- How To Write For Television: A Guide To Writing and Selling Successful TV Scripts by William Smethurst
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Meanwhile, I've put on half a stone.
It's no surprise then I get very little time to write. I grab what time I can, where I can. It's amazing how having so little time focuses your mind and increases your productivity. I can get a page written in the time it takes mummy to change a nappy.
The constant care needed to look after a child and the pressure to get things done in the nano seconds in between feeding, burping and changing nappies, has taken its toll. I can't sleep. I'm suffering from a giant case of insomnia. In fact I haven't had more than five hours sleep a night in the last three weeks. I've tried taking Nightol, drinking warm milk and all the usual stuff to make me drowsy, but nothing works, not even a whole bottle of wine. So when I'm still awake at 6.30am I try and get a bit more writing done, but it's kind of hard when you're close to having an aneurysm through lack of sleep. At least I don't get disturbed.
Something has to give, I just hope it's Santa and not my mental state.
Friday, November 30, 2007
And here's the link to my website where I go into more detail about it. It's definitely worth a look, mainly because it's free and won't take up a lot of your time.
Update: Danny Stack also mentions it on his site too.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
"No unsolicited material welcome."
You fucking what??? Why has everyone shut their doors all of a sudden?
Personally I blame the seemingly thousands of BA and MA screenwriting courses popping up all over the place. When I started my BA at Bournemouth it was one of only two in the country, now every university or sixth form college seems to have one on their curriculum. Good news you might think, bad news I say. For two reasons.
Firstly it's creating a huge amount of competition out there for new writers the majority of whom are going to end up being disappointed. People like myself who were starting to get noticed and were beginning to think they were getting somewhere, are now finding themselves being edged out again. The quality of the slush piles are growing and you are now having to write gold plated scripts just to get in through the door.
Secondly, you would think with all these emerging new writers, enthusiastically clutching their MA's as they march into producer's offices, that more of their work should be finding its way onto our screens? Not the case as far as I can see. One or two might make it, write the odd episode of some soap or other before they slip off the radar. It just seems to be the same old writers all the time.
Last year I found out one of my fellow graduates was working as a story liner for Hollyoaks. "Great," I thought, "I'll be able to get a trail script no problems." I got turned down flat! Maybe it was because I tried to knob her when I was drunk at uni (her and the other 6000 or so women there at the time), or maybe at 38 I'm way too old to be writing about the sex lives of glamorous teenagers?
So I'm going to solicit myself, ring the buggers up and MAKE them read my scripts.
"Have you got an agent?"
"No I fucking haven't... you're still going to read my script though... right? Hello? Hello? Fuck it!!!!"
Monday, November 19, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Besides, the creative side of my brain doesn't work too well without sleep. So while I immerse myself in dirty nappies, three hourly feeding and all things baby, don't have fun without me.
Play nice :-)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I shall now have to start working on something for next years competition.
Well done and good luck to those who did make it.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
There is much to organise when moving and I'm continuously running around from one place to another, doing something or other, which means every second of my time is valuable. I need time to sit down and write, to get my juices flowing, to be creative, and I just can't do that in the few minutes I have spare. So I've quit for a week. The release of Halo 3 is just a coincidence....honest!
But when I do move I'll have my own room, my own office in which to create and surf for porn, uninterrupted. No more crouching over the laptop on the dressing table, no more wife continually trying to get on the computer to chat about baby things with her cyber buddies. And I'll have views of a valley and everything. Inspiring!!!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Not only have I been informed that we exchange contracts on our new house tomorrow (at bloomin' last) but the third round qualifiers for this years BSSC have been announced. The Dead Side Of Life was one of those scripts chosen....they like me, they really like me :-)
I've never got this far in a script competition before, so please excuse me if I overflow with excitement and let it go to my head for a moment.
At last my obvious talent has been recognised. Move aside mere mortals, Dom's massive inflated ego needs lots more room. Huzzah!!!!!
All joking aside, it's a massive achievement for what has so far been not the best of years screenwriting wise for me.
So who got through and who didn't, I'd love to know? Please let me know in the comments.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I have mentioned the speech facility in Final Draft before on my blog, but I haven't used it in such a long time. Time to give it another go. Thank fuckity fuck I did. What a valuable tool.
I assigned different voices to each character and started the first run through. I timed it too. The script was Buddha Of Birmingham, a 32 page sitcom. The script ran to roughly 28 mins; not bad, as it leaves two minutes for the titles. It was nice to know the script was the right length.
The other thing I noticed immediately were the errors that riddled the script. I'd already proof read the script manually before I ran it through the speech facility, and I was amazed to find I had missed loads. It was also extremely helpful in highlighting dialogue that didn't work, enabling me to change it, so it would be easier for actors to say.
If you've never used the speech facility on Final Draft, give it a go. Trust me, it'll help you polish your script better than any proof read.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I want to use it to build tension and draw the audience's attention to something crucial. How do I do it? How do I introduce it into the script and how do I exit it?
Your advice will be gratefully received.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
"BBC writersroom identifies and champions new writing talent and diversity across BBC Drama, Entertainment and Children's programmes."I like to challenge statements like this so I recently put the BBC Writersroom to the test.
I had previously sent them my drama feature script From This Day Forth, only for the Writersroom to send it back after reading only ten pages. I was disappointed I must admit, mainly because a production company were interested in the script at the time. So why weren't the BBC?
Not to be put off I rewrote the script, paying close attention to the first ten pages, renamed it Cross The Rubicon and sent it off again. On the 20th August I got a reply, and a good one this time. Although they weren't willing to take this particular script forward for development they were interested in me as a writer, inviting me to submit further work for consideration. There was a particular line in the letter that stood out, which was a great confidence boost...
"It does suggest that the writer has potential for the character driven TV drama."
The moral of the story? Make sure the first ten pages are as good as they can be, and don't be afraid to rewrite and resubmit. Persistence is an important virtue.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
First I had viral pleurisy, then a chest infection and now the man flu, all in five weeks. If I can get the bastards off my chest I'll get back to some writing, but all I'm fit for at the moment is reading or watching TV.
Now you've read this blog, go step into a scalding hot shower and scrub away those dreaded germs. I hope to see you all soon, fit and healthy.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Words are our business so they should be the most important thing. If our words aren't up to scratch then it doesn't matter how hard we work to get people to read our work, all our efforts are be wasted.
So I looked again at my scripts again and realised in my eagerness to tighten my scene description I'd inadvertently removed what made the scripts good in the first place. Here's an example of a scene from one of my scripts.
"ROSE DARC (63) answers. It takes her a second to register Dan before she launches herself at him in a ferocious attack."It's tight but it's also flat. It doesn't drop the reader in the scene, involve them, engage them. So I've rewritten it to prove my point.
"ROSE DARC (63) answers. She should recognise Dan, but struggles to make the connection. Then she does, and reacts with horror, hatred, rage. Rose launches herself at him in a ferocious attack, fists swinging wildly, spittle flying."Much better isn't it? You get a better sense of Rose's rage towards Dan. It could still do with a little tweaking, but the essence of what I want to put across is there. And it's interesting, not flat.
Sometimes you have to look past the so called rules of writing and write what you feel. If you can get those feelings and emotions onto the page, you've won half the battle.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I got an email yesterday and it went something like this, "Who the [bleep] do you think you are giving us your [bleep]ing [bleep] advice? What the [bleep] do you [bleep]ing know about it? Shut the [bleep] up!" I think the person with anger issues was referring to this article.
What do I know about it? I've lived it; that's what I know about it. If you don't want to listen to my advice that's entirely up to you, but you're an idiot if you don't. Why make all the same mistakes as me? Why not read what I have to say and avoid them? Surely it makes sense to choose the easy option? I don't write these posts so I can say, "Wow, look at me. Aren't I great? Worship me, lesser beings." I write them so other new writers following on behind me can avoid the mistakes I made.
But as I said, you don't have to take my advice, there's loads of other writers out there at various stages in their careers who also have something worthwhile to say about what they do.
Danny Stack: A reader who's worked for some big production companies and has also taught scriptwriting at Leeds and Bournemouth universities. He doesn't rant at all, he's a very mellow, deep thinking person.
James Moran: The writer of Severance and episodes of Doctor Who and Torchwood. Occasionally has a rant and quite often threatens to kill the readers of his blog. A lovely chap.
English Dave: A professional writer who talks about the dark side of the business. A non stop ranter, but it's all for our benefit, so that's alright.
Lucy Vee: A reader who reads for new writers and professionals alike. She likes a good rant, mostly about people who ask her to read and comment on their work, who then moan and rant when she points out the faults. She also has the occasional rant about agents. Just don't start her on that topic of conversation.
These are four of my favorite bloggers, there are more, but these four will suffice for now. Again you don't have to take my advice. Does the occasional rude email bother me? Not in the least; send me more and I'll laugh at your naivety. You can take my advice or not. Do what you want, it's your career, or lack of it.
Rant over, normal service resumed.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Claire Bennet: Almost every character she comes into contact with kills her. I know she's invincible but why am I shown this every episode? It's not like I've forgotten. She must be the unluckiest teenager on the planet. No wonder she has the need to be invincible if she's in danger of being killed that often. And will she ever change out of that cheerleader's costume, it must be getting grubby by now?
Matt Parkman: He can hear people's thoughts, and gets arrested when he can't explain how he finds a girl hiding from a serial killer. When he tells the FBI agent who arrested him he can read minds instead of packing him off to the funny farm she asks him to join the FBI, and immediately places all her trust in him; like you do.
Niki Saunders: Is she the only one who doesn't know her husband is innocent of killing people and stealing $2m, and that her alter ego is in fact the one responsible? And why does her son never question why he has to sleep in the back of cars while she buries chopped up bad guys? He's supposed to have a high IQ after all.
Mohinder Suresh: His father is friends with a serial killer and then gets killed (that's just asking for trouble really, isn't it?). Mohinder jacks in his job and moves to New York to find his dad's killer with out a single mention of immigration and having to apply for a visa to live and work in the USA.
Nathan Petrelli: His father committed suicide, his mother shoplifts and his brother nearly kills himself because he thinks he can fly, yet he still gets elected to congress in later episodes. I don't know if that is a comment on the political situation in the USA, or how it actually works.
So why is the show so watchable? I think I have narrowed it down to three things.
1) The way not only each episode, but each scene, shows us a little bit of each character and always leaves us with a hint that there's more to know. That way we have to hang around to find out, and when we do learn some information, again more is hinted at. The episode cliffhangers are giant hooks compelling the viewer to come back next week for more.
2) The dialogue is genius. When Hiro is being dragged back to his work station by his supervisor, his friend shouts out, "use the death grip, Spock, use the death grip."
3) The characters and the emotional connection you can identify with. For example, Hiro is the sci-fi geek in everyone of us committing himself to his mission with the wide eyed enthusiasm of a five year old child.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
No it hasn't been raining and I haven't wet myself. I'm talking about ideas; ideas for new projects and new directions for old projects. Just look at the side bar and you'll see what I'm working on at the moment. Yes, all at the same time. I know, I am mad!
I really wish ideas would come in a steady stream, but they all seem to come at once or not at all. When they come at once I struggle to get them all done as they fight and jostle each other for supremacy, and more often than not I find myself juggling more work than I can handle.
Don't get me wrong it's a nice situation to be in, but trying to decided what to work on first, and in what order, is sometimes difficult. I eagerly want to work on all of them....NOW! I know that sometime soon I'll have to give up on one or two of them and leave them for a later date.
I wish I had more time and more fingers to type with.
If anyone owns a time machine or is an evil, mad genetics scientist, please get in touch.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Here are my options:
Option One: A comedy feature - (a robbery with pensioners) - the idea very nearly fully formed and ready to go.
Option Two: Part one of a 3 X 1hour TV drama - (a long lost father returns stirring up old memories and resentment) - again nearly fully formed and ready to go.
Option Three: A comedy feature - (a political romcom) - at the idea stage so will need some work before writing begins.
Please vote for your choice and on Monday I'll decide which one it will be.
Thanks for your help.
Monday, July 30, 2007
To keep yourself in producers thoughts, and to be at the top of your game, you need to keep writing and sending out new stuff. After all, the larger your portfolio the more chances there are of someone liking something you've written. So what and how much should you write in a year?
This is obviously down to the individual and how fast you can turn things round. Lucy for instance writes as fast as she talks so she churns out quite a bit of work in a year, and this is despite looking after two kids and a husband. So far this year I've written one feature and two or three shorts for competitions. Not a great deal but I'm moving in the right direction.
I think as a guideline writers should aim to write at least one feature, two 60 minute scripts and as many shorts at possible. It's a reasonable amount and even if you're only writing evenings and weekends it's still an achievable target.
Being a optimist I have decided to attempt another feature very soon and I'm also determined to start my first novel in the near future. So here are a few tips on how to write a new script.
- spend a decent amount of time on your characters as your script will succeed or fail on how good they are.
- work out your main plot and a sub plot for each of the main characters. Don't over complicate things.
- using index cards plan your forty key scenes - less if your script is not a feature. The key scenes must relay crucial points in the plot and/or show character.
- write; don't go back and edit as you write, you will be tempted every five seconds, but resist and keep putting your ideas on the page. They don't have to be perfect first go, you just need to get them on the page. Quantity not quality is what matters now. The rewrite is when you correct errors and stuff that doesn't work.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I hate weeks like this, the sitting around feeling rough, and because of one thing or another not being able to write. Last week I was on holiday and this week I was ill, and no writing was done at all. I feel guilty that I haven't even written a single page of a script in almost a fortnight.
Last year I rewrote most of my work and this year I've worked hard writing two new scripts and entering as many competitions and initiatives as I could. This year was the big push, no excuse for laziness, no procrastination, and a real need to make my career go somewhere.
That's why I feel guilty. I keep thinking of all those hours I could have spent finally getting my agent pack together, or rewriting another script, or sending stuff out. I deserved the holiday so I don't feel so guilty about that, but this week spent ill has left me frustrated. Our first child is due in October and I know that I'll get very little done, if nothing at all, when he arrives and I wanted my career to be at least going somewhere by then.
It just makes you think about the pressure we put ourselves under as new writers, desperate to make it, pushing ourselves for years and still not getting anywhere. We are a special breed, hanging in there when other less resilient people give up and move on.
God, I fucking love being a writer.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Then on the Tuesday I went for a walk with my parents who were visiting, and I collapsed. I had to be rushed to hospital with a suspected heart problem. They kept me in over night and did loads of tests (I have six puncture wounds from needles) and they concluded that my heart was fine but that I have viral pleurisy. Nice! So the rest of the week was spent doing bugger all except for resting. As I've always said, fresh air and exercise are bad for you. I think I've proved my point.
I did have one good bit of news last week and that is a possible commission from a regional TV station. So my week was not a total loss.
What have you lot been up to while I've been away?
Monday, July 16, 2007
Algo Por Mi by Juan Sebastian & Jacome Moreano
Beloved of God by Jim Walkington
Burning Love by Phil Andersen
Cruel World by Lisa O'Donnell
Dear Micah by Danielle Porter
Delivered by Diane Hanks
Every time I go to Staten Island Something Bad Happens by Irin Evers
Howard & Minet by Doyle Esch & Daniel Wilson
Juniper Bass by CB Wilson
Kid Show by Chad Holley
Life with Louis by Justin Flesher
Loved Ones by Vicki Speegle
Play Me by Chaco Daniel
The Banner by Tina Juarez
The Big Gay Float by Andy Phillips
The Floating World by Perry Wade
The Hungry Kitchen by Jennifer Jones
The Life and Times of Randall Southgate by Michael Diliberti and Loren Dunn
The Maker by Ellwyn Kauffman
The Stones by Ana Lily Amirpour
The Water Mark by Joseph Pillitteri
Winter Pork by Kristie M. Fleming
Well done to Andy Phillips and his script The Big Gay Float.
The Finalists will be announced on the 25th July... COME ON ANDY!!!!!!
I'm off this week on a well earned break, so I'll see you all again next week. Bye for now.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The remakes; Hairspray (a movie, then a successful stage play, and then a movie again) and Disturbia (a remake of Rear Window).
And the big screen movie adaptations; Transformers.
My movie hungry mind is crying out for some originality, something challenging, something thought provoking. Does anyone have any ideas?
Friday, July 06, 2007
Also South West Screen have just announced a competition for all those writers living in the South West. You can check out the details Screenwriter Development Competition here.
Good luck everyone and have a fantastic weekend.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Sunday, July 01, 2007
I wanted it to be a special post, full of happiness and joy, an uplifting experience for my readers and fellow scribes. Bluecat stuffed that up.
They have posted a list of the top ten percent of entries to this year's competition and I'm not on the list; in fact nobody I know is. To make matters worse I lost out to such titles as, 'The Cult Of The Severed Head', 'Dogs Always Know' and 'Every Time I Go To Staten Island Something Bad Happens'. I think my title must have sucked in comparison. See the full list here.
Anyway, here are other important dates from Bluecat:
Semi-finalists will be announced July 15th, Finalists on July 22nd and our Winner on August 1st.
All analysis will be sent by August 1st.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I didn't hate it, I just wasn't over excited about it. John Simm was good, David Tennent super, John Barrowman fantastic and the others OK, but for an end of season episode it felt a bit flat. And then there was the reference to Flash Gordon at the end, with presumably Harold Saxon's wife picking up the Master's ring. A cheap gimmick? A homage to the 1980 camp film? Who knows?
Jekyll on the other hand was a roller coaster ride that offered you a hint of its end, but kept you guessing until the last scene. And what character development. The delicious Hyde put in his place by Mrs. Jackman, telling him he was her husband and that Jackman's family was his, and his shock at realising she was right. "Are you threatening my family?" Fantastic writing.
I will leave you with this thought; when David Tennent does finally hang up his sonic screwdriver how about James Nesbitt for the eleventh Doctor?
Dear MrCarverBugger :-(
Thanks again for your application for the BBC Drama Series Writing Academy (Ref 41248), and for your patience in awaiting a response.
Your details have now been carefully considered and, having concluded this process, we regret to inform you that we will not be pursuing your application further in this case.
We received a huge response for this campaign, and were impressed with the quality of the scripts submitted. Please do not let the outcome on this occasion deter you from applying for future schemes or job vacancies where you feel you are suitably qualified.
In the meantime, we would like to thank you for the time you took in preparing your application, and wish you every success with your writing career.
The BBC Recruitment Team
Thursday, June 28, 2007
However, I can't decide if the 30 min script is the one I want to send. It has been through the Power Of Three and is as polished as can be, but I'm not sure that it's good enough to be added to the pack. It's an old script I wrote at university eight years ago and is, what I would call, 'a little studenty'. I have another 30 min script which I think is better. Problem is it's only a first draft. I'm getting the wife to read both and I'm going to go with her decision.
Then there's my one pagers. Are they good enough? I think they are. Could they be better? Possibly.
Is it possible for a writer to over analyse their work?
It's the same when I send a script out and get a rejection, I immediately start work on another draft. The script maybe extremely polished, but as it's been rejected I feel the need to rewrite it. After all it doesn't mean that just because it was rejected it's no good, it just means that particular production company didn't like it. Another might like the same version.
How much polishing is too much?
I have a script I've been writing on and off now for six years and the current draft is worse than the first. I'm having to take it back a couple of drafts just to sort out the issues.
How do you decide when a script is ready?
Monday, June 25, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
John Simm is a god, it's official. What an episode. It's the first time watching Doctor Who I am genuinely concerned that the Doctor isn't going to make it, even though I know he will. Where does he go from here and how does he get out of it? It's cruel to make us wait another week.
Oh, and sorry James, but you were beaten to the jelly babies. Bugger!
Thursday, June 21, 2007
One of the things drummed into me at university was the saying, "know your audience." So why have 20th Centry Fox decided to give Die Hard 4.0 a PG 13 rating when all the other films were at least a 15 certificate?
I can understand Fox wanting to open the franchise up to a wider audience, but by doing so aren't they alienating its loyal fans? Take Die Hard: Die Harder for instance. Originally released as an 18 certificate when it came out on video some of the swearing was dubbed so it could be released as a 15. It wasn't long though before the full uncensored 18 version followed.
As a fan I don't want my action cut, swearing dubbed and violence watered down just so Fox can make a few extra bucks. It didn't work with the third Robocop and I can't see it working for the fourth Die Hard.
How can a Die Hard film really be a PG 13?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
A case in point: An assistant at a well know production company is a fan of my work. I hadn't contacted him for a while and wanted to send him a pitch idea for a TV drama serial.
I was going to just post it out but I thought it would be a good idea to check if he was still at the company first. I found out that this man was no longer working as a Drama Assistant , but was now working on one of their productions as a runner.
If I hadn't checked I would have sent a pitch to someone who was no longer a part of the decision making process. That would have been very unprofessional of me.
Remember keep in contact with the industry professionals you know on a regular basis; by phone, by email or by snail mail if you have to. Your life as a writer depends on it.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The BBC had a double bill featuring the return of the Master in Doctor Who, and Steven Moffat's reimagined Jekyll. ITV had a mad bloke performing gore magic and a six year old girl shakily singing 'Ben'. No contest! The BBC really kicked ITV's arse Saturday night.
Steven Moffat, the writer of arguably the best episode of Doctor Who this series with Blink, has done it again bringing us an updated frightening image of an old classic. I think the hardest thing any writer has to face is to make an evil character likable and Steven has done that with Hyde. He oozes charm, takes no shit, is a force to be reckoned with, and lives every moment like it's his last, someone most men would wish they were.
I love Steven Moffat's work, and for me he is the bee's balls of writers at the moment. I would be happy just being half as good as he is. I didn't want episode one to end, and it's so frustrating to have to wait until next week to get my fix.
What were your thoughts on Jekyll?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Next Step:
Now you have to decide where you want your career to go. TV or Film, or both? Ultimately this is up to you; there is no right way.
This was the bit I struggled with. I left my degree course with one completed feature script and thought it would simply be a matter of finding someone willing to make it and pay me shit loads of money. After all it was a genius of a script, low budget, character driven, familiar genre, it couldn't go wrong. I soon discovered that I was, to put it mildly, and absolute idiot who knew bugger all of the world I was about to enter.
This is why I stress the importance of reading industry papers and magazines. You need to keep up to date with who's making what, who's working for who and more importantly what is being made. You can never keep up with trends in writing so don't even try. Once you think you know what the market is looking for, by the time you've written it the trend will have moved on. This is why it's good to have a back catalogue of scripts. If you have a cracking gangster script and ten years down the line someone asks you if you have one you're going to be one step ahead of everyone else.
You have to be proactive in this game. Production companies won't come looking for you, you have to go looking for them. Send them one or two page outlines of your scripts - make sure these are as highly polished as your script and remember they must also reflect the genre of your script. If your script is a comedy feature and your one page outline isn't funny, you won't get any interest.
Try and target five production companies per month and send them your one/two page outline. If you don't hear anything with in a month follow it with a polite phone call. Only send out an outline for one script at a time and remember to keep writing new stuff.
If a particular script isn't catching any interest then put it to one side and move on to the next. There's nothing worse than trying to flog the same script, in a different version, over and over again.
Now get out there and write.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
I was watching TV earlier and saw the new Evian advert. It said something along the lines that it takes six days for you to replace 80% of the water in your body. It then went on to promote the drinking of its brand of water.
So I'm thinking if you drink Evian for six days and replace 80% of the water in your body with it, do you become French?
It's worth thinking about.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Here are a few handy hints I've picked up, borrowed or just plain stolen along the way. I hope they help.
Things you need to remember:
- Don't judge your career by other people's. The average time it takes a writer to get established is ten years. Just because another writer gets lucky with their first or second script doesn't mean it should have happened to you. Don't begrudge them their success, they've earned it.
- Don't wait for someone to recognise your talent, you have to make them discover it. Putting yourself out there, or selling yourself, is as important as your writing. Cut corners and it'll cost you. Never, ever let up on this.
- A rejection letter isn't rejecting you, it's rejecting your script. So it wasn't to their taste, maybe the next one will be?
An excellent example of this came by email this morning:
"We did take a look at "Cross The Rubicon"; I have to say, to me it reads as the same script and the same tone. I'm glad to have taken a look at it, but I do still think it will not be something we're going to commit to at this stage."Is it a rejection? Only a rejection of that draft. They like the script but not in it's current form. I could just say 'Fuck it' and not bother, but then I would only have myself to blame when I don't get anywhere. So my response (and the correct one) is to find out why they didn't like this draft and change it so they do.
No one ever said being a writer was easy.
Have a fun weekend, people.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
12.00: Got up an hour later than normal and shoved a bowel of Bran Flakes down my throat, along with a pint of Dr. Pepper. I don't drink coffee because it sends me mental - just think of the effect on a small child who is force fed a 1kg packet of sugar and then is made to wash it down with five 2 litre bottles of Lucozade. Not pretty is it?
You will also notice I haven't showered. I won't be leaving the house until I have to go to work tonight so what's the point; it only distracts from writing. Besides it isn't Friday. Friday is wash day.
12.35: After a quick check of my emails, work starts on more pages of my new feature Faith.
13.25: One important scene down. A short toilet break and a quick check of the emails. I check my emails quite regularly while I'm writing. When the creative right side of my brain has to fight the rewrite hungry left side I quickly check my emails so the left side of my brain goes back to sleep. At this point I'm writing, not rewriting. The left side of my brain will be dominant later.
13.57: I'm having to fight the urge to go back and rewrite really hard now. I've reread some scenes I wrote last week and they are quite horrendous. I must resist.
14.09: Phone call from the wife telling me all about her lovely new haircut. I'm so excited - NOT!
14.14: Back to work. Boy that woman can natter when she wants to.
15.03: Written four pages so far. Now I need to pop up the post office. Will grab a sandwich to eat on the way. Back in a bit.
15.33: Nice walk in the sun to post the letter, listening to AC/DC on my MP3 and munching on a cheese and salad sandwich. So that's what daylight looks like. I might try some more tomorrow. Check the emails then back to work.
16.17: Seven pages done, time to move on to something else. Need to write a letter, but need to check the emails first.
16.41: Job done. Check the emails again and then on to my one pagers for my agent's pack.
17.17: Gave all three one pagers a quick read through and a polish. I'll send them out tomorrow to get people's opinions. That's the writing done for today. Time to cook my dinner as the wife is out tonight and I have to be at work by 18.30. Bye.
Something to get your teeth into kiddies.
Ever get that feeling that the plot of the latest blockbuster or TV drama is pretty lame?
Can you do better? Now’s your chance to prove it!!!!
You may have a great idea for a film, but have you got what it takes to convince a panel of tough industry professionals that your idea is the best, in only 5 minutes.
The Screenwriters' Festival '07 in association with 4Talent want to give YOU the opportunity to pitch your amazing movie or TV idea to a stellar industry panel.
Several writers from last year’s pitching competition have already gone onto bigger and better things: some have had their ideas optioned or have been commissioned to write an original screenplay.
As Channel 4 and 4Talent are always on the lookout for new and emerging talent, this pitching competition is the perfect opportunity to get noticed. The three winners of FEVERpitch will get the chance to talk to Film4 Executives about their ideas as well as receiving a ticket and free accommodation* to the rest of the Screenwriters’ Festival, Thursday 5th and Friday 6th July 2007.
So, if you have a drop-dead gorgeous idea for a feature film or TV drama in any genre, we wanna hear it. Write down your pitch in 25 words, then on a separate page, expand the synopsis to 150 words and email it to us. Out of all the entries we will shortlist ten who will attend the festival on Tuesday 3rd, and have a special coaching session on the Wednesday 4th July before the live pitching session.
- Send us in your prized pitch.
- Out of all the entries, ten will be chosen to go forward to the live pitching session on the Rising Talent day, Wednesday 4th July.
- Prior to the pitching session, Agent Julian Friedmann will hold a private pitching lesson for the ten finalists.
- The finalists will then pitch to a panel of industry professionals who will give feedback in front of the live festival audience.
- And here's the twist, the panel won’t be choosing the 3 winners, the audience will…
All shortlisted entrants will be entered into the 4Talent Directory which is the profile section of the website that allows creatives to promote themselves.
Closing Date for entries is Friday 22nd June 2007 at midnight
Competition Rules, Terms and Conditions
- Pitch MUST be less than 25 words and synopsis up to 150 words.
- The competition is open to EVERYONE.
- If you are chosen you must be available to attend the Screenwriters' Festival on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th July 2007.
- If you are one of the 10 winners you will be invited to stay for the rest of the Professional Festival and will have accommodation provided for the nights of the 4th and 5th July; so plan and book travel to cover that possibility.
- If you are one of the three winners and have already purchased a two or a four day ticket, they will be reimbursed accordingly minus any paypal fees.
- If you are one of the three winners and have already booked accommodation they will get reimbursed for the 4th and the 5th July only up to the Travelodge rate of £50 per night as this is where any winner who HAS NOT booked will be accommodated for the nights of the 4th and the 5th July.
- Closing date for the competition is Friday 22nd June 2007.
- The 10 winning pitches will be chosen on Monday 25th June and the winners will be informed by Wednesday 27th June.
- Pitching the idea, and/or winning, does not mean that your idea will get picked up.
- The Audiences decisions are final and we will not enter into correspondence about their decisions.
- The Winners meeting with the Film4 Executives does not guarantee any contract or development deal.
- Food and drink at the Festival is your responsibility.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I'd done five pages of my new feature and I had to pop out for half an hour, so I left the file open. When I got home I found the computer had crashed...ARSE!!!!! Luckily I had done my last back up to CD-RW on Monday, but even better I'd set Final Draft to auto save.
I rebooted my computer and thank god it had auto saved, because I hadn't lost a thing. Fantastic!!!!
I know James Moran is religious about backing up his work, and I'm glad I do too.
The lesson? Save often, and don't forget to back up on to CD-RW every day. If you don't you'll regret it.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I now have twenty pages to go and I'm in no rush to tell you the truth. Some of the pages on Wednesday were crap and I don't really want to repeat that, so I will be taking my time on the last twenty pages (say five pages a day next week) to ensure decent quality.
What have I learnt from the last couple of days? My rush to get the script finished has been a reminder that to survive as a writer you have to write. Sounds such a simple thing to say doesn't it, but it's so true and sometimes we can be distracted from this. I know last year I was. I was too occupied with rewrites to write anything new and this was a mistake. I dried up and didn't move forward.
I was also reminded that on the first draft it is important to get the pages down, to get it written. Then you need at least a month away from it before you look at it again. Then is the time to start sifting the good from the bad.
My problem is I like to write quality all the time, and I often find myself going back over what I've written several times even before the script is half written. It's a habit I'm going to have to kick if I want to write more new work this year.
Thanks for taking that journey with me.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I shall give you updates as I go in the comments, so feel free to encourage, cajole, or just plain insult my efforts.
Enjoy, as I have a nervous breakdown. :-)
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I'm nearing the end, but I still have a significant number of pages to write.
Gotta get my head down.
Food and drink are with in reach.
The phone is off the hook.
I have an empty two litre bottle to pee in.
My fingers are feeling numb.
I will make it, damn it!!!!!!!!
One snag....I put my back out at the weekend and leaning over the laptop is killing me.
I suffer for my art, I really do.
Friday, May 25, 2007
It got me thinking about situations I find myself in as a writer where I feel the same as above; phoning production companies, going to seminars and meeting people who have had more success writing than I have (I always feel like a dribbling, arse licking freak, eager to bleed knowledge from them but also aware I might come across as slightly disturbed).
I got married last year; that was the easy part. The bit I was most scared about was having to give a speech in front of both sets of family and all our friends. Quite frankly I was shitting myself. I was reminded of something someone (I forget who) once told me, that helped a great deal with the nerves. So if you're feeling nervous the next time Russell T Davies rings you up to chat about you writing for Doctor Who, think about this.
What you have to understand about the human body is that it is run by chemicals. When someone holds a knife to your throat, or you stand on the edge of a large drop and the wind blows you off balance, your body produces chemicals that make you sacred and fear for your life. That's because the body interprets these threats as life threatening, and rightly so.
When you receive a phone call from that production company or you're about to enter a meeting with a big time producer, your body will release the same chemicals (albeit in smaller quantities). Your body interprets a threat to your person the same way if a knife is held to your throat or you're about to enter a very important meeting. Only one is actually life threatening but the body doesn't know that. The chemicals that it releases in response to those threats are what make you feel sick.
So you have to train your body to understand the difference between those threats. When you're about to go into that meeting think to yourself, "Yeah, this is scary, but it's NOT going to kill me." Do that every time you come across a scary situation and you'll find that meetings, public speaking, and other scary tasks, will become easier with time. A producer might give you a hard time over your script, but he will hardly pull out a giant knife and slit your throat over it.
Think like that and you'll feel better in no time. Have a good Bank Holiday.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Reading is important! Read anything and everything. Read scripts; of blockbusters, early drafts, your fellow writers' work. Read books, not just your favorite sci-fi, but all genres, and news papers, lots and lots of news papers. Increase your knowledge base; the more you know the more you can write about. Read books on writing, on film making, on production (It helps to know all aspects of the business. The more familiar you are with the industry and the way it works the more you'll be able to navigate your way through it.), industry tabloids like - Radio Times, Broadcast and Screen International.
Get a blog. Meet other blogging writers. Swap tips, ideas and bodily fluids if you have to. Ask them questions. Ask them lots of questions. Pester them for advice. Be a sponge, soak up their collective knowledge.
Then you want to look at courses. Ask around; who's been on what, and what do they have to say about it. You don't want to waste your time so research is important here. Choose the wrong course/s and you might as well throw your money down the toilet. Listen to what other bloggers say about courses they've been on, would recommend, etc.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Monday, May 07, 2007
Mark Greig has written for Life On Mars, Taggart, Afterlife and the new Gene Hunt series Ashes To Ashes. He found time in his busy schedule to answer a few nosey questions from myself.
Q: How did you get into writing?
Constantly being told that I was 'good at English' as a boy, and devouring the written word like chocolate raisins.
And http://wordface.blogspot.com/2007/01/how-i-got-started.html for more...
Q: What's your writing highlight to date?
Getting to the end of the first draft of anything. Plus a few neat story beats and some lines of dialogue - most of my favourites of which ended in the cutting room bin. Note for learning writers; dialogue isn't really what it's about.
Q: Readers of your blog are aware of your love for all things stationary, what is your most treasured stationary object and why?
A Pentel propelling pencil I've had for years, because I've had it for years, and because writing in pencil makes the words on the page somehow provisional and fluid, which is a good thing in the early stages of making something up. And the yellow A4 pads from Ryman's, of which I have a satisfying stack. And a lovely notebook from Muji that's too beautifully functional to use. And, and, and...
Q: You're currently working on Ashes To Ashes, is there anything else we should be keeping an eye out for?
No guarantees, but there's a better chance than most that a single I'm developing at the Beeb will make it to screen - an urban fairytale with songs and rent boys - and as I write this, an amber light is flickering to green on a 2 part pilot for a new cop show that will be written before the end of the year.
Q: What can you tell us about Ashes To Ashes with out getting fired or publicly flogged?
Mmm. Most of the stuff we hoped to hold back is now in the public domain - how *do* people get hold of it?? - e.g. 1981, London, female co-lead etc. Same but different. And better, obviously. I find Alex Drake a stronger and more interesting character to write than Sam Tyler (CHARACTER, weirdy fan nuts - no reflection at all on John Simm's excellent performance), who was oddly passive for a dramatic lead.
Q: It was reported that there was going to be a third series of Life On Mars, but this was changed at the last minute and the final episode rewritten to bring an end to the show. As you wrote the penultimate episode how did this decision impact on you and the rest of series two?
It was known that there would only be two series before Matthew started on the last episode, but that start was pretty late. Although Matthew always had the ending clearly in mind, the plot and story mechanics (i.e. how to make it work) didn't really emerge until I was on draft 3 or thereabouts (this was a year ago, so it's hazy). By that time the Frank Morgan/Hyde character had made such an impact that it was obvious we'd be missing a trick if he didn't continue into ep 8 in a big way. The story of the week of ep 7 was locked down quite early, but various bits relating to Hyde - what Sam knows and when etc. - were tinkered with up to principal photography and beyond.
Q: On my blog I've discussed two possible interpretations of the ending of Life On Mars (I may just have been reading more into it than there was). What was your interpretation of the ending and what was the official one?
Sam was in a coma, and entered a 1973 world weaved from a slippery combination of memory and fantasy. A surgical process brought him round from his coma, but he found the 'real' world less vivid and meaningful than this other world, a world where he paradoxically felt more alive and more true to his emotional self, so he chose to return there permanently by killing himself.
As far as I know that's also the official version. Everybody involved were, and continue to be, amazed by the myriad alternative interpretations, some of which were, well - perhaps a little over-complicated. Good reading, though.
There was no time travel.
Q: What instructions were you given for writing Gene Hunt?
I watched the first series and read a couple of early drafts of series 2 eps. You don't get instructions in the way I think you mean.
Q: Your episode of Life On Mars was slightly darker in tone than previous episodes, was that deliberate?
Only in so far as it reflects my apparent inclination towards the heart of darkness. Just can't help it.
Q: Please explain the process once you've been commissioned for an episode of a series?
You have a chat about the series as a whole and your ep in particular with the producers, editors, and sometimes the other writers. You come up with an idea and put it on a page. They like it. You then do a treatment/sequence outline/beat sheet, whatever you've all agreed to call it on that particular project.
I call it a beat sheet and tell the story in sequence units of a paragraph or two, numbered for ease of discussion (much better to refer to number 17 rather than 'you know, that bit where she gets lost in the cave, the one after the bit where the old bloke says 'whatever you do, don't go in the cave'.'). You send that in, you meet and talk about it, and then you revise it. You then either meet and talk and revise or phone and talk and revise, and then you either revise and meet and talk or you go to script.
Repeat the submit, talk, revise process till you have to stop, usually the first day of principal photography. And sometimes beyond...
4, 6 & 8 part series work differently from things like the soaps and Casualty/The Bill etc. where episodes are to a greater or lesser degree storylined for the writer, but the basic process of submit, talk, revise and repeat ad infinitum applies to all.
Q: Have you ever had to turn down work that you regret, and what was it?
Probably the first series of Life on Mars. Who knew?
Q: What's your preferred writing beverage?
Coffee. By the piping hot black cafetiere load. Less of a beverage, more of an essential tool for living.
Q: Where do you write and under what conditions?
In a room at the back of the house with a view of next door's vast holly tree and the bully bastard magpies*, and occasionally with a little girl, who thinks that work means listening to music on headphones, wriggling on my lap demanding to look at pictures of herself on the PC.
*is it legal to shoot magpies? Someone out there must know. And cats, although I'm pretty sure I know that answer to that one. I'd just like it to be different.
Q: If you could have written an existing film or TV series from past or present, which one would it have been and why?
Mm. Don't know. There are lots of films and shows that I love and respect, but that doesn't mean I'd want to write them. I'm still happy to get sucked into someone else's world. And maybe I love them precisely because I *couldn't* have written them.
Q: What's your favourite film quote?
As above - it's not really about dialogue. That's there to move the plot along and show how clever the writer is, but for me the films and film moments that stay with me are about image and sound and the parts between the words.
Oh okay, if you're going to *force* me - uummmmm - "Do you eat the herring?"
Q: What advice would you give to a new writer trying to break into TV?
Have a gift for it, be productive and persistent. You learn more by doing than by being taught. And have a gift for it.
If you want to wonder at Mark's world then check out his blog, but be warned he doesn't update it regularly even though he really should. Naughty boy!
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
So was Sam really in the past or was he mad? Here are my own conclusions.
For me Sam had been transported back in time after his accident. When he returned to the future he realised that he belonged, and could do more good, in 1973. Sam wasn't really living in 2006, he was just existing, going through the motions. In 2006 Sam was a very small cog in a very large machine, with very little influence on the world he inhabited. He just didn't feel he belonged. Realising this he committs suicide and returns to 1973, a place where he feels alive.
This view of the ending can be disputed and this is what I mean by 'good' drama. You could argue that Sam was in fact from 1973 and because of the childhood trauma, revealed in the final episode, he had created the vision of the future to cope with the loss of his parents. 2006 was all in his imagination, an illusion reborn from a recent accident. Going back to 'his' 2006 Sam was having a breakdown. Making a conscious decision to stay in 1973 he finally saved himself and his sanity.
These are only two interpretations of the ending and I'm sure others have come up with many more.
And then of course there's the ending I would have written.
Sam discovers Gene Hunt was the person who ran him over in 2006 and to get home Sam has to destroy Gene Hunt in 1973. However, by doing so he has to destroy the rest of the team, people he considers friends. Sam realises he can't do this and saves the team and Gene Hunt, sacrificing his own life for the sake of the others.
What did the finale of Life On Mars mean to you?
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
As the script is set in the back streets of London, among the prostitutes and crack addicts, you have to accept there is going to be a few swear words in it. What I don't want to do is write so many it becomes almost farcical. I know SEXY BEAST is a film with a high swear count and that worked, but could I get away with a large count as a new writer? Would production companies avoid a script with lots of swearing in it?
I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.