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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Podcast 8: Practical Advice

In the new podcast myself and Danny Stack discuss:

  • Dear Podcast - two emails from listeners; one on Gnomeo and Juliet, the other on "do you need to do research, if so, what kind?" This second question was inspired by the technical details within The Social Network.
  • Joss Whedon's 10 rules, part 1. Discussing rules 1-5.
  • Reviews - online drama Persona and the game trailer for Dead Island.
  • Competition - an easy question, with faintly racist overtones!

Here is the trailer we discussed...

Plus one about Limbo.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You don't know all the names of the BAFTA nominated writers this year.


You don't know all the names of the BAFTA nominated writers this year. And maybe you never will.

The reason for that is, that some of the people in the "Best Story" category are not listed. See if you can spot what I mean...


Alan Wake
Development Team
Microsoft Games Studios/Remedy
BioShock 2
Jordan Thomas, Zak McClendon
2K Games/2K Marin
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Adam Rosas, Scott Bean, Dom Drozdz
Activision Blizzard UK Ltd/Treyarch
Fallout: New Vegas
John Gonzalez, Eric Fenstermaker, Travis Stout
Bethesda Softworks/Obsidian Entertainment
Heavy Rain
David Cage, Guillaume de Fondaumiere, Scott Johnson
Sony Computer Entertainment/Quantic Dream & XDev Studio Europe
Mass Effect 2
Development Team
Electronic Arts/BioWare

So Mass Effect 2 and Alan Wake were, it seems, written by everybody. There are two ways to think about this. Firstly, that yes, it is true, everyone does kind of steer the story. That is true in films and TV. But someone is usually in charge of the story. You may as well give that person or that team a shout out.

The second way of thinking may be slightly more of a challenge to us if we are writers from film and TV.

That second way is to take on more of an ensemble feel to your projects. I am very rarely the exclusive writer on a project and very rarely do I focus only the writing part of the creative project. I do other things and other people help me.

In many ways is it not better to say that "we all made it" rather than trying to put certain names into boxes that don't quite fit?

Also good to see Fallout: New Vegas on the list too - and now I know the names of 3 people to complain to about not writing enough lines for Veronica*!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's the last ever Mr Vista. Here's a recap on the stats:

  • 30 Episodes
  • A couple of clip episodes
  • 1 episode that we shot that didn't work at all in the edit.
  • About 2 million views according to the stats.
  • I'd estimate that that is in fact only about 1 million 'real' views of people actually watching it.
  • Core fans (who actually email and comment more than once) is about 50.
And the key news is that the project did kind of break even overall. This is only if you count me not taking any money. Any future income will therefore be shared with all those involved. 

It was shot in HD to give it future-proofing. Storage space needed for the whole thing is 250Gb - which is worth mentioning as storage is a start up cost.

I was made to reflect upon the whole web series ideas as there are a few interesting ones kicking off now. Just a quick round up:
  • There is Persona starting this week (paid subscription model)
  • Some local chums have their comedy MugBop coming soon.
  • I've also been asked for advice on a twitter series that is in development.
  • And I know of two other web series that people are working on soon - but aren't public yet.
So it seems like a good time to reflect back on the big question; is it worth it?

The short answer is; what does 'worth' mean? Which I say not to be glib. But rather to say that you need to be clear on the reasons why you should invest time and effort in a web series.

If it is cashflow then it is probably not worth it. Income sources include licensing of the films via mDistribute and ad revenue from YouTube etc - if you can become an official partner. Becoming an official partner is really just a case of having enough subscribers and views. You do hear of people having break out hits that earn a lot of money. These I still see as exceptions rather than the rule. You can't rely on this at all and should take it out of your business model.

If you want views and people to see your work - then yes, it can be done. But you need to work on it. If, indeed, this is your primary motivation then you should be spending more time on online publicity, twittering, creating fun downloads and other techniques to drive online traffic to your site than on the films themselves. Obviously the films are important. But good films by themselves aren't enough always. So be prepared to spend more time away from the films than on them! I found the spin off activities from Mr Vista (downloads, graphics, special MSN emoticons) were very popular.

If you want to learn and have fun - then you probably have the best outlook. Making something and getting it out there beats sitting around waiting for something to happen. And all you have to lose is your time and sanity. Awesome.

If you want to do a series as a pilot for TV or to get an agent then this is more tricky. It is hard to know if that will work. And certainly I feel focusing on getting the viewing figures up will be key. Without that it is just another youtube clip. It also needs to have room for growth. For example could Mr Vista be a half hour TV show or not?

Overall there are 3 trends that seem to make the series be successful:
One: Keep the premise very simple so people pick it up instantly.
Two: Have your series follow a philosophy, way of looking at the world, a certain structure, joke style or maybe a unique visual treatment. This way people can say "Hey, its in the style of..." 
Three: Do loads. 30 short episodes are better than 10 longer ones. Heck, it is probably even better than 10 better ones. It gives the audience more chances to get in on the series.

Lastly, if I had my time over again I would probably have invested some money into Google Ads and actually been pro-active in that manner of drawing an audience in. It really is a numbers game.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Podcast 7: Building a Career

It can be hard to give the podcasts their titles as they tend to be a bit organic in nature and also bind together a few different themes. In this month for instance myself and Danny Stack look at building up your career. In detail, that splits down into:
  • BAFTA nominations - and how they affect us - following up my recent BAFTA short film posts about what it takes to get nominated and what is the competition like.
  • When should you give up writing? Rejection is one thing. But are you flogging a dead horse?
  • Chris Ware - the comic book guy is finally reviewed. His influence on my work.
  • Being Human v True Blood. Danny does a comparison.
  • Competition Time - thanks to the guys at MovieScope mag for sponsoring.
Also, if you check out this month's MovieScope then you can read an article based upon my recent discussions around writing for computer games. If this is your thing then check it out.

If you have ideas or issues you want to see discussed, get in touch.

I mentioned in the podcast that it can be best to listen via iTunes. Here is the link.