Thursday, 28 October 2010

Biggest Screenwriters' Festival discount in town!

It's hard to believe there are now less than 24 hours to go until The London Screenwriters' Festival. Unsurprisingly, according to Charles Harris in a Euroscript email sent out yesterday, tickets are almost sold out.

So if you are still undecided, I just wanted to remind you of the biggest ticket discount I know of going. Most are offering around £30-£40 off. But the glorious Janice Day can get you a whopping £75 off! Just go to buy tickets and enter janiceday as the discount code, and voila, a full three day pass for £224.

I honestly think under £75 per day for this festival is an unbelievable bargain. So unbelievable that if I was you I'd book fast before the organisers find out what Janice has done and put her in the naughty corner.

And if you do take advantage of this discount - please don't forget to find Janice and thank her. An obvious place to do this would be at her Networking session at 6pm on Friday in Room B
Whilst I think it's incredibly important for writers to support the festival, this isn't exactly a charitable venture. When we talk about supporting something, it often implies an altruistic decision. But this is business. Pure and simple. If you're a screenwriter, at whatever level, and you want to be taken seriously, you need to be part of the industry. This is one weekend out of 52 where you can choose to be at the heart of it. What you'll get back is far more than what you put in.

It's not cheap. There's no getting away from that. And these are tough times. But we have to choose how we spend our money. I don't think a ticket should take the place of rent/mortgage money or food on the table. Nor do I think it should replace money you have earmarked for charity giving. But other than that, what else is more important to you? Is that big weekend out boozing going to further your screenwriting career? Should you go to that restaurant or can you save that money by eating at home and putting it towards the cost of a ticket? You might want to look good at the festival, but is that new outfit a priority right now or can the money be used elsewhere? Holidays are important, but can it wait for future savings, and use the money now instead for the festival?

Are you just talking the talk or are you prepared to commit, and walk the walk down to Regents Park and meet everyone you will ever need to meet for a screenwriting career in one weekend?
I always hated the Cheltenham Festival. Why? Because I was jealous. I knew I'd never be able to go. For various reasons, (and it wasn't the money) as much as I wanted to, I would never be able to be a part of it.

So I for one was delighted by this new festival being in London. I know that makes it harder and more expensive for non-Londoners. But sorry. Film industry wise London is the LA of England. It just has to be here. And so for the first time I will be too! So come and say hi. I imagine I'll be the only one there wearing a yarmulke! And because of the Jewish Sabbath I will only be there Friday up until about 4pm ish and all day Sunday. But hey, it's something. It's being part of something. And that's better than nothing.

Which one do you want to be?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

National Student Film Association Free Screenwriting Competition

This dropped into my inbox today. As ever, one should always do their own checking.

National Student Film Association Announces Free Screenwriting Competition

Today the National Student Film Association (NSFA) invites all student film-makers to submit their short film scripts to the National Student Screenwriting Competition. The competition is run in partnership with the BFI and boasts a host of professional judges including BAFTA winner Asitha Ameresekere, the organisers of the London Screenwriters' Festival, and board members of Euroscript and Women in Film and Television.

The competition is aimed at UK students of all kinds who are looking for a career in film but have not yet had the chance to present their work to industry professionals. Not only does the competition offer fantastic prizes such as a mentoring meeting at BAFTA as well as BFI and IMAX vouchers, but students will also have the opportunity to get their scripts read by two members of the high calibre jury.

Competition judge Asitha Ameresekere commented, "This is a fantastic opportunity for students to expose their work to members of the industry and gain invaluable experience in the competitive screenwriting business. I am very excited to be part of the NSFA competition and look forward to supporting outstanding new talent."

The competition is hosted online at Circalit, an online platform for aspiring writers, where all the entries will be visible to the public, and talent scouts will be paying close attention to the winning writers.
Raoul Tawadey, CEO of Circalit, commented, "The NSFA are doing student film makers a great service by connecting young artists with industry professionals. Starting a career in film can be a difficult process and the gap between writing your first screenplay and seeing your work produced can be very daunting. I hope this competition and the work that the NSFA are doing will give students the opportunity to kick start a career in the film industry.”


Screenplay submissions can be up to five pages long and of any genre. The deadline is the 7th November 2010. For more information please visit,
Franzi Florack!/NSFAUK
About the NSFA
The National Student Film Association (NSFA) is the UK’s largest student organisation to promote student film across the country. Founded in the summer of 2009, the NSFA is a non-profit, democratically elected organisation which aims to aid the production and distribution of student films. The NSFA actively seeks to help student film makers in producing new films by promoting cooperation and collaboration at a national level and by working with student film events to improve the quality of talks and workshops they are able to offer. Once a year, the NSFA helps to organise Screentest, The National Student Film Festival, and gives out the National Student Film Awards.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Who wrote this stuff anyway?

Read this article on Thorne, the new cop show on Sky One featuring David Morrissey that started last week.

Did you read it? Finished? Okay, did you notice anything strange?

No? Well, can you tell me the name of the writer or writers of this glossy new show?

Probably not if you just read the article. Because they are not mentioned anywhere. I had to go on IMDB to find out that Dudi Appleton and Jim Keeble have penned the scripts.

From the article one can discover that Morrissey optioned the novels from author Mark Billingham having read one whilst away on a shoot and finding out via the internet that Billingham wanted Morrissey to play his detective leading man. Then, director Stephen Hopkins got involved. Morrissey says "it was when Stephen came on board that I started to get really excited. It’s his vision. I tried to give him as much freedom as I could.”

Well that's great. Did Hopkins, no doubt a talented director, imagine what he was going to shoot out of thin air? Did Morrissey and his co-stars make up the plot and dialogue as they went along? At what point was the, you know, screenwriters hired and erm, what are those things called, screenplays maybe, written?

Let be unequivocally clear. I'm not having a go at Morrissey. I'm not having a go at Billingham. I'm not having a go at Hopkins. I'm not even having a go at Ed Cumming, the journalist who wrote the article. They are just operating within the pervading culture that we have allowed to develop. But it's a culture that is extremely disrespectful to the writer. We continually hear the script is everything. So why are the people who write them so often forgotten?

This is not a bang the drum blog post about how great screenwriters are or that writers are superior to other professionals in the industry. On the contrary, I always thought, and was always told, that film and TV were collaborative mediums. I like working with producers and have enjoyed spending time and learning from the few actors I have met so far. I don't know too many directors but I'm sure there is nothing more exciting as a screenwriter than working with a director to bring your words alive on screen. But between the producer and the director there is a little thing called the script, and somebody called the writer. And the fact remains that without a really good one of each, no one else is going to have a job. So let's not cut out the middle man, yeah?

It's hard to believe the London Screenwriters' Festival is now just a couple of weeks away. They have brought together an unbelievable list of speakers - a real who's who of the industry. And for those going I'm sure it will be a fantastic weekend. But if there's one thing I would like to hear emerging from the festival in the days and weeks following it, it's that there were real discussions about how to end the marginalisation of the writer (do movies really have to be described as A Film By.... enter director's name. It's not enough to say Directed By...??) and how to place the screenplay, the person who writes it, and most importantly of all, the joint, collaborative nature of getting a project from script to screen, at the forefront of the industry and how it presents itself to the outside world.

PS. I'm also not having a go at Thorne, the show, or anyone who worked on it. I've not seen it because I don't own Sky. I personally hope it's excellent because it's a British show after all!

Monday, 11 October 2010

London Screenwriters' Festival discount

The London Screenwriters' Festival is shaping up to be an incredible event and of course I wholeheartedly recommend attending if you are able to do so.

Granted, it's not cheap. But these things never are. However these are tough times and with that in mind, festival affiliate, friend, author, screenwriter and all round nice lady, Janice Day is offering a special discount of £75 off the full price of £299.

Just click on Buy Tickets and enter janiceday as the discount code, and hey presto.

Do it. Do it now.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Brit Film #3: Slumdog Millionaire

Hindsight's a wonderful thing. Especially in the movie business. And the inclusion of Slumdog Millionaire in this series looking at successful British films over the last couple of years is probably the most straightforward there will ever be. Made for $15 million, taking over $377 million at the box office and winning a whopping eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, makes it one of the most successful British films of all times. And despite being set in India, it most certainly is a British film. A British director, a British writer, a British leading man, and two British production companies ensure that. But when looked at objectively, this is also probably one of the most unlikeliest successes in British film industry history. In fact, the lack of confidence in the movie led to Warner Bros, the film's distributor, suggesting it go straight to DVD. It was only after Fox Searchlight bought 50% of Warner's interest and handled the US distribution that a cinema release was guaranteed. And goodness knows how much that cost Warner Bros. But in theory, you can understand their concerns.

The film has no discernible stars (although has now of course made Dev Patel one,) it's set in India, it has a non linear narrative, and - drum beat please - it has subtitles!! These are not readily identifiable ingredients for a box office smash. On the surface, it's this sort of thing that lends enormous weight to Goldman's famous "no one knows anything." But can we take a closer look at the marketing and the story to see how and why it resonated with such a large audience, and across so many countries.

Firstly, people who market movies are generally pretty smart. Sometimes even smarter than those who make them! And they took advantage of everything they could. They had a massively recognisable game show tie in with Who Wants to be a Millionaire to hook people. They created a big, happy, smiley poster, with "from the director of Trainspotting and the writer of The Full Monty" in big, bold letters. So immediately Slumdog has pedigree. Fans of those hugely successful films might give this a go. And the key buzz word all over the posters and TV ads was "feel good." It made no mention on whether the movie was a comedy, a drama, a thriller, a horror - all the usual genre choices used to sell a film - but instead the focus was clearly on the fact that this was a feel good movie. And in a time of recession and global economic meltdown, who doesn't want to see a movie about a poor kid trying to become a millionaire that is guaranteed to make you feel good? But many felt afterwards that this had been a bit misleading. That the dark content of sections of the story meant that it couldn't, and shouldn't, have been described as feel good. However whatever your feelings (and mine is that feel good is defined by the ending, and how you feel when coming out of the cinema, which was surely good) what is beyond dispute is that this description helped sell the film and put bums on seats.

However that trick, as it were, can only work to a certain extent. If the movie ultimately sucks, then the reviews and word of mouth will kill it anyway. But the movie delivered and it did so using another kind of trick. If I described a movie to you as boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, what would you think it is? Surely, a romantic comedy - the genre with possibly the best longevity and most consistent success rate. And is that not the story of Slumdog Millionaire? Overlaying the seemingly complex flashback structure is a far more simple story of Jamal meets Latika, loses her, and finds her again - repeated three times reflecting the growing ages of the actors involved. The active question of any romantic comedy is will the boy and girl end up together, and how will they do so? So to with Slumdog. The active question of the story is not whether Jamal will become a millionaire or not. It's will he be able to be together with Latika and how will he overcome the odds to achieve this. The game show is just the method he uses to achieve this. He even says himself that he went on it because he knew she watched the show. He has no interest in money and I would suggest the film would've worked equally as well had he fluffed the final question, but still met her at the train station.

But no one knew they were watching a romantic comedy. But it's not a comedy I hear you say! This is true. It's tone is dramatic. Everything gained comes at a cost. It's win-lose the whole way through. This is exemplified by the win ending, which is only made possible by Jamal's brother's loss and sacrifice. But the structure is definitely that of a romantic comedy. And I think Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliant example of how superficially unattractive film projects can work, both commercially and critically, and that British filmmakers need not necessarily stick to these shores when looking for stories to tell.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Film competition from Duracell‏

This dropped into my inbox today. As ever, one should always do their own checking.

Hi Jez,

I noticed recently in your blog you wrote about Film competitions and it was really interesting!

I thought I would let you know some information about our film competition going on here at Hill & Knowlton for our client Duracell and thought it might be of interest to you and your readers.

To celebrate the launch of new Duracell myGrid, the much anticipated pad offering wireless charging, myGrid is hosting a short film competition for would-be movie makers and film fanatics. Enter (for free!!) the mySequel competition and be in win a chance of winning prizes worth more than £15,000!

The challenge is to create the next instalment to ‘Entangled’
( ). The short film, produced by Ridley Scott’s production company RSA Films ltd, is shot in the iconic b-movie style, parodies a world full of wires and features you as the lead character.

Entrants have four weeks to submit their own sequel ideas via a script which will be uploaded onto the microsite where submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges. The competition will close at midnight on October 31st. The winner will see their mySequel idea go from script to screen with a £15,000 production day, courtesy of Duracell myGrid.

The website to direct students to is: where it outlines all the essential information regarding entering the competition and timings, etc.

We do hope this will be of interest to you and do feel free to pop this on your website if you so wish! In the meantime if you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact the team on / 0207 413 3208.

Many thanks,
Emma Gannon