Friday, 30 April 2010


Coming Up 2011 is now accepting applications. Deadline is 9th June 2010. All the information you need can be found here

I wrote about the scheme in the build up to last years comp, which you can read here if you so wish.

It's also worth mentioning now that The Sir Peter Ustinov Scriptwriting Award deadline is 1st July 2010. All the information you need can be found here.

I've written about this award in various rambling blogs over the last couple of years - most of which can be found here if you are interested.

Last year UK bloggers Michelle Goode and Scott Payne both made the final 10. (The last four winners have gone Brit, Aussie, Brit, Aussie - so come on people, let's lay down a marker for The Ashes and bring this back home too.)

As with last year, I will be on the jury. I will also once again happily send my script The Storyteller to anyone who wants to read it - for their own personal use. Just email me at the usual address.

My experience reading entries last year was that a badly formatted script almost certainly meant a badly written one. There's no intrinsic reason why this should be the case, I'm just telling you how I found it. So it's rather timely that Lucy has produced a pretty definitive guide to formatting issues. If you're unsure about anything, check it out. If you are sure about everything, check it out anyway. And if you still have questions feel free to email me.

Other frequently asked questions involved the 'family audience' stipulation and the length of script. In terms of the family audience, don't get too obsessed with it. My script has swearing, bit of sex, alcohol and pain killing drug abuse! Both Felicity and Claire's scripts had adult themes and bit of swearing (if I remember right.) But don't go overboard either. The script will be performed in front of a live audience - and no one wants to hear a script with swear words every other word and over the top sex or violence. I'm not saying you can't write what you want to write - but just think about whether that script is right for this competition.

In terms of the length, anything in standard screenplay format between 30-60 pages (approx) is absolutely fine.

I would also try and tell a complete story - beginning, middle and end. That doesn't mean it has to be a one off story. Pilots are accepted too. But think about the vast majority of pilots you've seen. Most have a story of the day of sorts that begins and ends, even if the wider story involving the main characters is left open.

And of course, this post can hardly end without a shameful plug for Script Reading On The Blog. If you do want me to read your entries, just please don't leave it to the last minute. For one thing, it's a nightmare for me. But for another, what's the point in paying for my feedback if you haven't got enough time to rewrite on the basis of it.

Good luck everyone!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Fever Pitch (Page)

The DOUGH pitch page has entered the public domain (cue scary music)

Feast your beady eyes here

Friday, 16 April 2010

Circalit Screenwriting Competition with BBC and Hollywood Producers‏

I have no idea who these guys are, but this email popped up in my inbox. So please do your own checking.

Dear Jez,

I thought readers of your blog might be interested in hearing about a free Circalit-hosted monthly screenwriting competition in connection with the BBC, Hollywood producer Julie Richardson, and a number of other industry professionals. Please see the details below.
Kind regards,


BBC and Hollywood Producer Julie Richardson to Judge Monthly Screenwriting Competition on Circalit.

Screenwriters across the globe are posting their scripts up at where BBC and Hollywood producers are now reviewing winning scripts with a view to production. The competition takes place monthly and is divided into television scripts, feature length screenplays and shorts. The winning scripts are decided every month by public vote and are then sent to BBC and Hollywood producers to be reviewed and potentially produced. The BBC will be reviewing the winning television script each month, whilst Julie Richardson, managing member of Imaginarium Entertainment Group and best known as the producer of box office hit “Collateral” will be reviewing the winning short (any screenplay under 60 pages). Meanwhile, feature length screenplays are being judged by Hollywood scriptwriter, Tom Lazarus, and Europe’s premier script development organisation, The Script Factory, in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia and a host of other major production studios.

Raoul Tawadey
CEO and Founder

Friday, 9 April 2010

I just want you back for good

In concluding our look at the wants and needs of our protagonist, we'll examine two examples, Amores Perros and Insomnia. (Spoilers for those two movies.)

In Amores Perros, Chivo is a father who is estranged from his daughter and he’s an assassin. His conscious desire is to be a killer. That’s who he thinks he is – a cold-blooded murderer. His unconscious desire is to be reunited with his daughter and find love with his family.

His end of Act One decision is there is a guy and he needs to assassinate him – he walks past the window, not sure, not sure, then makes a clear decision and shoots him. It is a wrong decision. The guy is a ruthless killer, and then he takes this dog in. He has lots of dogs that he rescues. He loves dogs, he loves animals, but he cannot articulate his unconscious desire. He wants love, wants to give it so he gives it to dogs, this is his unconscious desire. We can see it but he cannot. So the Act Two climax is a dilemma, it is a choice. And it is a choice that directly challenges his conscious and unconscious desire. This other dog he takes in kills all his dogs.

He has a decision to make – and he decides not to shoot the dog. And it is a powerful choice, it is not a chance, off the cuff decision. It shows that his unconscious desire is winning out. The unconscious desire has been validated in that scene because up to that point he has been killing without question. His Act Three decision is that he is given another assassination job and what he does is bring the two people together, the one who he has to shoot and the one who wants him shot and puts them together and says off you go, you sort it out between you. The change in him has been confirmed. He can’t kill the dog because he is just doing what a dog does. His Act Three choice is he chooses not to kill and takes the money and puts the two guys together and this is confirmed when he shaves his beard off and cleans up and goes to see his family.

In Insomnia, Al Pacino’s back-story is that he’s sabotaged a case to vindicate himself – to get himself off – he has corrupted the law. That gives him the anxiety that he doesn’t want to be found out. He doesn’t want to be seen as corrupt. So he decides when he accidentally kills his partner, I am going to say it wasn’t me. He could have said it was him. He is anxious because if he says it was him there are consequences because his partner is the main evidence in the case against him corrupting the previous case. No one will believe it’s an accident, they are going to say he did it on purpose because you are under investigation and you wanted him out the way to stop you getting convicted.

His Act One choice is to tell the truth about whether he shot his colleague or not or lie and save his own neck. His conscious desire that is to uphold the law and save the innocent. His unconscious desire is to corrupt the law to save himself. So he lies.

His unconscious desire is a way of providing empathy because you know why he has taken this decision to lie. He has a rationale and he is convinced he is doing it for the right reason. His rationale is if I’m uncovered then everything is going to fall down. So he thinks he is doing it consciously for the right reasons – you have to bend the law and he thinks he is doing it to save other people. But he’s not he’s doing it to save himself.

So the act climaxes are about directly challenging who is to benefit, you or somebody else. Act One is are you going to save yourself or his friend/colleague. Act Two is the same thing again. Act Three an innocent boy is going to get put away and he still decides he is going to save himself, rather than the other person, because ultimately his unconscious desire is that he wants to save himself. The choice he makes in Act Two has to be confirmed with the choice he makes at the end of Act Three. The resolution is he will suffer and it’s too late to go back. (A lot of tragic characters have choices and decisions and at the end they try to redeem themselves – they suddenly want to repent at the Act Three climax but it is too late, because they made the wrong choice at the end of Act Two.)

He avoids the unconscious and focuses on the conscious desire all the time and this is how they vindicate themselves, live with themselves, how they perceive themselves.

The audience perceives a deeper character – perceives who they fundamentally are and they are given the opportunity at the end of act climax to reveal who they are and how they are going to conduct themselves in the story. We empathise with the character or any character who may seem bad, violent or anti-social because we understand the reason behind his actions. We understand why he’s doing it, but because he makes the same choices through the story he is irredeemable as a character – he doesn’t learn so he dies.

Hillary Swank admires him, then she finds out he is guilty and does nothing about it she makes the wrong choice– she feels the gun on the back of his trousers. At the end he helps vindicate her by saying don’t throw the gun away. So she finds salvation so it is a positive story for her, but a tragic story for him.

***(Once again thanks to Gary Sutton, whose fascinating lecture formed the basis for the last 3 posts)***

Thursday, 8 April 2010

I didn't mean it

So we're talking about conscious and unconscious desire - particularly in the main character, and particularly in drama.

Character arcs, a character's journey, is where conscious and unconscious desire play a fundamental part in dramatising a story. Characters need dilemmas. Whoever is the central character needs a dilemma. And you have to articulate a problem that is not resolved and one where the outcome can go either way. You have these opposite tensions and the character is going through his journey. And he hasn’t made up his mind which way they are going to go by the end of the film. They might still go for their conscious desire, but they might go for their unconscious desire. We don’t know. That's what keeps us watching. And the choices they make defines them as a character.

Very often, the more they push the conscious desire, the more they chase whatever that is; the more the unconscious desire starts to surface. Act Two fluctuates between conscious desire and unconscious desire. But again the character still cannot articulate what his unconscious desire is. This is why the conscious desire can change. You try to get what you want one way and it doesn’t work. You try and get it another way and it doesn’t work. I’ll do this. I’ll do that. I’ll try anything. The conscious desire, the 'want,' changes. The unconscious desire, what they need, never changes.

This tension of wants and needs is frequently resolved at the Act Two turning point. They have made the wrong choice at the end of Act One, which gives us the drama for Act Two. But at the end of Act Two is the point where their unconscious desire, the dilemma and the choice, is at the forefront. They may still not be able to articulate it, but they are aware of it. You get a very clear idea that the character is aware of it and they make a choice.

If they make the same old choice then they die (either literally or metaphorically) – because they have not learned anything from their experience. It is too late. They will have to suffer; they will either suffer. Not many films buck that. There are not many films where a character is not responsible for his actions. So if they make a wrong choice at the end of Act Two, they either emotionally die or they physically die. It’s tone is firmly tragic.

Tomorrow, in the final part, we will look at a few examples to see how this plays out.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Whatever I said, whatever I did

If you're not a member of Dave's Script Club, why not? If you are, you may remember a thread about the 'wants' and 'needs' of the main character. This can be translated into 'conscious desire,' and 'unconscious desire,' and I think it's worth taking the time to give it some more thought. Credit for this post must go to Gary Sutton, my MA tutor, whose lecture these notes are based on.

Conscious Desire – it is the protagonist's goal, it is explicit – but more importantly it is what they can articulate. Your protagonist can articulate their conscious desire. They are full aware of it.

Unconscious Desire – the character has no idea what his unconscious desire is – this is for the audience and you the writer to know.

This is the pleasure we get in going to watch a film – we know what the character should be doing but the character does not.

Example Midnight Cowboy – His conscious desire is to embrace sex and embrace the stud and embrace this kind of life, and be this predatory type of character. But his unconscious desire is the absolute opposite and he just wants to love and be loved and this is born out in his relationship with Ratzo. He says I’m a stud and I can handle sex - but he can’t handle it and wants love. His conscious desire and his unconscious desire are absolute opposites.

These opposites can even be personified:

Example Bridget Jones – a romantic comedy love triangle – which means Bridget has two choices, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth – Hugh and Colin translate to conscious or unconscious desire.

Hugh is the conscious, I’m crazy, I’m wild, I’m unpredictable, sexy, fun.

Coin is safe, secure and he is what she needs subconsciously and ultimately in the film she chooses Colin. But she resists the unconscious desire until the end.

However we need to make it clear now that screenwriting is never that easy. No 'rules' or 'templates' ever apply across the board. For example in the straight romance like Romeo and Juliet the triangle is two of them against the world. Everything you could possibly put against these characters getting together. In Notting Hill – she is the biggest movie star in the world and he is some bookseller – the most unlikely match you’ve ever had. Everything in that film conspires to keep them apart. Once they get together the story is done. There is no real dilemma for Hugh Grant in that film. They meet up, he spills stuff on her and she gives him a quick kiss. This is the inciting incident, then after that you keep them apart as long as possible. When he's interested, she’s not interested, when he’s not interested she’s interested, and it is this all the way through. As soon as they get together, who cares? The story has ended. It is mainly conscious desire – they both want each other and there is no real unconscious desire or if there is it is quite small and it is not really what the story is about.

Another example is in Quest movies. They tend to be about conscious desire to the end. James Bond does not really suffer from this dilemma. Indiana Jones has to get The Ark away from the Germans. Full stop. There is a small secondary love story but nothing really hinges on it.

So the main reason we have conscious and unconscious desire are for dramatic stories. You have no idea how the central character is finally going to resolve whatever their issue is. It is a massive active question. The inciting incident comes and they react to it – what are they going to do? And because they’ve got these opposing forces within them, they can’t make the decision. The story keeps impetus because of the active question, which way are they going to go? We don’t know. We have to watch to find out.

And tomorrow we'll look at how this plays out with character arcs.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

I'm on holiday

Cos it's Passover.

In case, you know, anyone was wondering...