Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Rise Summer Challenge

It's one month to go to the Rise Summer Challenge deadline. Here are the ground rules:

1. There is no submission fee for the Summer Challenge.
2. Script submissions must be of feature length (70 pages or more).
3. Your script and application form must be accompanied by a Project Summary, to include the following:
- Log line (one sentence describing your film)
- Synopsis (50 words max)
- Plot Breakdown (a more detailed description of the events taking place in your film - 250
words max)
- Personal Statement explaining why your script is important to you, why it should be
made into a film and what your mission for the project is as its writer (250 words max)
4. Entrants must not already have literary representation. All rights in the submitted script must be available, controlled by the entrant and not by any third party. Terms for the option and further development of the successful screenplay will be agreed between RISE films and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates on behalf of the successful entrant.

The last one is quite significant. Whereas Red Planet Prize and Kaos is open to those with and without an agent, and offers representation to the winner if they don't have, Rise specifically state those with an agent cannot apply. Those with might see this, with some justification, as unfair. Obviously Casarotto want to protect their interests, but what this means is that writers without agents won't have to compete against those with! Therefore this really is a fantastic opportunity for new writers. With a month to go, writers should be well beyond the idea stage, unless you subscribe to Viki King's theory on How to write a movie in 21 days! But here is something to think about, a crucial, back to basics idea, as we enter the home straight. It comes from an extract of an article by Alice Charles, who started my MA the same time as me, but jumped ship when she got accepted to the screenwriting programme at UCLA, so I guess we can forgive her for that! She now lives and works in LA.

Getting Your Screenplay Past the Studio Reader 1-3-5: Story Structure Made Simple by Donna Michelle Anderson

"Former studio story analyst Donna Michelle Anderson (or DMA as she is more commonly known) focuses on developing character arcs in a story. Her premise is this: in order to get your screenplay past the studio reader, your screenplay must hit certain marks. It must take the reader on a journey that sees the protagonist or hero learn a valuable lesson. DMA breaks this journey down into three stages: I reject; I embrace; I sacrifice. And surprise, surprise, this takes you through the three-act structure of a screenplay. To explain further, we first meet the protagonist in their ordinary world before they encounter an unexpected change. Think of Star Wars when Luke Skywalker comes across R2D2 and Princess Leia's hologram SOS. At first, Skywalker rejects this intergalactic cry for help before being forced to change his mind when his guardians are murdered. Skywalker is a reluctant hero until he learns to embrace his true identity. DMA gives Big as an example where Tom Hank's character starts to enjoy being an adult and all the freedom it entails. Finally, the main character makes a sacrifice. In Big, writes DMA, this is when "Tom Hanks gives up adulthood and its privileges for the love and lessons still to come in the rest of his childhood - for the sanity of his mother and best friend."

It's a really simple idea, but very effective. I regard all these theories and gurus as helpful but not gospel. Take what helps, leave the rest. But if your script has run out of steam or you're struggling with structure, maybe this basic formula can help you get back on track.

My Rise entry is a comedy, so I've been reading and watching lots of movies in that genre. And although I consider myself a funny guy, something that I think my friends would back me up on, you really find out just how hard comedy is to write when you attempt one! Everything has to be funny. The characters, the plot, and don't forget, even the description in the screenplay. It all has to sing comedy. This applies of course to any genre. If you are writing a horror, make sure the script reads scary - no easy task - but it can be done, trust me, I've read them. If you're writing a thriller, make sure the script is exciting, in all its facets. It sounds obvious, but these are common pitfalls.

Now get back to rewriting the script...!

1 comment:

Alice said...

Hey Jez, finally had a look at the site - great idea and lots of useful stuff! Keep blogging! IF I come cross anything good, I'll send it on.