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Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas story. Just like the Queen's message but more fun.

Okay, so here is what happened to me as I tried to get home for Christmas. It is a story in the style of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles".

My journey was fairly simple on paper; Dundee to Edinburgh Airport on the Megabus, then fly down to Bournemouth. Simple and very direct.

Perhaps my first sign of concern was when I stepped out of front door at 7:30 am straight into a layer of snow. I'd been looking forward to a drop of Scottish snow for weeks. So it was a mixed blessing to see it right then. But being the hardy sorts up there the megabus arrived on time. Good lads.

However once on the motorway the panic set in. Would we make it in time? What would happen if I didn't and the plane left without me? The wheels skidded about and the driver dude pushed through like a hero. Got there in time to see the gate number flash up, legged it through the security bit, bundled up to the gate (furthest away one naturally) to find a lot of people sitting around. The view from the window indicated a snowy scene with no movement - at all. Snow-tastic!

At list of things at do while you wait 5 hours for snow to melt.

1 - play with your iPhone
2 - read your book
3 - recharge your iPhone by sitting next to the only mains socket which is located by the toilet entrance. Classy.
4 - buy 1l of whiskey
5 - laugh at a bunch of fellow travellers queuing to get on plane as they are told it has in fact landed in Glasgow now.
6 - watch a pissed guy walk around asking everyone if they have seen his luggage. They hadn't. Presumably because he had checked it in but had forgotten.
7 - enjoy the interactive drama of the following announcement; "would the passengers waiting for flight bm1234 please go to gate 21 (everyone cheers) where we will give a refreshment voucher due to further delays (boooo)
8 - laugh at the passengers all come back in as their replacement bus to Glasgow has also got stuck in the snow
9 - get on the plane at last.

Journey uneventful. Except for the thunder storm which meant we couldn't land at Bournemouth. So we went to Stanstead! Nice.

It was at this point I declared loudly, "I'm getting my whiskey out. Who wants some?"

And thus we had a great time. Sitting around, waiting for the bus. Like a scene from Home Alone with the mum trying to get home. My fellow travellers were a video editor, software engineer and an archeaologist / primary school teacher. We all had good times and watched Wimborne Road on my phone. We could talk about films and editing and the editor guy knew people I know. We also had a 'longest trip ever' show down won by a guy who was 57 hrs on a train.

My efforts to start a sing song of 3 Coins in a Fountain in the style of Planes, Trains and Automobiles fell on deaf ears - recreating the scene perfectly. Which is just as well as I don't know the rest of the words.

Epilogue - got back to Bournemouth at 1am. 13 hours late. Half of my £25 bottle of whiskey has gone.

Conclusion: Christmas time is a great time for making new friends if your attitude is right. Who knows how is sitting next to you and what cool things they have done? And, my friends, always travel with fine whiskey.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's time for Tim's Christmas film! Truly, the festivities can now commence.

Hi Everyone.

For the third year running I have created a special, handmade, Christmas film for you all. These were originally inspired by my Uncle Gary and Aunty Jo. Being talented artists they sent a specially designed Christmas card every year and jolly good it is too. But this is also rather annoying for those of us not knocked on the head with the artistic stick.

"But wait", I proclaimed, probably to my long suffering wife, "I could make a Christmas film instead". And those was born Stocky and God vs ASA.

This year it is Scrooge turned into in a satire (of sorts) concerning the recession. As I am up in Dundee at the moment, writing on a new computer game, I didn't have access to any filming equipment. But small issues, such as not having a camera, can't stop me from making a film! Instead I edited up an old British production that has slipped out of copyright and into the public domain. We've all got to do our bit with recycling!

It didn't quite turn out as I expected - but enjoy it anyway. If only by thinking of me sitting at my desk trying to do a bunch of voices on my own. And definitely no offence meant to anyone - it is just a scattershot jibe and a play on the idea that in storytelling change is seen as a must - the opposite being true for the real world.

Merry Christmas. See you next year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Making films that matter.

A lot of people first get into writing and creative endeavours because they feel they could make a difference.

That could be a difference to people's opinions, a difference to how they think or maybe a difference to the wider conversation. Something like Brave New Films, has that as its raison d'etre and they focus on topics purely to challenge and create debate. They try to make a difference to the World.

But how can we achieve this goal as film makers with limited resources, no infra-structure and perhaps films with a more subtle or non-political voice? How can we help ensure that our films reach out to people in whatever way we want them too?

Try extending your film and creative ideas into a new area - 'tools' and 'help'. I'd like to say 'make it interactive' but that phrase would probably suggest a complex online tool to you. This is not (necessarily) what I mean.

One example would be the fun activities for Mr Vista; the doodle pad and the 80s style text adventure. Whilst these didn't get the same usage figures as the videos themselves feedback would indicate they were very popular with the hardcore fans. So, reflecting upon that, these style of add-ons reach the people who you want to reach and do it in a deeper way. It adds more to their involvement. Mr Vista is now in their real life too.

On a (slightly) more serious basis I recently received a series of photos from Steve Keevil showing his media students using the pdf download for my abstract documentary short Quartz Shorts.

It's great to see. And I guess that sums up my belief in why these add-ons work. They are the film +1. They are better than any DVD extra. They bring the film into the real world and into people's lives.

They embed the thinking of the film and make it stick. Whatever you want people to feel at the end of your film - this ensures you exceed that.

Basically they are 'film magnifiers'.

Have a think about what you could do for your next project...
  • Links to self-help pages or organisations.
  • A free-gift; a piece of origami that people can print, cut out and make.
  • Upload your rough footage so anyone can do a re-edit.
  • If it is location-based then do a virtual tour in google earth.
  • Create an experience that allows people to empathise with the main character - the world as they see it.
  • Have a link allowing a donation to an organisation that can do something about the issues you raised.

And lastly - never think your film isn't worth it. Horror, comedy, documentary, thriller, any genre can benefit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Focus on dignity in storytelling.

Here are two stories with amazing potential - for a documentary guy. His message though is to find the moments and themes of dignity and courage whereever you are.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Writing / Food analogy - by Dickens

Dickens said that a story should be like streaky bacon - comedy and drama layered next to each other and running all the way through it.

Of course it could be more like a shreddie with all those strands of story elements - but he couldn't have known that.

Monday, December 07, 2009

What goes into a great short script

script competition

I've been reading a lot of scripts recently for a Dorset based competition. This competition uses the standard short film script rules - any genre, no more than 10 pages.

There were some really good scripts and the results are coming soon. So without going into specific details of the scripts here are the top mistakes I saw and the top things I liked.

  • Don't describe things that the audience can't know. For example; John, 30, has been a butcher for 25 years and also wanted to be a dancer. Fine to read, but if we were watching the film then how could we possibly know that?
  • Conflict and drama is a must. Even in a comedy. Everyone getting along and having a nice time and going home again isn't a story.
  • Similar to above is the need to have an ending of some description. A revelation, a surprise, a growing of a character. Something that indicates a journey has taken place.
  • People just saying what they feel = bad for the film as well as being unrealistic. You may have noticed that in real life people very rarely articulate their deepest feelings in succinct sentences. You have to dig around in conversations, read between the lines and piece things together. So doing the same in a film mirrors that real-life behavior AND gives the audience something to do - piecing together the characters themselves.

Nice Surprises
  • The short film is almost a genre in itself sometimes... with a heart warming reveal at the end. Smashing that genre convention wide open and challenging it generated some great ideas and stories.
  • Short sharp dialogue works. Easy to say and hard to do I know. But dialogue that does just the job and no more is a real joy to read.
  • A plot development or character revelation every page and a half seems about right to keep things moving.

One of the hardest things to get right (hard because their is no golden way to do it) is to make the audience care about your characters. But without that nothing else really matters. This probably deserves a future blog post by itself.

Best advice of all remains the same - keep writing, keep getting feedback :)