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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Silent Era Pirates

What would Chaplin do?

Or rather, what would you say to Chaplin. You meet him at the pearly gates and he asks about what you did with the moving image in your time...

You had equipment at 1% of the price he did.
You had a way for your films to be seen by millions across the world without the need for expensive film prints.
You had sound, colour, editing.
Your films dont catch fire.
You can do it anywhere in the world.
The edit suite fits in a laptop and you can do it on a train or even a plane.

And so how many 100s of films did you make...?

We should feel the pressure of these pioneers to keep making.

And I hope your films are better than the nonsense that is Mr Vista - my very own Chaplin-esque modern series of techno-misery! This week he tries to download some pirate movies.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Hero is you

Had a conversation with a DoP called Mark Adcock (and his writing missus Bryony Ive) today and he said something about overcoming rejection. Always good advice for writers - as blogger Dom Carver says; "It's not the rejection. I can handle the rejection. It's the hope I can't stand." I think we know what he means.

However Mark's advice was an outsider's perspective. He says "As writer's you know that the main character has to go through set backs to reach his goal. It's just the same as that"

Indeed. We all know it has to be like this, to ensure that the payoff is sweeeeet. So enjoy the set backs people!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Joss Whedon says...

From an interview with Joss Whedon that I heard of thanks to Cinematech blog.

A lot of people sit around and go, "How can I get this made?" The only answer is: By making it. By borrowing someone's camera. By buying a camera. They come cheap and they work well. And if you know where to point them -- and the person that you point them at is saying something interesting -- that's it! That's how it works.

I can't stress enough that I believe the best thing in the world is for everybody who feels like they have a story to tell, to tell it.

If they want to sell it, if they want to make a lot of money, they can do that -- and they can kiss their story goodbye. Because, in general, that's the last they're ever going to see of it, because somebody else will own it and they will either not make it, or make it very differently than that person hoped.

So, if you really have a story you think you're ready to tell, what are you doing talking to me?

Good luck to you all out there with your films.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fancy a quick writing challenge?

A little challenge for the weekend!

Robert Greenwald, a pioneer in the field of making films and getting them seen online has laid down a challenge to us writers. See below... I've entered and perhaps you feel like you could too, as a little giggle over the weekend.

What would you do with an extra $18,000 in your pocket?

That's the amount of extra cash each and every Burger King employee in America would have received last year if Goldman Sachs (one of the fast-food chain's largest owners) had shared its bailout billions with rank-and-file workers. Instead, Goldman Sachs squandered 6.5 billion of our taxpayer dollars on bonuses for their financial staff. These were some of the highest bonuses on Wall Street! Meanwhile, Burger King workers earn wages averaging just $14,000 a year -- well below the federal poverty line for a family of three.

Tell the Wall Street giant how they could have used the $6.5 billion blown on bonuses. We're looking for the most creative, constructive, or comical ideas to curb corporate greed and help fix the financial crisis. We will send all ideas to Goldman Sachs as a reprimand for their wastefulness. The winner of the Have It Your Way with Goldman Sachs contest will have their idea featured in our next video. The contest ends March 3.

Enter the contest:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

See you around...

Just a reminder that Wednesday night (18th Feb) is the Bournemouth Networking event - Future Film Focus. A great chance to meet up and share ideas.

And tomorrow (19th Feb) I'm in Salisbury to judge the Preloader festival. This is a way to get film makers hooked at a young age! Quite right too. And a great chance for people to see their films on the big screen - a rare event these days.

There is probably no...

James Henry pointed me to this little funky online app to do your own slogan.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mike Gubbins advice...

Should you write for the market? Should you write for yourself? How can you do both?

I have been thinking about these issues a lot over the past two days as I've been pitching various stories, getting on the phone, emailing ideas around etc. But one piece of advice I often think back to is a gem Michael Gubbins (editor of Screen International) said in a talk at the Screenwriters Festival - illustrated below in my own funky style:

The message seems to be -if you want to write for other others, write for yourself. The market wants you to be you. And you'll be more successful. We don't want another same old gangster film, we want City of God - a story only they can tell. Only Scorcese can be Scorcese. And he can do it better than you. So what are your own stories? And why would the world want to see it? Easy! ha ha

Lastly, I would add another one to Michael's three:

If you want it made then go do it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The three character types

A while ago MysteryMan wrote a great article that I keep reflecting back to. I like what he says. Here is his conclusion...

For me, there are three kinds of character:

1-The one who changes (Let's call him the Hero): A character is shown having a flaw which he has to overcome after great difficulties and reluctance. Paul Newman in The Veredict is a great example.

2-The one who can't change (The Tragic characters). A character whose own personality doesn't let him change, no matter how hard he tries or how much he know he has to change. There are plenty, but let's say Kane in Citizen Kane.

3-The one that doesn't really need to change: James Bond, Indiana Jones, etc. There's a second variety to this, in which the character needs to change but doesn't do it because he doesn't realize his flaws, although everyone does: Don Quixote and his derivates.

Perhaps there are even more. I know what there isn't. What there isn't is only one type of central character. Thank goodness. There in lies the grey area, the fun, the craft, the intrigue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A great film2.0 fundraising initiative

Danny Stack is raising money for his short through his blog. Various levels of donation = various rewards including receiving a DVD etc. Good idea, done simply and efficiently including the use of paypal to collect donations.

And all possible through the quality of his blog that has meant a loyal audience.

That last bit is the most important bit and the part that most people overlook!

Mike Leigh says...

On the topic of what a script is for and how it relates to the final film Mike says:

"The script isn't the thing.
Just as the plans aren't the building"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bournemouth networking...

All info in the picture above...

But if you are on a text reader then here is the summary:

Date: 18.02.09 (wednesday)
Time: 6-9
Place: Landmarc, just off the Square in Bournemouth, UK
Cost: Free - but email guestlist at to get on the list

Loads of people going - hope you will too. See you there. If we've not met and you are going then let me know and we can hook up.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Film of the year

It is almost a tradition now. Today, on the day of the BAFTAs I reveal my own film of the year. Which, again sticking with tradition, is often a film that hardly features at all on the list of BAFTA or Oscar nominations.

So (with no fanfare as it doesn't really work in the written form) my film of 2008 is...

Waltz with Bashir.

If you've not heard of it there is a trailer at the bottom of this post. Using a very rare genre - the animated documentary - this film made a massive impression on me. The official nominees are all great films too. But this one was different, and the title of this blog should tell you that counts a lot for me. It is nominated for 'best animation' and 'best film not in the english language' but I think it stands above those categories.

It shows daring and courage to even get it made and is told with humility. It looks different, eye catching and with a boldness that reflects the ambition. The story telling structure, one man's journey to uncover his past with a series of interviews that is not allowed to film, is a compelling one AND suits the form perfectly.

I recommend it to you all. Check it out if you can. You can preorder a DVD or Blu-ray now.

A close runner up for me was Man on Wire.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I'm in Edinburgh right now. This is the view of the castle from my room. I am here to help run an audition for a series of roleplays for a corporate client. The job would involve actors going into the workplace to play the part of difficult colleagues.

Okay. So not the most glamourous gig even if the location is great. But this type of work underpins the majority of income out there. But most blog posts cover just the cool sexy bits. So as an antidote here is my top three tips for roleplay auditions.

One: Play fair
Don't play games. People need to trust you. So don't do things to trick auditionees like saying you are looking for one thing when you are really looking for something else. Say clearly and simply what you expect. Also ensure everyone is given the same treatment. It is tempting to refine your audition as the day progresses. However that means the people at the end of the day get a better chance. And the ones at the start of the day, less so.

Two: Film it
And watch it back. So many times now my initial response has been proven wrong by reviewing the performances again.

Three: Do it in pairs
I'll be working with Ian tomorrow. He will be doing the roleplay part and representing the client. I will be observing and aiding the actors. Again, following rule one, this will be made clear. You can't fulfill both roles at once.

And enjoy it!


Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Quick note:
In Edinburgh Wednesday eve and Thursday (hopefully) - any locals up for a film chat let me know.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Hey bloggers. I'm betting that you are the same as me - the thing you value the most is feedback and comments. I think we all do. And this has been highlighted to me by my experiences on two current projects...

The first is The Leader's PC - a series of political satires created using screen capture software (a film made without a camera!) which is broadcast on BBC1 (South) on Sunday in the middle of the day. Here is an example episode.

The other is Mr Vista - a series of comedy shorts done for no money and very little reason and spread via a blog. Again, an example episode.

Common sense AND raw statistics say that The Leader's PC gets more eyeballs on it. And yet I hear nothing, no feedback from the audience. So to me this is an invisible project. No one has seen it.

For Mr Vista the audience is smaller, much smaller, but I get much more in the way of feedback. This sometimes takes the form of comments, or ideas for episodes, or even things much more interactive like Judy using the Mr Vista doodlepad!!! So this project seems alive to me.

Is this strange to crave this feedback as a writer or film maker? No.

Because story telling, in any medium, is about spreading ideas and joining people together around common analogies. And for most of history that happened communally in groups. First, with one story teller telling a tale. And later by actors bringing it to life. They would react to the audience, feeling their way, improving, tweaking, changing the timing.

Then for a brief period, the 20th Century in fact, that changed and stories became one way. Radio, Cinema, TV.

And now that has changed again. Once again we are starting to value communal stories and communal story telling. Unless you disagree, in which case... leave a comment.

Feelgood Monday

It is snowing here and it is dark and it is a Monday.

Luckily my old film making wingman Suki sent me a clip. It is the real life version of a sports movie cliche. Hmmm, so it does really happen then.