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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.