Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Stranger on a Train

Last Friday I was on the train heading to Leicester Square - and I spotted someone reading a script. I see enough of them to recognise one from afar but obviously don't see people often reading them on trains. I was curious, so after weighing up the weirdo factor, (mine not theirs) I decided to take the MP3 player off and actually talk to someone. A real person. In the flesh. Not on facebook or anything.

So we had a chat. Turns out this person is an actor. We've stayed in touch and who knows what the future holds.

It's fun this talking to people lark. Might try it more often.

Anyone else got weird, networking esque stories?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Tuesday 23 February: New producers guide to UK Film Finance

This event is tomorrow so not much time to sort out a ticket etc. I won't be able to go cos can't get off work but seriously recommend writers try to attend too. Why? Because there will be producers there. In a room. With doors. And hopefully locks. Go talk to them.

17:00 New producers guide to UK Film Finance
Princess Anne Theatre, 195 Piccadilly, W1J 9LN

As any independent producer knows, it's a tough market for getting a film made in the UK. Yet films do get made.
Join us for this free BAFTA event to listen to some of the key players from the UK film finance sector talk through the current landscape for new and emerging producers in the UK. We'll quiz our panel on how independent films found finance in 2009 and look at what funding options and strategies are available to new producers now. Speakers include: Paul Brett (Presecience Film Finance), Abigail Payne (Harbottle & Lewis), Luke Randolph (Managing Director, IFG Limited).
Places are free but please note that should we reach capacity, BAFTA will be offering stand-by tickets to a waiting list 15 minutes before the event starts. If you book a ticket you must therefore collect it at least 30 minutes before the event begins to avoid disappointment.
Tue 23 17:00 Book Tickets

Thursday, 18 February 2010

BBC Writersroom event: John Yorke Q&A

In case you missed this:

John Yorke, Controller Drama Production & New Talent, will answer questions about writing for continuing drama shows like EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty, and Doctors as well as the BBC Writers Academy in a Q&A session with Kate Rowland, BBC Creative Director of New Writing.

John will be joined by a panel of writers from Continuing Drama and you'll have a chance to ask your own questions too.

The event will take place on Thursday 4 March 2010 from 6:00pm - 7:30pm at The Drill Hall in London, and tickets are free.

The Drill Hall
16 Chenies Street

To add your name to the guest list email

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Location, Location, Location

Last Sunday me, co-writer Jonathan Benson and producer/director John Goldschmidt went on a field trip. Actually, we went location scouting. I should clarify. This has absolutely nothing to do with shooting anything. We are still a long way off that. But it became apparent when looking at the last draft, that there was both a lack of visual information in the script, and not a good enough sense of place.

So we went to have a look at one. It may not be the area the actual film is set in, and almost certainly wouldn't be somewhere to shoot in, but for reasons I can't go into, it resonated with the world of the fictional story we had created.

From a writing point of view, I found it really useful. I often find myself in the habit of being able to visualise something in my head, and therefore, because I have managed this extraordinary feet, assume that somehow everyone who reads the script will have the same picture in theirs. This of course is ridiculous. Whilst you have to be wary of the dangers of overwriting, nothing can be assumed. The only way to convey visual images is to write them on the page. I think this is a weakness in my screenwriting and with the help of the others, I am working really hard on this.

Because it doesn't really matter where your story is set. A real place, a fictional somewhere that mirrors a real place, the wild west, outer space or Middle Earth. It's got to be plausible. It's often said that screenwriting is not about making up stories or creating characters. It's about creating a world, and then letting all the rest happen in that place. But it's going to be really difficult to do that if you don't know what your world looks like.

I've got a better idea of the one we're working on now. And the next draft has got to be done this weekend. I hope it pays off.

Monday, 1 February 2010

How does it all end?

Lucy blogged recently about the myth of one element of a script being more important than another, or at the very least given more importance by those assessing it. So, for example, dialogue and character over plot. This of course, as Lucy says, is complete nonsense. If only it was that easy! This is also true with different parts of the script. How many times do we hear that the first 10 pages are the most important. But so many specs suffer from a severe drop off in the middle, so maybe act two is the secret key? But then again, the ending is the last thing the audiences sees and often the first thing they remember. So this has gotta be pretty important too, right?

The obvious truth is that everything, every single element and every single moment of the script has got to work and stack up. Because everyone (readers, producers, agents) are looking for a reason to say no. Not because they are mean. But because they are swamped. And a no is easier than a yes. A great 10 pages might mean the whole thing gets read, but a lag in the middle or rubbish ending will see it quickly placed into the rejection pile. Great characters and snappy dialogue is wonderful - but if the plot has bigger holes than Arsenal's midfield, you're gonna be as successful as they are.

That said (!) I want to look at the endings of The Wrestler to see how it defines the tone of the movie and leaves the audience with a specific emotional feeling that will effect how they describe the film to others. (And I'm looking at the ending so yup, they're gonna be spoilers!)

The Wrestler was one of the surprise hits of 2008 and relaunched Micky Rourke's career. The story of a WWE style wrestler called Randy, way, way past his prime, still living on former glories. He is estranged from his daughter and the only thing he has resembling a close, personal relationship is with a stripper called Cassidy. Randy suffers a heart attack is in told not to wrestle any more. But Randy struggles out of the ring, and away from the roar of the crowd, and to cut the film short, after screwing things up with his daughter yet again, returns to the ring for the rematch of the century - against the wishes of Cassidy who pleads with him not to risk it.

What's interesting is that I read the script before I saw the film. In the script, during the finale, as Randy climbs the ropes to leap onto his opponent in his signature move, it says:

Torn, his eyes drift in Cassidy's direction.

HIS POV: Cassidy is gone.

Randy bows his head in disappointment.

The crowd cheer, Randy leaps, and the film ends. I read it as a tragic story. The guy has messed up his life, cannot move on and form any real relationships with people, and is going to kill himself in the ring, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

It's a fantastic script but when I told a friend what I thought, they disagreed. They saw it as an act of defiance by Randy. He was going to live his life, his way, and keep his dignity. (As opposed to the crappy store counter job we see him endure and quit etc.) But when I came to watch the movie, I noticed something very interesting. The shot described above is not there. The definite look towards Cassidy, and the disappointment that she has gone - and therefore seemingly given up on him - is missing from the film. And that one change altered so much of the meaning for me. If Randy doesn't look for her, if he just climbs the ropes, sucks in the adoration of the crowd, and takes a defiant leap - then hell yeah it's a different tone to a sad, tragic glance for something, or someone, that is not there any more.

I don't know if this was done in the shoot, the edit, a late rewrite - or whose decision it was. I might even be making a big deal out of something that wasn't even seen as being that significant. But I noticed it straight away and like I say, it did change the meaning of the scene. And as the final scene, it fundamentally influenced the whole story! As writers we might not have much control over something like this when it comes down to it. But we need to be aware that at script stage at least, what we write - even one single shot - can have significant ramifications in influencing how you want the reader to feel about your story.