone what kind of stories. We are writers - so we should write. (and send it in obviously).

Image from here. Good to see David Mellor keeping busy.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Living the dream

Shaune "the uncle" Fradley filming with me on the outskirts of Leicester. Yeah! Its all ringroad action baby.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't forget

The other day (when I went to Jersey) I did forget my toothbrush. What I didn't forget was to enter these two competitions. I hope you won't either.

A pitch in time is a competition to win a ticket for the Screenwriters Festival. Quick outline is - a 25 word pitch followed by a 150 word outline. So very quick to enter. No excuses.

The second is one run by the Met Film School in London and is a chance to take part in a 6 month (a few days a month) development scheme, including keeping all rights and getting paid. More here.

The best part about both schemes is that they offer industry development as core to the process. I see this as a trend. Some writers look down on this. But getting development is more than just getting the actual help. It's great for your CV, good contacts are made AND its good for your gravity. The best writers always have an open mind - and that should also apply to learning and developing your scripts and yourself. At courses I've run I've had OSCAR nominees in the audience. Why? Because there seems to be a link between those that always seek to improve and those that do well. Obvious really.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mono culture

A nice day here on Jersey and I even got in a quick walk along the sunny beach. There is a new thought going on in my mind about mono culture. The term mono culture first came into my life when Suki told me about it with regard to a plot point in a script we were writing together. A mono culture is where a single species is grown and all others prevented. Examples being rubber plant fields, banana plantations etc. The plus to a mono culture is ease. It is easy to farm on a giant scale. But there is also a danger. The danger being vulnerability. Reliance on a single crop means pests and new strains of moulds and fungi are devastating. Variety, complex culture, offers immunity.

So why has this been on my mind? Because in business, and this applies to the media sector too, there are people who want to create a mono culture and others that don't. Some see the eccentric old boy as a strength, others see him as an embarrassment.

I watched out today for people with the special extra third thing. What I learnt is that sometimes some people don't like you to have it. But I am more convinced than ever that this is what we need.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Currently in Jersey giving a talk to a client - a private banking client as you may guess. This is the view of sea from my balcony. It strikes me that perhaps these guys need to just listen to the sea and look at the moons reflection. They need to stop stuffing things into their heads. Instead they need to feel something, anything. Be quieter.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Magic Third Thing

venn diagram

I've been meeting a lot of people recently making a series of corporate docs - and also meeting fellow bloggers and writers.

One thing I've noticed. The most successful people, doing the most interesting work, have a kind of 'magic' ingredient. Yes they are good at writing (or directing, or whatever their profession is) and they also have a good life and draw inspiration from that and other story dust type things.

But then there is this other thing. This 3rd part, equal to the other two, making it a big part of their life. This is what makes them different. It makes them more than 'just another writer'. Someone like Hugh has it. He is an adman, a blogger, but also now a wine seller. Clay has it. He was in the US Army, is a trainer, but also a poet and an artist. L-J has it. She is a presenter and a technical expert, but also a musician.

The other two parts are great. You need them. They make you competent, they make you okay, they deliver good solid work. But the magic third thing is 'your voice' or your unique angle.

I try to have it. I am a writer and blogger - but someone who also works for large companies creating training materials. This third circle is what creates the interesting 'centre'. It creates The Scriptwriter's Life. It creates the story for "Circumference" and also a new feature idea in development - more of which to come soon. If writing is a formula - the magic third is what allows you to break it.

What is your 'magic third'?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mr Vista special for Valentine's Day

Mr Vista meets XP
Boy meets girl
Mouse meets icon

Enjoy Valentine's Day with a new hi-res Mr Vista desktop background. Show everyone in the office you are a sad lonely person - but proud of it. Or send it to a loved one. Either is good.

You can also get it from here.

Important note: you don't need to use Vista to enjoy the amazing artistic and comedic qualities of this desktop.

If you don't know what the hell this is about then go to

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In action

I'm sure a few of you regular readers will remember my postings about the idea of Gravity. In fact, the link there takes you to the very first time it was publicly aired a couple of years ago. Right here on the blog.

To recap very quickly, the idea is about drawing people towards you, rather than you always chasing them. And it came from the spirit of blogging and pitching. However this idea is taking off elsewhere. I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago to a large private bank, the kind that has a large office in the City but is so extravagant that it wastes most of the space on a massive reception area. Anyway, these guys loved it and are using it, as are parts of HSBC now. It is very strange to overhear other people talking about 'good gravity'. It's kind of like if you had invented the 3 act structure or something.

Anyway, they had to pay several thousands of pounds for it. Here it is for you guys for nothing. Cos I love you all. And its all about giving something back. Clearly a slight interpretation is needed as this video talks about customers and you may need to replace that in your mind with producers etc. It talks about 'sales' and you would have to think about 'pitching'. But you'll get the idea, as you all very clever!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Done some damn work

Well at the end of my 4 days what is the conclusion?

Good news: Job done. Script finished. Just rewriting to go now!!!
Bad news: Crazy time management. I believed that just chunking through the script would be enough. So by the time I'd written my days allocation I just kind of stopped work and started browsing etc. I need a kind of triple days target. One phone call, one gravity activity and the page count. Then I can slope off.

Conclusion: Beef found - more cows in field.


From here

"The amount of online "chatter" about an upcoming album release directly correlates to higher physical album sales, according to two researchers with New York University's Stern Business School. Professor Vasant Dhar and former student Elaine Chang observed the trends of 108 albums released during the first two months of 2007 to see how different outside elements affected (or predicted) sales once the albums became available, and found that all of them had some effect or another. But certain elements of online chatter—namely blogs and social networks—seemed to be fairly accurate predictors of future success."

Obviously this would be true. It makes sense. We all feel it. What is lacking though is the most important element. How the 'chatter' started - grassroots or through an expensive viral and on-line marketing campaign.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Meeting Clay

Yesterday I met up with Clay Lowe. This is a guy, who for me, is a living example of a generalist...

I’ve been a lot of things. I’ve been a soldier, jumping out of airplanes and blowing things up. I’ve been a financial consultant, selling stocks and bonds. I’ve been a manufacturing engineer, building generator excitation devices and motor control centers for steam and gas turbine engines. I’ve also been a training manager for a large bank, imparting knowledge and reducing barriers to help people be better at their jobs. And more recently, I’ve turned my hand to building my own personal coaching practice.

I would like to believe I am a good natured guy - pleasant, friendly, enthusiastic about life. You are just as likely to find me climbing a mountain as you are to find me with my reading in a book.

That's a life. That's a character. And what is interesting about Clay is that we met through the Scriptwriter's Life diagram - yet we also have many connections through the training and coaching world.

Meeting people like Clay is a challenge to my own writing of characters. He reminds me to constantly offer surprises and richness. That soldiers can keep intricate diary pages (as above) or that training managers can write poetry.

Perhaps most interesting to writers though is this fact. Clay uses The Hero's Journey pattern. Not just in his own writing - but in his own adventure training. That's right. He actually takes people out of the office, up a mountain and puts them through it. Now that's living your writing folks!

Still from Clay's diary.
Lastly, worth a mention, is his mini booklet on motivation available under Creative Commons licence here

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mr Vista update

Here is a behind the scenes update of the Mr Vista project for all my fellow writers and internet film makers.

Stats: 20,000 views so far. Which is a good start. Episode 1 is still more popular than Episode 2. A challenge will be to keep the audience from one and bring them along while trying to gain new viewers.

Format: However it is clear that people prefer the much shorter duration. 1 minute long would seem to be ideal. Dailymotion have branded up a Mr Vista page for me - and he has his own blog. These special branded sites seem to be less important than I initially believed, but they are a good 'nice to have'.

Topics: What is a surprise is that the audience does not seem to be IT types / geeks / nerds etc. Instead is seems to be those who struggle with technology.

Audience: Good international mix - which I'm really pleased about. Hatred of progress bars would seem to unite us a race - which is nice.

Dialogue with audience: A more tricky proposition. But some good challenges coming in from the audience. One request is to explore more issues than just the progress bar - which I may do in season 2. One guy said this... "Maybe Mr Vista could upgrade to Vista in an episode! He could become unchained from the constraints of Windows XP and be able to go about his life without a progress bar! Perhaps the spinning orb above his head, like a halo!! We could feature his positive experiences in the magazine!" He is from Vista magazine. But obviously his approach wouldn't sit well with the audience that is building so far. And to thy audience be true. It's all part of keeping 'a contract' with them. Lastly though a good idea inspired by feedback - Mr Vista could have some fun with a buffering video. Some people get a buffer sign - Mr Vista could interact with it. Genius.

Real World: Interaction with the real world would seem to be important. So Mr Vista is seen as relevant and happening right now. Blog style. So expect a special Valentine's episode soon.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Over in the realm of music - its all gone Pete Tong

Quick link to an article about a guy who preferred to give him music away for free, rather than through iTunes.

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Doing some damn work

wheres the beef

On a personal note - I am doing a four day solid stint of writing at the moment. Looking at my own diagram (!!!) The Scriptwriters Life it was clear that what in fact was needed was more writing! You know, the beef. I know Dom has been talking about the fact he needs more networking. So we all have our weak points and we all need to plug them to increase our chances in this tough game.

Anyway, head down. I'm 90% finished on a new script called LooP - jointly created with my good friend Suki. He has some other super cool stuff going at the moment. Check it out here.