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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas


Yes, it's time for this year's Christmas film - now a slight tradition of mine. I feel making a film is better than sending a card and more fun too.

This year, take away some of the musical befuddlement around the festive season with my handy guide to one verse of Fairytale of New York.

I'm sure you will find it both useful and a comfort - that's right, you're not going deaf, he really is mumbling that much. Now you can finally join in with the whole feel-good Christmassy vibe of the song.

You may need to watch it twice. And for extra help I added subtitles!

(and for all you writers out there, let's remember who did the real work - the song is written by Jeremy Finer and Shane MacGowan)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Puttnam's career advice

In a follow up to the last video, Lord Puttnam outlines 3 words that he feels sums up what is needed to get ahead in the film business.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Puttnam on Scriptwriters

Hey writers - this will pep you up! I recently interviewed Lord Puttnam, producer of Chariots of Fire, The Mission, Killing Fields and Memphis Belle. I asked him his view of scriptwriters and what he wanted from them.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Google Street View animation

As a lot of regular readers will know I am gearing up for a feature shoot set in the world of Google Earth style apps. So this caught my eye - and nicely done it is too.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Costs you nothing - raises money for a film

If you haven't got your Christmas presents yet and are thinking of getting them from Amazon then you could help me out.

When you go to Amazon via the link above then I get a small percentage from the profit of whatever you buy. It costs you nothing. I've set up a new account so that all these small percentages go to one place - and maybe can help top up the budget for a new short film.

It may work, it may not. But it costs nothing to try.

If you don't use the link above then the extra profits just go into the Amazon coffers anyway and I think they have enough cash already!

Your film friend, Tim

Podcast episode 16

Mirroring the Ricky Gervais podcast format this month's episode has Tim as Ricky, Danny as Stephen Merchant and guest star Johnny Griffith as Karl Pilkington. This month...

  • Danny gives an update on the Red Planet prize 
  • We discuss why writers remain in the shadows 
  • Practical tips to getting more work done

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to stand out in a crowded market

A lot of writers fall into two camps...

Those that have a specialism (a certain genre perhaps) and do that repeatedly and are well known for it. But they perhaps worry that if circumstances change they will be left behind when the world moves on from that genre.

Then there are those who are 'jack of all trades', who do a bit of this and a bit of that. They worry that without a clearer proposition no one knows exactly what they do and why they should be employed.

I am currently making a video for Skillset and was interviewing Matt Locke from Storythings. He mentioned in passing the idea of having a "T shape" proposition.

With a T shape, you have the depth of a specialism combined with the breadth of a wider way of working. They aren't in conflict, they work together. This resonated with me a lot. Although I am a "writer for the Google generation" I also get involved in other projects - as far ranging as ideas such as the Reel Change. But it all comes back to writing, to characters, to storytelling.

Thinking about that in this T-shape way really helped so I put together the graphic above to help clarify my thinking so far.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Podcast 15: The London Screenwriters' Festival round up

In this episode - myself and Danny Stack get our teeth into the Screenwriters' Festival. What and who stood out for us? In detail...

Danny also mentions a memo sent to writers of The Unit. Read it here.
And if you get a chance, a vote for us at the podcast awards will be appreciated.

Or find us on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Best scriptwriting advice ever

My recent posts have been about trying to reduce the amount of dialogue in a feature film script (as inspired by Alexander MacKendrick) combined with making sure that the dialogue really counts for something when you use it. This forms the basis of my current draft of Friend Request.

Chris Jones is of a like mind too it seems. On his blog he had some scans of the original Alexander MacKendrick cards. These are cards he used himself to teach his students.

I've joined them together in a funky PDF you can download and print easily, preferably A3 size.

Together I think they form some of the best advice for scriptwriters writing for the big screen. I also talked more about this and why I feel it works for writers moving from TV to cinema in the latest podcast with Danny Stack.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

This poster / download is a follow up to my recent post on the power of visual words.

This time it is focused on the original idea of speechmaking as outlined by the gang from Creativity Works - as opposed to my own interpretation of its use within dialogue. Who knows, I may do a dialogue version sometime soon.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Best business card for a scriptwriter - 2011

Its almost a tradition now! This year, as last year (and many previous years now) I was on the look out for interesting business cards at the London Screenwriters Festival.

The big news is... LESS CARDS. I think a lot of people rely on the power of LinkedIn to connect up later. But I think this misses the point - half the time you can't remember the name of the other person to even look them up.

It does perhaps mean the job of a card has changed. It maybe doesn't need to carry all the different contact details it once used to - maybe your name and twitter (or linkedin account etc) is enough. So instead it should be about making sure you are remembered. Seems easy, but it isn't.

As such, the images below are mostly from the reverse of the card. The front, with contact details on, is mostly redudant as I mentioned above. The reverse is where it is at baby!

Here are some of my highlights...

Janice Day took the idea of 'blank space' and used it to her advantage. But she admitted she stole that idea from me.

Rosie Claverton's word cloud was striking. But this layout is perhaps becoming slightly over used - so don't go for this next year!

Liz wrote a little scene in courier font, which worked well.

But so did Andrew James Carter. Who probably did it better, but only because you read it later when you get home. And in fact Andrew was mentioned last year so is rapidly becoming king of the cards!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Images not words

The London Screenwriter's Festival has only just finished. For me, one of the most important times is straight away afterwards. Now. What tips, techniques and lessons have you picked up that you can use immediately?

For me, it was an idea passed on by film historian Paul Cronin from his research into the work of Alexander MacKendrick, including The Ladykillers.

His advice was insanely simple. It was obvious. We all knew it. Yet we all forget it. Cinema is a visual way to tell stories. As such, a non-verbal shot should take precedence over dialogue.

In fact, he showed 3 minutes of the LadyKillers with the sound faded down to demonstrate that the dialogue isn't really needed in order to understand 80-90% of the story and characters. Now that is a great way to measure your script as you do a redraft.

With my own script (Friend Request) that I am currently redrafting I need to get the page count down from about 107 to more like 95. I'm partially funding this script myself so this isn't an empty exercise, cutting this time down will save money.

Already I have found places where whole portions of dialogue can be replaced by looks, by action and by   the use of symbolic props. Fantastic. It's shorter and it's more cinematic.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Writing for a totally new format

A few posts ago I talked about a film being made using a 360 degree camera. This, obviously, presents many production challenges. But does it also present narrative challenges? I asked Tory Mell, the co-producer and writer about his views on this. Here is what he said...

With the 360 degree format, the hardest thing came after I had finished the first draft of the script (which was done in the traditional manor). I then had to go back in and do a complete overhaul of the film with the knowledge that actors were going to be on camera 100% of the time. So even before the director got a hold of it, I had to make sure each actor had something to do because we will never know who (the viewing audience) will be focused on. Sure we had a "Star" of the film, but each character (Six in total) were equally as important because each had a purpose, each had their own demons to deal with, and it had to show at all times. Once we started rolling on the SA 360 there was no stopping until they got through the scene. 

Writing with a 360 degree format in mind is crazy! The best way I am able to describe the experience is, I wrote this as filmed theatre. In film/tv you get multiple takes, but with the SA 360 much like theatre, you get one shot. But what separates it from theatre, is if you flub a line in theatre you press on, if you flub a line on the 360… You're back to one. 

It's a completely fascinating way of writing, and it was truly a fun experience! But I'm glad my brain gets to go back to single/multi camera writing… 360 of writing is taxing on the old Melon. 

You can check out the website: 

Good luck with all of your future projects!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Double video stream - double story

My Cannes friend Nicholas Fogliarini sent through a link to a new kind of online film.

It features a double screen - two interconnected stories - and you can swap between them at any time, with the stories merging every so often. In this film, for the French train company, it is a documentary style and a soap style story that are interconnected. But the range of different stories that could work with this interface is much wider. In fact, I think the interface is very slick and inspiring in the opportunities it could present.

Two characters points of view. A 'Timecode' style story. Or even a factual piece.

Watch it here -

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A brand new writing technique (they don't happen often!)

Hey writing fans. Yes, the title is correct. This is a new idea about writing. I picked it up the other day from communication experts Martin and Martha at Creativity Works.

It came out of research they collected and gathered from various sources that was initially focused on speeches and speechmaking - for example speeches by Winston Churchill and Gordon Brown. What works, what doesn't.

But, as we know, the power of words is the same, if used in the real world for speeches or in dialogue for scripts. So this idea shouldn't be seen as something to only use in big speeches in films, but rather in all dialogue.

It falls into two parts.

ONE - paint simple pictures in the mind's eye

If a character is talking about experiences that have effected them, about memories, about ideas, about thoughts - then abstract is not the way to go. You may think this is obvious, but it isn't always. For some writers the thought process around this issue may go something like, if it is a very specific action I will show it on screen and then if it is a slightly more abstract idea, I will have a character talk about. This research shows that even in the abstract parts, we need personal detail. Hannibal Lector can't talk about the ironic quest for personal freedom, he must talk about eating the liver of a census taker. Sure, you could show the scene, but the power of VISUAL language is stronger.

Perhaps it is because we don't follow this idea that voice overs are hated so much. They are often abstract and up in the air. Not grounded in personal, visual language that connects to us, the audience.

TWO - simpler, earlier language is better for the hero.

If you look at the speeches of Winston Churchill for example he uses the simpler words (which happen to be the old English words) for talking about the British. These are childhood, easy words. Therefore, using these words takes us right back to early experiences - fight, beach, dog.

When he talks about the enemy he uses more complex words. Words like 'mechanised, machinery, invaders'. These are harder words for the brain to process. The brain prefers the 'hero words'.

Some examples may help... Imagine the opening to a movie. A voice over accompanies images from childhood.

A version that was too abstract would be "The range of human emotions is wide. Having pleasant experiences, happy times, in your childhood will enable you to develop into a fully rounded adult"

It is okay. But what it needs is some personal images. Things we can latch onto. It can still be philosophical in nature, but it connect more easily to the audience.

Better visual dialogue would be "When I was a boy I would smile as the sun hit my face and cry as my knee scraped the surface of the rough playground. Without these, without the smile, without the tears, I would not be the man I am today".

Not the best dialogue I know, but you get the idea I hope.

Now, clearly some characters may talk differently to others. But this research shows that the bottom line will impact on the audience more and be more memorable and easier to digest.

It is early days with this idea. But it seems powerful. And simple.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Using the triumvirate of characters - to make some cash

Here's a rising trend with regards to what I'm being commissioned to create. I guess you could call them "fictional character profiles". These were created with Shaune from Chestnut Cow - for MartonHouse.

Crafting these is a good opportunity for writers, offering some interesting non broadcast work - and another good revenue stream.

The 'character profile' above is from a set showing 3 customer types. It is called the Red, Green, Blue model and is a simple way of getting a quick grasp on why you may need to tailor your business pitch to different types of people.

About the 3 characters in this example:
Red people - status driven, time short, have the courage to invest in their personal future.
Green people - detail conscience, like figures, logical, looking for a good deal here and now.
Blue people - these are people people, warm, reminiscence about things they've done with others in the past, big hearts.

The green and blue characters are at the bottom of this post.

Why are writers useful to create these kind of profiles?
These three clips were for training purposes. People watch them to think about how they would change their verbal and written business pitches in order to appeal to each person. The model itself is a bit dry. However, it is a abundant mine for a writer - it needed to be fleshed out. What would a character like that have in their home, what would they wear, how would they speak? Then there is a structure layered on top; what do they think about home, work and the third place? Where is the spirit of their life, in the past, present or future? The normal things we love getting into. Writer's gold.

PLUS - you can bring in elements from other stories that use the same triumvirate of human experience. For example our three characters are like the guys from Oz (courage, brain, heart) or the classic Star Trek combo of Kirk, Spock, McCoy. There's nought new, but as writers at least we know that and can use it.

Why direct too?
Personally, I like directing these videos as it means the visual style can be made to match the content. For example, ensuring the shots reflect the character. Green, for instance, is very head on, formal and logical.

What can we take back from this?
The flow of ideas must be two way of course. You can take some of this thinking into your own pitches for projects. How would you speak to each of these characters if you were seeking their investment in a new film? Do you alter your tone and vocabulary enough?

Budget for all 3 - in the region of £10k.

Blue Character:

Green Character:

Friday, September 09, 2011

Too old for this shit

Name drop alert - you have been warned!

When I was starting out I was editing for David Yates. We were doing a community project together back in Swindon. It was while doing an online edit (3 machine Umatic, edit fans!) that he got the call that his first feature was being shown at Edinburgh. He said that that was about on target for a film career, as he was 35.

Well, I'm 38 now. So either that means I'm not as awesome as David Yates (which can't be true obv) or things have changed. Actually I don't mind so much, every career is different as you can tell by exploring any study of cinema. But I know some people do worry.

When I was in London recently I bumped into Duncan Kenworthy. I told him the story above. He said he didn't make his first feature until he was over 40. So I feel better. For a couple of years at least!

On a more serious note, this age-old question of age does come up at workshops and conferences. The fact that there is no single route into becoming successful as a writer / director / producer / actor should free us up. But only if we let it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Podcast 13: Agents

Along with the regular competition (courtesy of Industrial Scripts) and silly bits this podcast myself and Danny Stack focus on agents.
  • Do you need an agent?
  • What does an agent do for you?
  • How do you approach an agent?
  • Are you ready?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

360 degree film

While the official website of White Room 02B3 gives nothing away, the video above fills in the details.

The guys at Roddenberry Entertainment are moving ahead with a 360 degree narrative film. Obviously your current screen can't show a 360 degree image. But you can either watch it in a special location or on your computer where you move around the scenes with your mouse. An example of how that works is below.

As I'm working on a POV (aka first person) film I know how technical innovations are both exciting but also a challenge. With visual change comes storytelling change too. The cornerstones of good story always remain of course. But what I'm interested in are the small alterations that are needed to make a narrative flow along when using new technology. I'm talking about the level of alteration that is the difference between a play and a film.

This is rarely talked about, but I'll be keeping an eye on this project to see what happens.

In my own project, as just one example, I'm having to remember to work on the pacing extra hard. Because we can't cut away to another character and another scene it means that if the audience needs a quieter scene to contrast a hectic scene I actually have to move my main character to somewhere suitable.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The wisdom of being 6

Amazing to think that this blog is now 6 years old.

Below is one of those lists - the lists that do the blog / twitter / facebook rounds. I would have said the MySpace rounds back in the early days of the blog - but things move on!

Anyway, this is purportedly from a teacher who asked some six year olds to complete some famous sayings. To me, I don't think it really matters if that is true or not, it is still in the spirit of what this blog and Projector Films is all about. That is; taking something and trying to add a twist of the new.

1. Don't change horses......................until they stop running.
2. Strike while the...................................bug is close.
3. It's always darkest before..................Daylight Saving Time.
4. Never underestimate the power of.....................termites.
5. You can lead a horse to water
6. Don't bite the hand that.............................looks dirty.
7. No news is....................................impossible.
8. A miss is as good as a..................................Mr.
9. You can't teach an old dog new....................math.
10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll............stink in the morning.
11. Love all,
12. The pen is mightier than the..........................pigs.
13. An idle mind is...........................the best way to relax.
14. Where there's smoke there's............................pollution.
15. Happy the bride who........................gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is.......................................not much.
17. Two's company, three's.............................the Musketeers.
18. Don't put off till tomorrow put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as.........................Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not..............spanked or grounded.
22. If at first you don't succeed..................get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you.......see in the picture on the box.
24. When the blind lead the blind.................get out of the way.
25. Better late than........................................pregnant.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Podcast: Episode 12 - writer's block

In this episode myself and Danny discuss:

  • It is a one year anniversary for the podcast. What are the 3 big lessons?
  • Competition Time - courtesy of Industrial Scripts. Win a place on a course.
  • Writer's Block - is it real? If it is, what do you do about it?
  • Script Checklist - what to do before you send out the first draft
  • Contact Us - ukscriptwriters at

Thursday, July 28, 2011

9 Ideas book - a bit off topic, but still cool.

See the full size book at

I was asked recently to write a book for business leaders, based upon some the ideas I've developed here (Gravity for example) as well as some of the ideas developed by the guys at Marton House.

This is the result. It is a highly concentrated mini book that contains 9 ideas that leaders / managers can start using straight away - in any industry sector. It is short and punchy as it tends to be the case that these readers don't like longer, text based, material.

Check it out if you like - or send the link to anyone who you think would like it. It is suitable for beginners or old hands.

For me, this shows that our skill, as generators of ideas, carries real worth in the wider world.

You can download a pdf from

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Twitter Movie - advice if you want to do it.

Recently, I helped out, in a minor advising kind of way, on a new idea - a twitter movie. That is, a story told by twitter, including images and video. Told over several weeks it has now finished its run. If you missed it, but are interested, you can find out more at or re-read the tweets here.

I think it came out well. Strangely for me perhaps I feel I almost preferred the text parts to the video parts. But have a quick look and see what you think.

With using new conduits for narratives there is always a lot to learn. That is the fun part, but also the frustrating part. Just when you think you have got the hang of using the new approach, the project has finished. So I asked the storyteller behind the project, Kristi Barnett, about her experiences so we could all learn from them.

How did you find the interactive element of the story? Did people get involved? Or were they passive?

It was great.  I chose to make the interactivity simply people’s reactions to her tweets and their replies to her on twitter (and Facebook).  I used my phone to reply back because I was normally away from my PC when the story was rolling out.  I had females and males interacting and replying to her and loving the story. They were really getting into it and I could definitely see she had a core group of fans.  What was interesting was that even when people knew she was a character and this was a story, they would still interact and try to warn her or ask her how she was feeling.  I loved that people were “playing” along with it.  You can see some of the reactions to the story and her character here.  I also got the sense that people did want to have a say in what Karen did and how she reacted, so it would’ve been nice if I’d had more money and time to give them a chance to dictate the story more. I wanted to shoot alternative scenes with the actors and alternative endings.  Then guide the audience into choosing what Karen and Darren should do via the tweets.  Then based on the majority I would choose a scene.  Like one of those “Pick a Path” books.  I also thought about running another Twitter account from the perspective of Darren or even the Other Darren at the same time.  My God, I don’t want to think how I would’ve made that happen, lol.  Maybe someone else can have a go in their own project.  Also interestingly but not surprisingly, her twitter audience was much more reactive and responsive than the people reading on Facebook.  I could see Facebook was reading them because people were hitting “like” on some tweets but the amount of comments was very minor compared to the way people reacted on twitter.  But that’s why I think twitter is a great way to release a story with a character because of its dynamic nature; its immediacy and reactivity and the proactive sensibility of the twitter users. Facebook is quite static in that sense but that’s mainly because of Facebook’s tendency to siphon out news and information from your friends.  Basically, you won’t see everything a friend posts on their wall because there’s a setting in Facebook that stops that from happening and not everyone knows how to turn it off.  I knew that but I feel that each transmedia project should try and incorporate every platform in the hope it will reach an audience.

How did you find it, as a writer, having to react to that interactivity?

I was excited when people started replying to Karen, especially when they said the videos creeped them out.  It would’ve been a challenge to respond to people’s replies if I didn’t have my HTC phone on me all the time.  In my breaks at work I would check her replies and reply back, but I did it in very generic ways so as not to give too much of the plot away.  It was a small challenge to answer people’s questions especially when they wanted to know more which would’ve involved me releasing some of the plot to that individual. But I got around it by saying things like; “I don’t want to talk about it just yet, it’s embarrassing for me”. I felt an obligation to reply to everyone who responded because I thought that audience member would leave the story if I didn’t interact with them, but that just wasn’t possible unfortunately; unless I spent the 3 weeks tucked away with my phone and pc like a sad writer type ;)  There were moments when I realised I’d created a plot hole for myself in that I didn’t take into account how people would react.  For e.g. A video was tweeted while she was “asleep” by Darren who was acting very strange.  I naively thought no one would say anything to her, that they’d just watch it and wait.  But when she “woke up” a few hours later, people had tweeted to her asking if she saw that video and she should check out what Darren did.  (In the script she was supposed to discover the video had been tweeted herself later on). I couldn’t ignore those reactions because people would start thinking Karen is really stupid.  So I had to quickly think of how to respond in a realistic way without jeopardising the plot. Based on that I had to change the way she discovered Video 22 which was meant to have been tweeted by the Other Darren, but I knew then that people would tell Karen, so I didn’t let the audience discover that one until Karen did, in other words it was not tweeted it was just left on Darren’s phone for her to find and tweet herself. I think there was also a few cheeky audience members who were trying to catch me out plot wise by stating things that Karen should’ve been thinking about or by remarking on an aspect of her career; (she’s a museum assistant who has studied archaeology and world history). I was just asking for trouble on that one lol. Once again, keeping my replies as generic as possible helped.

How important was the film / movie aspect. It seems to me that some of the most powerful elements were in the twitter text?

I think they were equally as important as transmedia should be visual as well as literary. The story was always meant to be a piece of my writing that you engage with via the tweets.  There’s no way you could really understand truly what was going on or what the characters faults and issues were without reading the twitter text in between the videos.  That was a risky thing for me to do because I had no way of knowing who would be bothered to scroll back or go to her landing page to catch up on the actual tweets.  This was as much an experiment for me as anything else so I just tried my best to provide as many platforms as possible for people to be able to read those tweets; Facebook, YouTube web links back to twitter and an archive site:   I knew that some people would just be catching some of the tweets but hopefully I wrote the script in such a way that she kept back referencing a lot of things so information was constantly being rehashed; like the Metal Detector Nerds element; I kept tweeting what she was doing, what MDN’s stood for etc.  I hoped it would seem like a soap in that you could kind of understand what was happening without too much effort. But at this stage I have no way of gauging if people really did read all the tweets or went back or not.  So yes, for this particular format of a live twitter character, she had to tell her story via the tweets.  But the thing that made it really different and very interesting as a piece of marketing and as something that had not been done before, was not only the live 3 weeks that it happened, but the media she used to supplement the story.  There’s no way this would be as interesting to the audience if she didn’t have videos and photos etc as well.  Those videos were absolutely essential to convey the creepiness and the surreal situation Karen was in.  I don’t think I could’ve have got that just via text.  It is a type of horror after all, so although horror can of course be conveyed via prose, because she was a real person using twitter for her emotional support, she chose to use tweets.  The tweets themselves definitely portrayed a sense of impending doom and tension but the videos were the bits that (hopefully) scared the audience.

What is you one piece of advice for someone else who is thinking of doing something similar?

Really study how the platform you’re intending to release the story works.  I studied a lot of phone twitter apps to see how they show the media within the phone because I wanted things to be as direct as possible without any navigation away from whatever twitter client they were using. So some twitter phone apps weren’t loading the photos quickly or just providing links (which is not good in my opinion).  You want to use a video client that most platforms have inbuilt players for on mobiles and on the web. So at this moment YouTube is the most popular.  Then test how the websites and their software works before you start.  Make test accounts and send the tweets to see if they automatically go to other platforms like Facebook so you don’t have to manually repost your story elsewhere.  Always have a landing page with your story where people can see the whole media if they don’t or can’t view it on the other platforms. Then expect all of that hard work, testing and studying the software and websites to go down the drain when they invariably fail at some point.  (I was constantly uninstalling and reinstalling apps and authorising Karen’s account because they’d just stop performing).  Also as a side note for your actual “story time”; YouTube shows upload dates not public dates, so if you upload your videos prior to story release and then make each video public later on, the date it was uploaded is shown.
If you can get as many people on your team as possible to handle certain aspects then do so to ease the pressure and let you concentrate on the fun of the story as it’s coming out. Also, publicity is the key with transmedia, because it’s not as in your face as movies and there’s so much content online; really hone in on a niche that you think your story will appeal to and start contacting blogs and online websites to tell them that you have a story in line with what they’re interested in.  So I went for horror as that’s very popular and horror fans just love being scared in any capacity, (and I love horror); then I contacted horror websites etc.  If there’s something really unique about what you’re doing, then contact your local newspapers and let them know; this may lead onto bigger news agencies picking up on it. And try and make a trailer of some kind using your media.  This will encapsulate in a very visual and real way what you’re doing and I say real because people take you more seriously when they see you’re not just talking the talk; that you actually did make something!
As I mentioned Twitter is a great writer’s medium – more so than any other social networking site just because we are always writing our tweets.  And we tend to add a bit of flourish to the tweets so whether intentional or not we are being creative on Twitter.  I wanted to incorporate the multimedia aspect by using the video and photo uploading features as well as ability to post links.  I think if you can find something to write about on Twitter that will capture people’s imagination then people will follow – even if it’s just a blog or diary.  Why not make a documentary-style blog using Twitter?  “Diarize” what’s happening to your character and post videos as well.  Can you imagine Borat being a Twitter character first of all?  I can.  These are some of the ways that Twitter can work creatively.  If you want to market and promote a 60min story that is just one video and you’re bypassing distributers to get your audience, you can do that too. It does take a lot of promotional work but as I said to the BBC, there is an audience online waiting to be entertained so why not use it.

The youtube page is -

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

7 Uses of video in the corporate world

Most companies use video for some part of their business; whether for training or promotional reasons. But in my professional life I have seen many companies use only a single style of video over and over.

For example, they were only creating polished motion graphics as a sales tool, instead of supplementing it with some testimonial style videos. This video shows them some other ideas to help kick off some conversations and future projects.

If you also work in the corporate field you may find this video useful too. I shows 7 different styles that I've done over the past couple of years. Which would work for your clients?

Feel free to share etc.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Writing doco

Watch more free documentaries

If you are feeling the need for a bit of solidarity with other writers working on their spec scripts then maybe check of this feature documentary.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

A limp and an eye patch

I don't quote many of the screenwriting books on here. The reason is two fold. One, you probably have read all those anyway. And two, a blog should be more about a personal journey and new ideas.

So in that good old-fashioned screenwriting traditional of breaking your old rules this post is about Blake Snyder's idea that he calls "A Limp and an Eye Patch".

This involves making sure all your characters have a way of speaking, a way of moving, a weird view of the world - anything - that makes them stand out from other characters. You know why that matters if you ever read a script and had to keep flicking back and forth through the pages because although you read that "Frank" now does something, you can't remember who Frank is because he sounds and acts like everyone else.

The reason for thinking about this technique is that some of my notes from the development day on Friend Request were that some characters are more magnetic and appealing than others. All of them do the right things, say good dialogue and have a bit of emotional depth etc. But some are just more memorable, they are interesting to read about, they simply have more of a... character!

The others need to be brought up to that level. They need that limp and an eye patch, a character hook you may call it.

BUT, how do you know if this technique is working. After all, you don't want a script populated by a bunch of weirdo freaks who talk funny for no reason. I link this back to a clip from Mr Plinkett; the Han Solo / Qui-Gon Jinn test. He does a test. Can you sum up the character quickly, without talking about their appearance, job or actions? Or not?

Han Solo you can. Qui-Gon Jinn, not really.

Using the Limp and Eye Patch, checked by the Han Solo / Qui-Gon Jinn test seems to work for me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Podcast 11: Budgets and Creativity

In this episode myself and Danny go through the mail bag and answer 3 questions. Don't forget you can mail us questions at and find us on twitter @ukscriptwriters

  • Check out using for your script competitions entries
  • Liquid Lunch
  • Hosting a script development day
  • Mail bag question 1: using real plays and real people featured in your script
  • Mail bag question 2: should you write to a budget?
  • Mail bag question 3: writing a pilot; the two ways
  • Reviews - a round up of the slick TV genre including the Shadow Line and Luther.
  • Competition Time - thanks to Industrial Scripts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

This film is so bad even my granny could do better, and she is dead.

Danny Stack recently pointed me towards the The Plinkett Reviews. I loved them, so I'm sharing them with you!

They are a set of satirical reviews from the downbeat and disturbed fictional character, Mr Plinkett. He outlines how painful he finds it to watch films such as Star Wars Episode 1 or Star Trek Generations.

Now, you may be thinking this is some sort of geek off. But it is much more than that. Way more.

Mr P outlines why some films fail to engage at an emotional level with the audience while other keep us hooked. In some ways, these are masterclasses in character, plot and story. They may be from a 'how not to do it' perspective but they ten times more entertaining than a McKee lecture.

Check out the Phantom Menace reviews below to see if you agree. They are long. But actually more entertaining than the film itself.

If you are undecided here are just three points from the many he raises;
1 - this film has no central hero so the journey feels confused
2 - the characters perform actions well enough but we never know their rationale or opinion on anything so they end up just 'doing stuff'
3 - a film about trade routes and tax will probably be a bit dull for kids.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beckinfield too left field?

Nick Clark shared this unusual project he came across. A kind of open source drama - that looks well set up and organised.

I can see the appeal as a new form of story telling. However, even as a fan of more unusual stories, this doesn't engage with me or appeal too much. I guess the reason for that, is that I would have concerns that the story would have a satisfying conclusion that feels neat.

This, I feel, is the greatest challenge of any evolving story. Will it come together, or drift apart

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Development Day

One valid (and under-used) method of developing your script is to have a development day. That is a full day of exploring all elements of the story and characters. I wanted to try this idea for myself and so got together a "team of awesomeness" to help me do just that. This group method appealed to me as it works at a radically different emotional pace to writing.

Scriptwriting is detailed, slow and methodical. A development day is lively, energetic and a social affair. Using both can only help your script. Or so I thought.

So what did I learn from actually trying this method?

One: Get Prepared. Make sure everyone has read the script beforehand. But they don't need to make a lot of notes before they come. The idea is to discuss things 'live'!

Two: Select a good mix of people. These need to be people who you feel understand the genre or themes and whose opinion you respect. You need to trust them. But also they must feel okay about challenging your work. I had Danny Stack and Sarah Olley as good development people, Chris Hill to bring some new ideas, and recent graduate Johnny Griffith as a kind of wild card. Loui Foster was there also, which brings me onto...

Three: Someone needs to take notes. A lot of elements will be debated over the course of a working day. Work out a way to capture all those gems. In our case it was good, old-fashioned note taking by Loui, who is a student scriptwriter. But you could also audio record the session or video it. But don't attempt to take notes yourself. It is too much to make notes and follow rule 4!

Four: Be open. You have the right people that you have chosen and you have a script worth discussing. So make sure you listen. I felt we struck a good balance. The team would challenge elements in the script. I would outline why things in the script were like they were. Sometimes they would take this on board. Other times it became clear that I didn't actually know the answer to the questions. This was obvious to me while I was actually replying. So I couldn't even defend the decisions at that point. For me personally, it was around the motivations of the central character combined with the premise.

Five: Because you must have some experience in knowing your own writing style, strengths and weaknesses I would say the development day technique is not suitable for total beginners, who would instead benefit from one-on-one mentoring or script reports.

Six: Don't be rigid in the structure of your day. Some loose themes that will hold the day together is enough. After all, you want the readers to bring the agenda with them. For example, we used about 70% of our time on talking about those issues around the main character and their motivations. This wasn't what I was expecting, but it was clearly what everyone else had focused on.

I'd say it totally was. I have much more than a great set of notes to move forward with. I have a deeper understanding of what my audience has in their mind as they follow the story - and what questions are left in their minds that they feel are unanswered. Plus, I've been able to challenge those thoughts to ensure I really know the heart of the issue. If I had got the same feedback via script notes I could easily dismiss some of the points with "Yes, that is there already". On the development day I'm not let off the hook that easily.

So it helps you dig deeper on issues you want help with AND brings issues to light that you didn't know about - with a chance to explore every angle on a solution, not just the problem. All in a day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A new way of doing script development

For the next phase of development on my spec script Friend Request - I'm trying something new, well, new to me.

It is a development day.

The 'normal' way that most scripts are developed is that first, you write a draft (sitting on your own). Then send it to people for feedback. Wait. Get feedback, which contradicts one another mostly. Then try to write the next draft (sitting on your own again).

For me, it seems slow and not very much like fun. Fun isn't critical of course, but it is, well, fun :)

A development day uses all the same people as the slow way but gets them all in a room to kick the ideas about live. That way two things can happen. Firstly, if there are disagreements they can be discussed and a decision of the script made once and for all, done and dusted. Secondly, as people talk about ideas it always generates more thoughts in the "now you've said that, I makes it think this could be better" way. And there is a third benefit too, it sounds like more fun.

Whether it works or not - watch this space. But the goal is, to have one awesome day and have a really solid, decided, concrete notes for the next draft.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cannes Vodcasts

Here are some vodcasts I created (with the help of Suki Singh - check out his cool new showreel too) while in Cannes this year.

They cover; what to take, how to keep up with the biz, how to get your short film into the short film corner (SFC) and how to make it stand out, how to navigate the Cannes Market (the Marche du Film) and how the market differs from the festival.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Podcast 10: Web Series

In this month's podcast, myself and Danny Stack discuss...

  • A listener's question - does the '1 page per minute' rule always apply?
  • A listener's question - when you have a great short film should you go the film festival route or just get it online?
  • Cannes reflections - what did I learn from going this year?
  • Making a web series - what is our route to success? Danny talks about Liquid Lunch - more on his blog posts recently. I talk Mr Vista. And we are encouraged to find out what creepy things are happening to Karen Barley?
  • Reviews - the TV series, The Good Wife

Competition time - win Star Wars scripts and a place on a top course.

As ever, thanks to Moviescope for sponsoring the bandwidth. And thanks to for the prizes. Sign up to their newsletter to hear about the other cool things they have coming up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reflections on Cannes 2011

In my last podcast with Danny Stack I talked about the two sides of Cannes; the festival and the market.

My time in Cannes is spent mostly in the market, meeting people and talking about possible projects. With about 25 meetings in 5 days I rarely get to see as many festival films as I would like, if any!

Here are my three specific thoughts on the film business following my visit to Cannes.

One: Comedy is in demand. 
There were the normal thrillers seeking distribution of course. But the people I spoke to were on the look out for really good comedy. Funny isn't easy of course. However, the demand is there, according to the completely random business people I spoke to, so time to push that comedy script.

Two: Remember your offline work.
Using online methods to spread the word and gain attention for your film is great. But don't forget the old 'real world' methods too. Only a few years ago you would see people in Cannes dressing up, doing gimmicks, handing out fliers - anything to draw people in. This year, I didn't see anyone. So the time is ripe to bring this kind of showmanship back. After all, it will easy to stand out if with no competition.

Three: Tax changes - but does it matter?
You don't need to know the details, and certainly I can't cover the new rules here, but recent changes to the EIS scheme mean this is a good time for private investors to put their money into film. Because the investment is written off against tax it means that even if the film is a total flop then the investor doesn't lose all their money, only the part after income tax.
However, sometimes this isn't always the great news it seems. Some investors will be offshore and so this benefit probably won't apply. However, as one producer said to me "Even with no tax help at all, the most anyone can lose is all their investment. The most they can gain is infinite"

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Why people will invest in your film.

This blog post is about crowd sourcing. Which, in the past, was called "having a whip round". There are a lot of producers trying to raise money in this way for their films, but I see two trends that are working above all others. Below are just two examples from the many out there.

With each example I have tried to outline what the investor gets back - at an emotional level. All films offer things such as "a signed copy if you invest $50". But the real, emotional, reason to invest is often different.

Type One: Super gloss for nerds

These films tend to be about the showmanship of cinema, they give you a chance to fund a spectacle. This taps into two emotions. The first is the 'being part of something bigger' feeling. This is the same emotional need that made rich patrons invest in large gladiator fights in Rome. You want to be part of something you could never do yourself.

The second feeling is harder to define. I can only call it 'a boasting of knowledge'. This is because you can follow the development of the film. Show it to people. And then tell them lots of details about it only you know. It is like the ultimate collectors edition. In a word, you can show off.

I think Linh Mai has done the right thing with his trailer for The Last Cause in not really focusing on the story and / or calibre of acting. Neither of the two emotions I mentioned above are gained from the story. It just has to look super cool.

Perhaps one thing missing for people who want to be part of something bigger and / or who like to get into the detail early is any pay off if and when the feature happens.

Type Two: A cause

These films aren't asking you to invest in a film, so much as you are being asked to invest in a cause. They are about an issue, a philosophy or approach to life.

Georgia's film is about Alopecia. As such, the people who invest are more likely to be investing out of an interest in the disease, rather than an interest in documentary films in general.

Here the emotional reason for investing is clear - it is about doing something. It is about getting a film out there on an issue, when perhaps there seems little else pro-active that can be done.

Your film...
Whatever approach your film takes, I think it is wise to consider the emotional reasons why people would invest. What are the deep reasons why they would help you to make your film? Are you giving them the right things back to meet those emotional needs?

Are you giving the investors access to bragging rights, to cool stuff?
Or are you giving them a feeling of moving forward in a cause?

This is what they have really invested in. The film is just the method.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Podcast 9: Going to Cannes

This month of the podcast, myself and Danny Stack discuss...

  • News on BBC Writers Academy
  • How do get yourself established?
  • Is it worth going to Cannes?
  • Review of Dr Who
  • Tim goes along a Picasso tangent looking at Las Meninas.
  • Competition time - win goodies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adventures in producing

I was at a great workshop recently with Ted Hope and Christine Vachon.

These are two legendary American producers. Between them they have produced well over 100 films. Some of the most exciting and relevant films of the past 20 years.

There was loads of great advice.

But for me, the one thing I'd take away was something Ted said. This was an idea to make sure projects were always moving forward and didn't end up in development hell or worse still, in the bottom of a script pile.

It was to "make sure your film feels inevitable"

Make sure it appears like a dead cert, like a project that is happening, like one that is a real goer, not one that will fade away. This builds an emotion of people wanting to get on board. Or perhaps a fear of missing out. Either way, it stops the 'wait and see approach'

Good advice. And not just for films too.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Making your effort visible

I took part in a corporate event this week, with guest speaker Gary Rhodes. Now Gary didn't rate my chocolates. But I will let him off because he did tell a story about that night's dinner from which I learnt an important lesson.

Showing the effort behind your work enhances it, rather than diminishing it.

If you are like me you sometimes think that it is better to keep quiet about the working process. To suddenly reveal a finished masterpiece as if to say 'look at what I did with no effort'. 

Gary however talks through his menu, highlighting the steps involved. Painting vivid pictures of every ingredient, articulating the various cooking methods. And, you know what, it made it taste better. Or at least made you think it tasted better. Which is the point.

By talking about this process it made us all appreciate it more. I am aware this advice flies in the face of convention. But I feel there is something to it.

So be proud of your drafts. Be proud of your changes and rewrites. Be proud of your inspirations. And share them.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Just get on with it

At the recent Southern Scriptwriters Festival myself and Danny did a talk on Writing for Online.

This caused a slight worry for us - as there isn't really much to say about the actual writing of online material. All the classic elements of writing remain the same. Just focus a bit more on high concept ideas and keeping it short. If you were already a comedy sketch writer for TV and were going to move across into online then the differences would be minimal. The only major difference I could think of was that the character and concept is much more important than any single film.

But what does change, when you are a writer, is something else. It isn't the script. Instead it is your role as a writer. Because the ideas are more high concept generally, it means that technical prowess and acting skills can be reduced. Now you can get more involved with the shooting and the realisation of your stories rather than handing the script over to a large crew. It is totally proactive.

To demonstrate how that can be true we knocked out a quick viral short in the lecture itself. It is, "If Cracker taught scriptwriting". The opening scene to Cracker is often used in writing lectures, so Danny felt it was ripe for a bit of satire. You can see the original scene here.

It is not a great viral. It took 10 minutes. I borrowed a jacket of Dan Pringle. It was shot on DV. Edited in 30 minutes. But it is out there and not on a page. That's the main thing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Circumference; the documentary

A few long-time blog readers will remember a feature proposal of mine called Circumference. It was a narrative film, where the protagonist was a salesman. The interesting new business model that went with it was that as the main character he would step out of the story and perform some adverts.

I liked the transparency of this idea, and the humour within it.

I see that Morgan Spurlock had the same idea, but for his new documentary called The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. I can't wait to see how his adventure compared to mine.

With Circumference we said that as the advertisers had already paid for the film then you, as the audience, shouldn't have to! I wonder if Morgan will do likewise?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

POV quick test

As you may have noticed over the past, I always strive to try new ways of working as much as possible. 'Try' as opposed to 'think about'.

When my action-orientated friend James lent me his GoPro camera I was thinking of making a 'proper' short film with it. But that takes a lot of planning and time. Instead, I just got out there and improvised something.

My thinking was, "Let's explore what the big issues are quickly and cheaply, before spending any money".

I think a lot of other film makers could do the same. 80% of the questions can be answered with only 20% of the time. This then frees you up to make sure the next stage is much more targeted.

For example, I think this particular camera just isn't up to the job of drama at all and I will be exploring the 'DSLR on the head' method next.

Monday, March 14, 2011

POV / first person films

I've been exploring the idea of rewriting Friend Request as a first person story. In other words, we see the story from the protagonist's point of view (POV). More of the definition of this, here.

There have been a few films shot in this manner. Recently, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly did it - and I remember as a young lad being inspired by the opening to Dr Jekyll. Fellow film fans have also pointed me in the direction of Lady in the Lake from 1942.

None of these however seemed to capture the mood I was after. Plus, they left questions in my mind about how far the technique can go, especially around using modern equipment, post techniques and visual language.

How do you compress time when you can't cut away? How much can the audience take? Can you move about it time?

A search online found the rather excellent - Last Day Dream.

Last Day Dream from Chris Milk.

So, as this super-short shows, jumping around in time is obviously not a problem, provided you add temporal context. I emailed the director, Chris Milk, for his opinion on the POV technique now he has done it. In his reply he wondered if the technique has more to give or if it is a quick gimmick. But he did point me towards another great example, a longer music video...

Cinnamon Chasers - Luv Deluxe (Music Video) from Saman Keshavarz.

So it seems that more complex ideas of moving around in time will work, again with strong visual signposts to act as hooks.

What was also strange about seeing that film (which was sent by pure chance by Chris Milk) was that I knew the girl in it.

Darcy did some artwork for some of my films proposals a few years back as she is an art student who admired the Circumference trailer. This is one of hers...

I'm not a believer in fate. But I am a believer that if your talented friends are also interested in something - then there must be something in it.

More on POV as this work progresses. Particularly around how I find the rewriting process for this style of story, plus why I feel it will work for this film.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big Society, Short Films

Recently, while looking at the BAFTA shorts, I was reflecting on the perceived prevalence of 'worthy films' in the short film arena.

These are films that feature a social issue, normally one that isn't very contentious or in need of further debate (e.g. human rights, who is going to argue against them!!!). Whether there is an abundance of these kinds of short films being produced, or whether they really do get selected for awards more readily than other films is hard to actually tell. But if you speak to a lot of short film festival goers they seem to feel so.

So I was extra pleased to see the above film. It is by a few people I know and features Jonathan Rhodes - aka Mr Vista.

Obviously, as they are film making friends, I was ready and willing to hate their film and deride their efforts so as to make myself feel better. Unfortunately for me - it is a great film. It is a kind of antidote to those worthy short films. Yes, it tackles a social issue. But it is a social issue that actually needs debate. Yes, it has a heart. But it shows it off in an entertaining manner that provokes and forces internal questions.

So my one bit of job news is... at least they have no chance of winning any awards. The poor fools have made a film that is too good!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I was pointed towards a new webtool that is on line now. It is called SlickFlick and it helps you create an interactive storyboard for sharing with others. It could be a great way of making your existing storyboard material come to life.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The opposite of Ye Olde Scriptwriter's Code

William Shatner disagrees with the code / oath idea and instead decides to focus on the all the things that he is against!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ye Olde Scriptwriter's Code

pirate code
The Pirate Code
I was asked to look into the Pirate Code for a forthcoming corporate gig. The thinking behind this idea is "even the lawless pirates had a code of behaviour that meant they had a set of rules, so what's yours?"

Now, it's just a bit of fun in order to make a point and to make people think about what they stand for. For instance, as you won't be able to see on the little image above unless you click to embiggen, number 9 is "No man to talk of breaking up their way of living, till each had shared one thousand pounds. If in order to this, any man should lose a limb, or become a cripple in their service, he was to have eight hundred dollars, out of the public stock."

This really was a spirit of "all in it together", plus they had health insurance! Perhaps a better known code is the hippocratic oath. This is the living and evolving set of philospohies for doctors. Doctors no longer automatically take the oath but here is a version that is used at one college in the U.S.

Hippocratic Oath
You get the idea. This isn't about a set of targets or a set of standards as the NHS would use the term. It isn't about activity and what you do day to day, as in the Scriptwriter's Life. It is deeper than that.

What would be the scriptwriter's code then? What is it that we believe beneath all else?

I'll end with a clip that William Gallagher sent me, illustrating the pirate code!