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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

British films - sigh

I really enjoyed this satirical trailer by Kevin Curtis.

It really took off online, in a viral way, amongst the people I know. Of course, the people I know are onboard with the message, they are all film makers trying to do different things so Kevin's 'trailer' fell on friendly ears.

It reminded me of my own, less successful, cheeky piece of satire. I sent in a proposal called "The Greatest Short Film Ever Made" to the UK Film Council, as it was then. It was a story featuring every short film cliche. Unsurprisingly they didn't fund it. But man did I laugh writing it! I only wish I could have pitched it in person.

I emailed Kevin as I enjoyed his trailer (I hope you do the same when you see things you like - you should) and he is indeed preparing for a feature - so let's hope he can deliver something fresh with it. All his work so far is self funded, which I admire and shows you can dig deep and make things.

On the topic of the subject of his original satire - I think audiences do have in their mind what a British film means. But I also think they like these conventions to be broken. You could say Britain could never have a 'superhero' film for example, that it isn't a British genre. But I think V for Vendetta could have been one, Misfits is a TV one and Chronicle (although I haven't seen it) strikes me as something that could have worked here. So we do put ourselves in too narrow a bracket sometimes.

British Film should be an approach and a sensibility - not a genre.

The opening monologue from "The Greatest Short Film Ever Made" 

Young Jimmy Sprocket lives in a council estate, which these days is now called social housing. It could be North London. But it isn’t. It’s in Bournemouth. This, dear viewers, is due to complex funding considerations that we shouldn’t go into here. Jimmy’s mum, bless her, is a cleaner at the local school. One day her mop, which is symbolically linked to her dignity got mistaken for a piece of art. But that’s for another day. And his dad is a quite attractive transvestite recently returned from a tour of Iraq – but he ran away with the mute black dude who worked in a laundrette in the hope of getting whiter. Jimmy treasures his dad’s gold nose ring. But his dad left him just one other item. In a bottle, green of course so it shows up nicely on camera, under the stairs, sits an idea – it is, quite simply, the greatest idea for a short film that has ever been thought of.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writing with no words

In the recent podcast I talked about visual language, in relation to The Artist. I really liked this new silent film for two reasons. Firstly, because of the boldness of attempting such a thing. Secondly, because they do it so well. It isn't a gimmick, it has some wonderful shots and ideas in it. So I'm pleased it is doing well - at least with film fans!

I'm drawn to the era too and it has inspired my own work, such as 10 Seconds which is at the bottom of this post, or Mr Vista. Both of these projects have sound, but they are very much based on a Buster Keaton character and have the simple visual shots.

I was directing an advert this week, and like a lot of adverts and music videos, this also had no dialogue. So we need to get all the story and characters communicated to the audience via visual techniques alone.

So all of these things brought one thought to the front of my mind - I think that it is an art / skill that writers aren't trained in or practise enough - the art of visual writing. Soaps / standard TV drama is dialogue based because people watch them while they are eating their dinner or ironing. Therefore there has been maybe too much emphasis on training people to tell story through the spoken word.

We got an email from one podcast listener who agrees. Cheryl White has set herself a challenge to make 7 visual short films, called The Loss Series. Each has no dialogue and she is making one a year. The first one is featured above.

All writers should have a go at the 'no dialogue' challenge. You don't need to go as far as Cheryl has of course. But having a visual spec script in your file is a good idea. And the learning experience too will help with ALL your projects.

You can find my visual script effort from a few years ago here. It is one of my free scripts that has been released under a creative commons license.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Podcast 17 - Goals for 2012

Mentioned in the podcast this month...

Red Planet Prize
Prequel to Cannes
BAFTA guru website

Our new(ish) facebook page - which you will find the extra goodies
Stephen Fry's interview (which you can also see below)
Richard Feynman
Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges (in fact from 1941, not the 50s)
Fleabag Monkeyface

Midnight in Paris
Arthur Christmas
The Artist
Young Adult
The Descendants
New Girl
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The links are in the podcast too if you have a snazzy device that reads them.