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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Get a stone in your shoe

I heard a great quote today from a satirical poet. He said that he doesn't write anything until he really feels an idea has become like a stone in his shoe.

I love that very visual, yet also tactile, analogy. If you can carry on walking, you should do. But when an idea really gnaws at you and you can ignore it no longer - then, and only then, should you start to write.

Cartoon from here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

When is a writer not a writer?

Answer: When there is no dialogue!

Obviously this answer isn't true. But it can seem that way.

As I mentioned before, I am thinking about doing a silent film, as in no dialogue. I've done these before at the low budget end - for example the Mr Vista films. With Mr Vista scripting doesn't matter, we improv it anyway. And for higher budgets, in my heart of hearts, I honestly believe that it is better to jump straight to a storyboard, if you can. But you don't always have that option.

We all know that description-based scripts, with no dialogue, are frowned upon. My current writing task is getting 'Teddy and the Moon' expanded and ready for the Red Planet comp - and there are some long no-dialogue sequences in there. This is of concern to me. The only thing I have found to really work is to space out the description and action by beats - with plenty of spaces.

John enters the room.

A crash. What's that?

A mouse runs over his foot.

John shrieks. A hand covers his mouth. His eyes bulge.


It almost becomes like dialogue then.

If you yourself fancy dipping your toe in this arena then you could do much worse than checking out the My One Word competition which closes July 6th. As the name suggests, you can only use the one word of dialogue. It is supported by C4 and 4 films will be made. 3 minutes each - so an easy write - or a great way to use up a stray idea. Free to enter too.

So no excuse not to bung in 3 pages and get your film made and a free bit of mentoring too.

I'm running the workshop day for the final 12. As a writer myself I'm really aiming to put together a great day. NOT the same old crap you get elsewhere where you start to think that the development day is a punishment rather than a prize. I know it's radical, an actually useful development day. Will wonders never cease?

» Have a final running time of 3 minutes
» Be of any genre from comedy to horror
» Have locations based within England
» Must not contain any violence, explicit language or include any explicit sexual content

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Silent with sound

Charlie Chaplin film writing
I've recently been looking at some Chaplin's early films.

My reason for doing so; Chaplin understood that single story elements couldn't progess beyond about a reel of film (10-15 mins depending upon projection speed). So longer films, such as a the two reeler The Immigrant, are in fact two separate sequences, one for each reel. In reel one, The Little Tramp comes to America. In reel two he goes to a restaurant. His romancing of The Girl binds the two together.

The work this is building towards is a manager's conference. I want to stress to managers that having a big meeting, concerning one thing, for a whole hour isn't very useful. And what's more, Chaplin knew this 100 years ago. So stop doing it. Instead have some 'reel changes' in there.

However, for me, it has been a great opportunity to be reminded, YET AGAIN, of how simple the story telling is. And by that I mean how powerfully simple it is.

It has inspired me to think about creating a new silent-style story. Perhaps two people who don't speak each other's language who meet in a foreign city. Add a few laughs and a bit of pathos and jobs a good un.

silent cinema