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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Podcast 4: A sideways look

This is a special 'pro-active' show looking at what writers can do - that is more than just writing scripts and sending them out.

  • How to be proactive and control your own career. 
  • Is making a short film a good idea? 
  • How much do shorts cost? 
  • Reviewing "The Event" and "Social Network" 
  • See you at the London Screenwriters Festival. 
As you will hear, this podcast really builds on my recent post about how writers can use their skills and talents in other areas.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where did you steal that idea from?

I was asked to talk to the creative writing group at Chichester University recently. The photo above is a small glimpse into the tutor's office. I was pleased to see it fulfilled every single one of my cliché visions of such a room.

For me, the most interesting part of our 2 hour talk was around using other people's ideas in our work. Another way to phrase it could be; is it okay to borrow elements that you see elsewhere?

We hit upon an interesting analogy. And that is that ideas are like the atoms in our bodies. They do not belong to us. They were all made elsewhere. And afterwards they will become something else. We are only the temporary custodians.

And thus it is with ideas. They are only resting with us. And we must accept that they will be taken on by others afterwards.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Less is more (work)

I was at a talk recently given by TED curator Chris Anderson - and held by Creative Bath.

I'm a big fan of TED, as should everyone who has an open-mind. But I was really interested in the fact that the talks are so short and punchy. I'd already featured this idea in the corporate video early in the year - and repeated above. As a short film maker I live a lot in the 'one reel' world.

So I asked him about it and he said in fact the speakers are asked to do 18 minutes. If you ask for 15, you get 20. But if you ask for 18, you probably get 18 - as it seems so precise!

BUT, the key learning point that we can all relate to is...

It is harder to do a shorter piece of communication than a longer one. As a writer of shorts I recognise that statement to be true. As with all things to do with changing people's minds, their hearts and their outlook the only tip can be: really know what you are trying to say and get everything else out of the way.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The value of a writer; aka - other ways of earning a living

I just finished editing two videos as paid gigs. The one above is for the annual Speechwriters' Guild Conference. It features 16 great pieces of advice from some of the World's best speech writers. Included are the speechwriter for Reagan, for Kofi Annan and the Chairman of BA - all imparting their wisdom. As an aside - I wonder if there is a scriptwriting equivalent video. And if not, surely that's the kind of thing that should come out of festivals and writing workshops.

As you will see, a theme running through all this advice is the power of storytelling, of understanding the audience, of having a structure. All the same great ideas we use.

As scriptwriters (or any form of storyteller) we need to remember that our skills are really useful out there in the 'real world'. They are useful to people who run entire countries and massive corporations. They have a currency IF we choose to spend it.

Nerd stuff:
Edited in Final Cut Pro 7
Graphics done in Motion
The Motion template was adapted from a free download available here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Moving scenes

I've been checking out a demo of Heavy Rain - the special edition that uses the new Move

Non-geeks read this: "Move" is an add-on piece of kit for the Playstation games console. You wave the special device around as you play the game and the Playstation can 'see' it and so can change what happens on screen. You use it instead of a mouse or keyboard. When using it, you look a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, but less cool. The Wii is a bit the same, if you know that.

As you can see from the video, this game tries to put you in the action by, well, making you do actions. Probably like you, when I saw the video I nearly laughed out loud. But that could be because everyone in the video looks like a right chump.

However, I feel there is something there. The problem with this early game is that it is trying to make the device fit - rather awkwardly maybe. In the same way that early 3D films had things wooshing out at you.

But the reason it could work is to do with the kinetic feeling. As a player you have to focus more on the movement and action, so you generally pay more attention. You are NOT slumped on the sofa. Your mind is more alert, so you pick up on narrative details faster.

It would be interesting to see if this is slowly related to gameplay and / or to the writing. I feel it would mean less dialogue and more visual clues as it is the eyes that are working harder.

What I don't feel it does is actually make you feel 'in' the game / story. In fact it is very 'fourth wall' but you are reaching into the fake world.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Super 8, HDR video and other techniques - for a writer!

I was on holiday for a week in Santorini and saw that I had just missed the Super 8 festival in the small village of Oia.

Oia is a great location for a bit of Super 8 filming in itself, being perched as it is on the cliff tops. And I'm sure that an outdoor screening would be a big hit in that location.

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However, the rationale for this post is to focus on the ever increasing interest in different filming methods and formats. Some of these, like Super 8, are from the past. Others, such as shooting using a beam splitter to create a HDR video, are new.

As writers, we may feel that these things don't matter to the story. The story comes first, then the shooting format is picked later. And this is mostly true. HOWEVER, exploring new visual ideas is a great method of inspiration - just as any visual resource is. It is all good storydust.

Even better is to explore playing with these ideas yourself, if you can. Sometimes writers worry too much about making a full-on short. Experimenting with techniques and visual looks can sometimes be even better as way of learning.

Then, when a great writer creates material that matches an exciting look - that is a foundation for a fantastic, fully-realised, project.