Wednesday, 3 June 2009

100 not out

So apparently this is my 100th blog post! That's nothing really compared to David's mammoth 1500th - but still seems like a mini milestone to me. I've really enjoyed it and it's been fantastic connecting with other writers. Rumours abound that blogging is out of fashion and dying out cos of things like facebook and twitter - but screw that, I'm not going anywhere! (This blog, and to a lesser extent my facebook profile, is my presence on the internet. And that pays off when I take meetings with people who begin with "so I read your blog...")

Anyway, never one to miss a chance to take stock of a few things, I am gonna do just that if I may.

Firstly, I've been quite overwhelmed with the amount of requests I've had to read The Storyteller. I can understand why. If I'd known Felicity the year before, I would've also wanted to read her winning script, just to get even a hint of a leg up. However just a word of caution. Had I read Felicity's before I entered, it may well have done more harm than good. Not because her script isn't any good, because it's excellent, but because her style, tone, story, pretty much everything, is sooo different from mine. If I'd read that thinking okay, this is what a winning script looks like, it may well have thrown me off my game, as opposed to help me improve it. So by all means, you're welcome to read The Storyteller, because it did win, it is a good script, and reading good scripts helps write them. But please, please, don't make the mistake of thinking this is what the Academy is looking for so I should tailor my project to fit this kind of thing. What they are looking for is what they say the are looking for. And surprise, surprise, it's what everyone is looking for. Originality, strong voice, great characters, good story etc. Write the story you want to write and just write it as well as you possibly can.

By the way, I think I have responded to everyone who has emailed so far, but some have gone to junk and some of my replies have apparently gone to spam for some reason. So if you haven't heard from me check that first, and if there's nothing there, feel free to drop me another line.

Finally on this subject for now, with just over a month to go until the deadline, drafts should be well under way. If you would like me to look at it I would advise getting in as early as possible, because firstly, you'll want time to rewrite afterwards, and secondly, if everyone emails at the last minute, it's gonna be a nightmare!

In other news, I got a few questions about what happened to the Rise Summer Challenge, probably cos I mentioned it on the blog a few weeks ago. I have to say I had no idea as I'm not connected with them in any way, just another entrant. So I decided to email them myself and this is their response:

We have had a lot of enquiries regarding The Summer Challenge and understandably so, it has been an incredibly long time. We have found it hard coming up with a short-list as many people are involved with reading at this stage. This has meant it has been hard coordinating everyone's busy schedules to finalise the list.

If you would like to enter other competitions or send your screen play to other people, please feel free to do so however refrain from giving any rights away as we still hold them. To regain them please send an email to summerchallenge@risefilms.com stating your withdrawal from the competition and wait for a response.

We are sorry for the wait but we want to give each submission the attention it deserves.

Best wishes

The Summer Challenge Team

So whilst it has been a rather long time, fair play to them for being upfront about it and explaining the delay. I assume therefore that if you haven't had an email from them saying you haven't won, you're still in with a shout! So keep the faith and those fingers crossed.

I'm also relieved to say I made it through the first Writers' Academy culling - meaning I'm down to 150 from around 500. Massive phew and thank goodness for that. Nothing now until the end of June. But there was an interesting blog from Ceri Meyrick about the initial process here. It's well worth reading and provides some interesting insights as to what sort of thing is being submitted, what's working, and what's not. The summary was particularly interesting to note and breaks down like this:

Positives:

- Most of the readers felt that the standard was higher this year.
- Lots of bravery - interesting original worlds.
- Sparky dialogue
- Technically accomplished scripts (although this meant the need to be stand out original was greater)

Negatives:

- Too many stage directions
- Scripts opening with several pages of monologues
- Dialogue that sprouted facts endlessly
- Spelling mistakes and hard to read script formats

The positives are great news. Overall improvement and brave story telling across the board is better for everyone. The negatives though were a little shocking. I blame the Americans for the stage directions! The wealth of scripts on the net is fantastic for writers but we need to be careful about reading shooting scripts, or scripts that are published but are not really how the script would've been written in the first place. Long story short, lay off the stage directions. We just don't do them here. And if you don't wanna look bad to people who matter, like BBC readers, leave them out.

Scripts opening with pages of monologues - and for that read voice over too. There are loads of people to blame for this, like American Beauty, Guy Ritchie and many others! But you know what, they all worked, so what's the problem? The problem is, most of the time it doesn't. Nine times out of ten, it's just really boring. I would never give a sweeping rule like don't ever open your scripts this way - but I would say think very carefully about whether this is the best way to do it. This extends to the next negative, which amounts to expositional dialogue. It's a massive no, no! It's boring, slow, and will mostly float over everyone's head. But here's the flip. Every script that's ever been written, probably has some exposition in it. Any information that you as writer know, but you need the audience/reader to know, is probably exposition. The trick of course, is to get it over in a way that doesn't look like you are doing just that (like two characters having an argument,) or that there is something else going on in the scene that is more exciting and distracts us. Probably the all time classic example of this is in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who the hell remembers all that jargon about where the Ark is and how comes the Nazis are digging in the wrong place. But we do remember praying that Indie doesn't eat the poisoned dates that kill that little monkey.

But Ceri's final negative was the most shocking of all. I really thought, with script samples out there, and formatting programmes like Final Draft, Movie Magic or indeed various free ones, that this sort of nonsense was on the way out. In fact, less and less of the scripts I get sent, either privately or through companies, are guilty of this. So if I'm not getting them, why on earth people are sending them to the BBC in the most crucial, biggest, life changing scheme around, I really don't know.

People - we have to sort the format out! It's courier 12 point for a reason. The script layout is there for a reason. It doesn't matter if you've found a cooler font or a flashier way to set it out. You're gonna look like an idiot. No I take that back, you're gonna look like an amateur, which is worse. Invest in a formatting programme or get someone to show you how to download one of the free ones if you're not technologically minded (I'm certainly not!)

As far as spelling goes. This too is unforgivable. Again, I don't see this too often so it's bizarre it's been an issue for the Writers' Academy. It's extremely hard to proofread your own work. You tend to just see what you think you wrote. But it's always, always worth putting it aside for a bit and then doing a read through purely looking for spelling mistakes and typos before you send it anywhere. Better still, if at all possible, get someone to read it through for you with a big red pen at the ready. Actually proofreading properly is a thankless task, because you shouldn't be reading the text for the story. It's slow reading in a very detached way. I know because I'm a professionally trained proofreader with Chapterhouse.

So, I've decided to open up a proofreading service connected to Script Reading On The Blog. Once again, I would always suggest that if you don't need this service, of course don't use it! Far better, and easier, to get a mate, a partner, a parent, whoever, to do it for you. (As long as they do it properly!) But if you don't feel you have anyone you can ask or trust, by all means get in touch. Because it's the saddest thing in the world to slave over a script, work so hard on getting the story and characters right, and then just piss off readers with typos or spelling mistakes (and formatting ones too.)

So that's it for now - here's to the next 100 posts!

4 comments:

Sofluid said...

Very interesting blog post, thanks Jez!

Congrats on getting through to the 150-cut!

I for one really enjoyed The Storyteller and greatly appreciate the fact that you let us all read it. The script was well structured and well-paced and I really feel I have learnt a lot from it. The story, too, was really moving. You have a great balance of drama and humour and you make storytelling seem effortless!

What a fantastic idea of creating a proof-reading service!

Good luck with everything :)

Jez Freedman said...

Thanks Michelle for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed it and more importantly, you found it useful!

Shane Knight said...

Here's to another 100 blogs.

Jez Freedman said...

thanks!