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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.