Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Review

As I pound away at the keys on my keyboard writing my latest feature screenplay at a furious pace and reflecting on another year gone by - my second as a freelance writer - I can't help but think of what a year of contradictions it has been.

In January 2011 I was in a blind panic worrying where the money for the bills was going to come from, as our second child was due in February. Eventually I had to take a small step back from the writing and get a job in a local supermarket working forty hours a week in the evenings to ensure we had enough money coming in to survive my wife's planned maternity leave. It put me under a lot of pressure, but also gave me some perspective and the chance to take stock of my first year freelance. It also gave me time to plan what I was going to do when I went back to writing full-time and what I wanted to achieve from the three months left of the year when my wife went back to work in October.

Early on in the year, around about March, I was offered the chance to write a romantic comedy feature, but despite my best efforts to get a contract and a writing schedule organised things dragged on for months, eventually fizzing out late summer. The offer of work is still there, but it's not one I'm actively chasing right now. They know where I am if they want me.

The Traveller, a collaboration with Musaab Ag, was chosen as an official selection of the Cannes Short Film Corner in May and did rather well, so much so Musaab and I are now working on three future collaborations together, two screenplays of mine - one a short the other a thriller feature - and a feature written by someone else.

In June I heard back from a competition - The Prequel to Cannes Screenwriting Prize 2011 - informing me I had made the final four. It came completely out of the blue, as I had entered and forgotten about it almost straight away. I was quite frankly stunned and had an incredibly nervous wait for the final results. I didn't have to wait long as the results were announced two weeks later in July and to my absolute delight I discovered I had won the competition. Then everything started to go a bit mental...in a good way...

The same script was chosen for Industrial Scripts' Talent Connector and because of this I've had some serious interest from an agent working at a top London agency who wants me to come in for a chat in the new year. I also received offers of work from at least two directors and things were beginning to look really good.

Around came October, my dear lady wife went back to work enabling me to once again concentrate full-time on my writing, which included attending the annual networking event called The London Screenwriters' Festival. Again my award winning screenplay landed me work, a project I'm really excited about, and attracted a lot of interest in me as a writer from directors and producers.


Then in November another writer I know phoned me up and asked, 'What are you working on?'

'Just my Red Planet entry,' I replied.

'Forget that, I've got a job for you' said the writer, who then proceeded to offer me paid work. Contracts and payment were signed and sorted this month and I know find myself commissioned to write my first fully paid feature for a French production company.

So although 2011 started out slow and uncertain, it has graduated into opportunities galore, career progression and some serious paid work. 2011 has been very kind to me indeed.

Here's looking forward to a prosperous 2012 and I hope it's a successful one for all of you out there.

Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas




Merry Christmas everyone.

Peace be with you all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

NDA

I dread reading a screenplay every time I'm asked to sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) by a writer wanting me to read their work.

I've signed five NDAs in the last three months and four have been totally unnecessary. So why do people get so paranoid their idea might be talked about and stolen when they really don't have anything to worry about? What do they think I'm going to do read their script and think 'by Margret Thatcher's balls that's a brilliant script, I'm going to steal it and make my fortune?' As if!

The WGGB suggest you simply put a little © by your name on the title page and leave it at that and I agree. There is no need for NDAs because anyone who wants a long and successful career in the business WILL NOT steal your work! If they did their career would be over the instant word got out. No one would want to touch them...NO ONE!

I could understand if the people in question were Hollywood writers with potential blockbusters on their hands (not that they would come to me anyway), or production companies with a project nearly ready to go, but why do new writers in this country insist on having a reader sign an NDA before they send out their script? And I have to be brutally honest here, it's usually the average scripts that come with the NDAs, the ones that don't have a killer plot worth talking about in the first place. That's not to say I haven't seen some very well written screenplays after I've signed an NDA.

Besides you can't protect an idea. Once you've written a screenplay it's your intellectual property by law, but the idea can still be written in a different way, with different characters by someone else. I can guarantee that while you're coming up with your unique blockbuster of an idea there are hundreds of other people, maybe even thousands, having the exact same idea at the exact same time. As if to prove this point earlier in the year someone pitched me an idea for a TV series to see if I thought it was any good, then last month I read the EXACT same idea had been made into a Hollywood film and was due for release soon.

So if anyone is reading this and is thinking of sending me their screenplay to read, don't ask me to sign an NDA before hand, it's not needed...honest!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Method Writing Part 2

I've been thinking on this subject some more since last week, especially as Lucy (Bang2Write) Hay obviously didn't get what I was trying to say.

I WASN'T saying you should take examples from your life and force them on your characters essentially turning them into bastard versions of yourself. What I WAS saying is you need to refer back to emotional times in your own life to better understand the character you are trying to write. Let me try to make this crystal clear.

EXAMPLE: Your character is a teenage boy who doesn't relate to his mother, putting him on a collision course with her.

Go back and look at instances in your own life where you didn't get on with your mother and explore how you felt and how your actions helped or hindered that relationship. Then pick one really traumatic example, make it ten times worse and remove yourself from it, putting your character in there instead. Role play your character through that example from your life. How would your character have reacted differently? They are not YOU and will bring their own agenda to the situation. Remember it's not about imposing your life on your characters, it's about exploring your characters using examples in your life.

By doing this I have found it helps me to understand my characters better, by becoming them and exploring incidents in my life through their eyes. By the time I do this I already know who my characters are, this is not about development after all, this is only about getting into your character's head as you get ready to write your screenplay.

I hope that's clearer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Method Writing

We've all heard of method acting where the actor immerses themselves so far into a role they become the character, even to the extent of living as that character outside of the film set - but is there such a thing as method writing?

I believe there is, but is it as simple as matching your mood to the genre or character you are writing, or do you have to dig deeper than that? When I wrote Faith, my coming-of-age drama which won the Prequel to Cannes Screenwriting Prize 2011 (a bleak tale of a street prostitute and her fight to escape the streets that would eventually consume her), I was in a very dark place. I had been suffering from depression for about three years and the incredibly bleak story of Faith was born directly from my experience of that depression.

To be a great writer I believe you have to have empathy with your characters, a connection with them which goes beyond the norm, that makes them important enough to you to spend several months, maybe even years with them. If you don't know enough about your characters, or have anything in common with them, how can you expect your audience to? There is the saying, "write what you know," and never was a truer word spoken. I'm not saying you need to go and live as a street prostitute to be able to write about one, but at the very least you must be able to understand her desperation at her situation.

If you're writing about a destructive mother and child relationship then think back to your own childhood and all the bad times you had with your mother, think about them every day, analyse the fuck out of them, make them ten times worse in your mind than they actually were, take those examples further and then you're on your way to getting into that character's mind set. At the very least it's bloody good therapy.

If you're writing about an overly optimistic person, hunt one down. Watch them - how they act, interact, what they say and how they say it, and then become that person - copy how they do things, become the overly optimistic character you're going to write about.

What I'm trying to say is your characters aren't going to be real on the page or to the audience if you don't make them real to yourself, and you can only do this if you immerse yourself into their world. Joe Cornish spoke about researching Attack The Block at LSWF 2011 last month. He told how he went to several youth clubs in London to interview inner city kids and came away with more material then he would ever use. He spent so much time with those kids he began to think like them, or at least understand how they thought, enabling him to write convincing characters.

Every character I write, even a peripheral character with a walk on part, has a little of me, or of someone I know, in their make up. I give a little of myself to all of my characters, do you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back To The Grind

It's been two and a half weeks since the fabulous London Screenwriters' Festival and it's taken me this long to find my feet again, after responding and writing those hundreds of emails following up with people I met and absorbing and making sense of all that information thrown at me over three incredible days.

The festival surpassed last years excellent event with assured ease and I got so much out of it listening to great speakers and meeting fascinating people that my writing batteries are now fully recharged for another year. To describe all of the fantastic things I got up to and the many wonderful people I met would require a week of writing to cover every angle, so for simplicity's sake I'll just stick to my highlights.

I was delighted to be awarded a place on the Gub Neal mentoring session on the Friday afternoon. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend three hours in the company of the man responsible for such legendary programs as Cracker and Prime Suspect and it was a delight to discover Gub was free with information and advice. Even though I was disappointed to miss Paul Ashton, Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright I wouldn't have been anywhere else. The best part of the session was being asked to pitch not only to Gub but to the other five writers there, and I learnt a lot from that alone. The main lesson for me was discovering I really am rubbish at pitching and it is something I'm going to have to seriously work on if I ever want to sell my work to TV. My mind going blank is not an excuse for leaving out my USP, something Gub honed in on instantly, and was a fantastic reminder that practice makes perfect, and practice I will from now on.

Ashley Pharaoh was speaker I was eagerly looking forward to and I wasn't disappointed. It was fascinating to hear how he works as a writer, the mistakes he's made along the way and especially which ones he's determined to avoid in the future. He was so generous with his time answering all of our questions until we couldn't think of any more, and all the while suffering with jet lag after just returning from the US. What a lovely man!

I was also extremely happy to bump into Rob Thorogood at the bar and chat to him about his debut TV series Death In Paradise, a show I'm really enjoying. Rob was very candid about his 'overnight success' which took ten years of hard graft to achieve and it was heart warming to see him still worrying about whether he'd ever work in the industry again, despite DIP's opening episode attracting just under six million viewers. It's good to know all writers, at all levels, constantly fear failure. I suppose it's what drives us and keeps us going long after most other people would have given up.

The main thing I went to LSWF for was the networking and I made sure I set up a few meetings before I got there. I was ecstatic to discover there were more directors and producers than last year, evidence word is getting around the LSWF is the place to be for networking and to find up and coming talented writers. After three and a half days networking I came away with a pile of business cards, a ton of possible future collaborations and a deluge of promised paid work. Not all of those opportunities will work out, some will fall by the wayside, or naturally run out of steam, but what I truly believe is important is the forming of those new relationships, as you never know where they might lead.

There was one project in particular that was pitched to me by a producer looking for a writer to work on that I fell in love with (the project, not the producer). If I hadn't emailed him before the festival we might never have met and I would have missed out on the chance to write a feature idea that grabbed and swung me around by the passion plums. I really can't wait to get stuck into that idea and I'm so grateful for the opportunity.

By the end of the weekend I was a little punch drunk after all that information and superb networking, but it was a nice tired, a tired wrapped in the warmth of a comfort blanket, a tired with a warm glow, a tired that...well I think you get the message. I honestly can't wait until next year.

Now if you will excuse me I must get back to my desk and work on my Red Planet Prize entry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How To Make The Most Of The London Screenwriters' Festival 2011 - Part 4

Those pitches should be pretty polished by now, but keep practicing them.

Only two days to go, so here's a reminder of some of the more important things you need to do before, and while you're at the festival.

  • Remember your business cards, you'll need them.
  • Remember your one page pitches, but only hand them out if asked for one.
  • Don't worry too much about missing a session if networking is going well, as the sessions are filmed and will be available on the delegates network after the festival.
  • Don't hang around people you know, go and mingle, talk to as many new people as possible.
  • Be brave.
  • Ask them about what they do and what they're working on, show an interest in their work and don't rabbit on about yourself.
  • Take every opportunity to network.
  • Stick to one drink in the evenings at the bar, so you can continue to network and don't come across as a dribbling drunk.
  • Buy people drinks, they'll love you for it.
  • Turn up early, go home late.
  • Make as many notes about what you learn as you can - remember to write these out in longer form as soon as you get home from the festival, as they won't make any sense in a months time.
  • Be polite, friendly and professional at all times. You're promoting yourself here.
  • Follow up any chats after the festival with an email.
  • Listen, learn, absorb.
  • There is no such thing as luck, only hard work and persistence pays off.
Have a great time and enjoy yourselves.

Now pitch me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How To Make The Most Of The London Screenwriters' Festival 2011 - Part 3

Still practicing those pitches? Good, keep doing so.

Here are a couple of further thoughts on networking.

  • There will be a bar at the festival, but I suggest you don't drink, or if you do then just make it the one. People don't like being cornered by a slurring drunk waffling on about utter bollocks for several hours, giving them a hug and telling them they're their new best friend. Stay sober.
  • Buy drinks for others, especially producers and directors. It's OK to get them drunk, as you might find them more open to your 197 page factual TV drama about the woman down the road who looks after stray cats, if they have been well lubricated in advance.

Now it's time to get your bag ready.

Already?

Yes, get it ready now so you're not trying to pack everything at the last moment, that will only lead to you missing out vital stuff. So what will you need in your bag?

  • Your LSWF ticket - DUH!
  • Your 250 business cards - remember these are your most important tool.
  • An empty business card box - to put all those valuable business cards in which you will collect from other people.
  • A copy of the schedule - print one off from the website the day before you go and highlight the sessions you most want to attend. The schedule will most likely change anyway, but at least you'll have a basic one to refer to.
  • A map of Regents Collage - you need to know where you are going for each session.
  • Several pens - in case one runs out, you lose one, or some thieving little git 'borrows' one.
  • A small note book - for the making of detailed notes about possible collaboration. You should always carry one anyway, to write down any ideas you might have.
  • An A4 pad - for the writing of notes while listening to speakers.
  • Ten copies only of the one page pitches of the three projects you are going to take with you.
  • Your three sixty-second pitches - do not read these out from your notes, they are only for back up.
  • A fully charged spare battery for your mobile phone - you'll be surprised how quickly it will run out.
  • Your thoroughly researched speaker and delegate list - with pictures so it's easier to spot people while you're there.
  • Mints - no one wants to talk to someone who's breath smells like a camel's bum.
  • Money - for the buying of sustenance and plying producers and directors with liquid 'YES' juice.
  • A can of Red Bull - for the drinking of to keep your mind sharp should you suddenly find yourself flagging.
  • A smile, a cheerful disposition and an eagerness to soak up every ounce of information and milk every networking opportunity.
Go get them.

Next week: A brief summery to remind you all of how to make the most out of the festival.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How To Make The Most Of The London Screenwriters' Festival 2011 - Part 2

Have you written your pitches and practiced them until you know them off by heart? I hope so. What next?

Business Cards: The most important tool you're going to take with you and the one most frequently overlooked. I took 250 with me last year - you can never have too many - and handed out a good proportion of them. I couldn't believe there were delegates at the festival who didn't have business cards and were writing their email addresses and phone numbers down on scraps of paper. It shows a total lack of professionalism not taking any with you. Get them now!

Get at least 250, they don't have to cost much, don't have to be fancy - all they need is your name, what you do, your phone number and email address - and should be blank on one side. Why? Good question and the answer is simple.

When you collect cards from other people and you've finished having a conversation with them, write down the highlights of that conversation on the back of the card. Why write this information down on a separate piece of paper and risk losing it? This information is important for following up your new contact after the festival. You'll hopefully be talking to a lot of people and it will be difficult to remember every conversation. I have one card from last year that simply says 'fork man' on the back and is still even now more than enough to jog my memory of who he was, what he did and more importantly what we talked about. Remember to keep the cards you collect safe, hide them away in your bag so you don't risk losing them.

I made a conscious effort last year not to hang around too much with people I knew. I wanted to meet new people and forced myself to go out of my way and talk to as many strangers as I could. This is your best option to make new, and possibly valuable, contacts. I did check in with my friends now and again and I'm glad I did, as one of them introduced me to a producer who offered me work.

I'm not naturally social so I know how difficult it is to walk up to a complete stranger and start talking to them, but I did it and towards midday on the second day I was really enjoying it. Push yourself to talk to people and try and remember they are probably just as nervous about talking to you as you are to them.

There are a few simple rules that will help you with this:
  • Everyone likes people to show an interest in them. Ask them questions about their work and experience, rather than just barging in and telling them everything about yourself including your last trip to the doctor for that unexpected rash. If you show an interest in them, they'll naturally want to know about you and what you're working on.
  • Listen carefully, make eye contact, smile often and make sure you show an interest. There's nothing ruder than answering someone's question only for them to start playing Angry Birds on their phone. I usually walk away at that point, or stop talking until they start paying attention again.
  • Always check the body language of the person you've met. If that person looks like they may be getting bored, stop talking about yourself and ask them a question about themselves to get the conversation back on track. If you keep yabbering on about you and your work they'll easily forget about you, or at least do their best to do so.
  • Get there early and stay late. Network while you eat. Network at the bar. Network while you're having a quick ciggy. Network in the canteen queue. However, don't try and network in the toilet. Someone who is taking a private moment in a cubicle to empty their bowels might not take too kindly to you popping your head over the cubical wall and saying, 'Alright mate, how's your festival going?' Make the most of your networking time, because if you don't then others will.
When the festival is over leave it a week before you start following up on those conversations. Send polite emails to everyone you met and talked to. There are no bad contacts so don't leave anyone out, as any single one of them could turn out to the one that helps move your career forwards.

Look out for another information packed blog post next Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How To Make The Most Of The London Screenwriters' Festival 2011 - Part 1

You've bought your ticket, printed off ten copies of your screenplay and now you're ready for LSWF 2011, right? Wrong!

It's not a matter of just turning up, you really need to plan for the festival to get the most out of it. If you don't then you might as well roll up your ticket, insert one end into your anus and light the other. No producer is going to see the genius of your screenplay, no agent your obvious talent, unless you approach the festival professionally and with at the very least a little forethought. You will only get out of the festival what you put in to it.

So what do you need to do?

I talked about how you need to research your fellow delegates and speakers, so I won't go over that again. What I will talk about today is preparing to pitch.

You should have already decided on the three projects you want to take with you to the festival, remembering to print off one page pitches for these to hand out if requested. Your one pager should be written in the style of your project, so if it's a comedy then it needs to be funny, and remember to make it visual. If you don't know what I mean pop down to your local book store, pick up a few random novels and read their back covers. Their story is summed up there and you need to sum up your project in a similar manner. Like your screenplays; write, rewrite and rewrite again until they're as perfect as they can be.

What you also need to do is work out a sixty second pitch for each project. Why sixty seconds? Anything longer and you risk sending the recipient of your pitch to sleep. Keep it short and then if they're interested they'll ask you questions about your project. If you drone on all they'll want to do is to get away from you as fast as they can.

The pitch should be split up like this:*
  • Title - relevant to the script.
  • Format - film, TV , etc.
  • Genre - If you don't know what it is how can they?
  • Compare it to something else that has gone before (It's similar to Quantum Leap, but with robot rabbits.)
  • Then..."This is a story about... who...'
Once you've worked out your pitches for all three projects go and practice them. Pitch to friends, family, or to a video camera, so you can play it back and see for yourself how it works. Then practice some more, and more, so they eventually become second nature to you and you could even pitch them in your sleep.

More advice next week...

*Pitch format shamelessly borrowed from Julian Friedmann's session on pitching last year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

LSWF 2011 - Tickets

The London Screenwriters Festival is nearly upon us (starts 28th Oct) and there are a few tickets left. If anyone is interested then please follow the link below to sign up and use the code (also below) to get £30 of your ticket. There are already some great speakers lined up and it's a great chance to network your socks off. Remember there aren't many tickets left so act now to avoid crying like a baby when they won't let you in.

Go on, you know it makes sense.

https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ereg/newreg.php?eventid=27766

Discount code is 2385251

Hope to see you all there :-)


Dom

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

LSWF 2011 - Preparation

LSWF 2011 is five weeks away and by now, if you're serious about being a writer, you should be preparing for the event.

Things To Do:
  1. Buy your ticket if you haven't already.
  2. Sign up for the speed pitching. It's a wonderful chance to get five minutes face-to-face with an agent or producer, and not one to be missed.
  3. Make sure you have accommodation close to the festival. If you have to travel a fair distance every day, you'll miss out on valuable networking time.
  4. Practice, practice, practice your pitches so you know them off by heart. You never know when you'll be asked to pitch and if you're not ready then you'll blow your chance.
  5. Check the list of speakers every couple of days, research them, choose the ones you want to listen to (or even appraoch to have a chat) and have a list ready for when the schedules are published. That way you can plan which sessions you want to see in advance.
  6. Go on to the Private Delegate Network Page (only accessable when you've bought a ticket), research everyone on it, highlite people of interest you want to talk to and send them a peliminary email and arrange a meeting if possible.
  7. Choose your projects wisely. I would suggest that you choose no more than three and make sure they're finished, proof read and the best you have.
  8. Order at least 250 business cards, you'll need them. Make sure they're blank one side so people you speak to can write notes about you afterwards.
There will be another handy list coming your way soon, chock full of advice on what to do when you get to the festival.

Now get researching!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Musaab Ag's Variety Article


The director of my short film The Traveller, Musaab Ag, has had an interview published in Variety Arabia magazine. A transcript of the article is below:


variety ARABIA I AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011
P E O P L E
EMERGING
FIRST-TIME FILMMAKER’S
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
mussab ag talks to variety arabia about his first mystery thriller, “the traveller”, and the ups and downs that came with it
BAdAr i. sAlem – duBAi
Filmmaking was not an obvious career choice. He studied photography and music and has been working in the media industry for almost eight years now. But Mussab Abdel Ghafour, or Mussab AG, 26, was always fascinated with films and filmmaking. For him, cinema beautifully blends different magical combinations of sight and sound, creating a world of fantasy and hope.

“I was bitten by the film bug early on and visuals have always interested me. I always wanted to be able to tell stories with vivid, colourful, multi- faceted characters using pictures and sound,” says AG, who is a big fan of English director Ridley Scott and “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson. “They both have an extraordinary ability to create worlds and genres in their movies, which always have a profound effect on me.”

A filmmaker’s first feature film is usually a project of passion, to which he devotes all his time and energy to make it the best film of his nascent career. This certainly seems to be the case for AG. His first mystery-thriller film, “The Traveller”, was selected at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner (SFC) – a good start for a first-time filmmaker. “It was such a rewarding moment when I [found out] my very first film had been selected at Cannes SFC. It was a great impetus to me to keep going and I hope it will be

Musab AG’s first mystery-thriller film, “The Traveller”, was selected at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner

to anyone who dreams of becoming a filmmaker.”

The way AG talks about “The Traveller” makes you want to watch it. He may be young, but the knowledge he has of human vulnerabilities, fears, doubts and the uncertainties in our minds and hearts is pretty striking.

There is only one character in the film; the other character was created from the main character’s inner voice, his doubts and fears. Both characters collide in the film. “By showing the conflict between the main character and his other-self, we were able to show other emotions, from revenge to love, guilt and doubt. We don’t show all of this in the film, we just hint at it.

“I won’t say that the main character is 100 per cent good or bad; there is no black and white. The character struggles between both. I want the audience to decide.”

AG likes to refer to himself as “we," as he believes the film is a collective achievement. By “we” he refers to the scriptwriter Peter Mitchell, the screenwriter Dominic Carver, the lead actor UAE-based Ibrahim Renno and the cinematographer Jack Elliot, among others.

AG notes that the film script was originally a three-page story idea from Peter Mitchell. Dominic Carver then worked extensively on the script, making it longer, more twisted and mysterious.

“We kept working on the script until the night of the shoot; all of the team was on the same track when it came to how we wanted the film to look. They all deserve a big thank you and much credit for their work on the film.” Despite having a supportive and talented team, AG had to overcome many challenges while putting the film together.

“Shooting the whole movie, including the stunt shots, over one night in adverse weather conditions was a big risk,” he acknowledges. “I had to take care of almost 30 crew members, as well as some technical issues, and make sure we wrapped the film before dawn. We had to postpone the shoot three times due to logistical problems. I also had to give up so many ideas due to time and budget constraints.”

The film, which was shot near Fujairah in the UAE – “a surreal place with beautiful mountains”, as AG puts it – had a budget of almost US$13,000 and was self-financed. Regarding the decision to make his first film in English, AG has one direct answer:

“I wanted to emphasise the story and emotions and take out the language element. Besides, the screenplay was originally written in English, and having it in English will help promote it at international film festivals.”

Asked about what he wants his audiences to walk away with after watching “The Traveller”, he replies: “I always try to balance between these two goals – good entertainment and a good concept. I want the audience to go out with both. The story is like a shape made by dots and I leave it to the audience to connect them.”

AG is currently working on a short and a feature film, both of which are in the drama/thriller genre and being written by UK-based Dominic Carver. For him, the journey into the wonders of cinema has just started.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

It Begins

And I'm back...

I'm finally back at my desk full-time after seven months part-time, while my dear lady wife was on maternity leave, and to mark the occasion I've started a new feature screenplay. There's nothing quite like the feeling of starting a new script and even though I've spent months planning it, it has already begun to grow a life of its own. Nearly twelve pages in and characters are starting to change from how I envisioned them, scenes have relocated to new places and personalities have started to affect how characters act and react.

That's what I love about the first drafts; they have a way of running away from you, in directions you never expected, even if you have meticulously planned every detail before hand. They're very experimental, very organic by nature and you shouldn't be worried if your screenplay does go off in unexpected directions. Let it!

With your fist draft you're just finding your way, fleshing out your story and characters, seeing how it all fits together, or doesn't. This is the most glorious time for a writer, to be able to just put words on pages, letting them flow from your unconscious, allowing them to be born, to breath and grow. I know of so many writers who can't resist the urge to go back and immediately rewrite what they've just put on paper, forcing their words to conform to their story. The first draft is the time to get your ideas, all of them, on to the page, even ones that come to you as you write. Reigning in those ideas and tidying up will come with later when you rewrite; you can worry about such things then.

For now celebrate your creativity and let yourself go. It's a wild ride, so enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Those Who Don't Ask Don't Get

No Unsolicited Material.

Three words that are the most frustrating for writers just starting out, but ones you shouldn't let stop you contacting people.

I've talked about this before, but it's worth mentioning again that these words are there to put off those hobby writers who are not professional and haven't polished their work to a fine sheen. Basically it's a barrier for production companies to stop them being inundated with rubbish scripts. If you have a polished script you are confident is ready to be read there is a simple way to get past those three words.

A polite email. Yep, it's as simple as that. Or is it? Well yes and no. There are rules to follow and they are:
  • Be polite - obvious but essential.
  • Don't sign in with, 'Yo Dude' or anything as stupid.
  • Thoroughly research who you are about to approach. If your script doesn't match their back catalogue then don't waste your time. For example if they make comedies it would be a waste of time sending them a biopic of Alan Sugar.
  • Show an interest in who they are by asking them about some of their past work, or praising something they've done. Don't be vague and don't fawn all over them.
  • Introduce yourself - tell them who you are and what you've done.
  • If you have a unique selling point - for example if you've won a competition - then mention it, as it'll put you ahead of the queue.
  • Don't be pushy.
  • Don't attach your script. Ask them if they would be kind enough to read it first. If they ask to read it, then send it.
  • Include your logline.
  • Politely sign off - again obvious but essential
  • Keep it short. A rambling email will just get binned.
This approach works. I know it does because I've used it and had my work read by companies who have 'No Unsolicited Material' plastered all over their website. Follow these guidelines and most companies will be receptive to this kind of approached.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Write, You Lazy @%&*er!

It seems such an obvious thing to say it, but to be a writer you actually need to write something.

It's funny how many people on the interwebs say they write, but who are actually still working on their first project, the very same one they've been writing for the last five years and still haven't got past halfway. Then there are those who actually do finish that one script, send it out to a few production companies, think that's it and sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

The first three years after finishing my scriptwriting degree I fell into the latter category. I had a completed script, sent it out, half started another, but then decided I didn't need to finish it because the first script was going to get sold and then I'd have the time and money to sit down and write. How naive and stupid I was back then. It wasn't until I was in my fourth post university year that I realised I didn't have a writing career, I had exhausted all avenues with my one completed script and I wasn't going to get anywhere unless I got up off my arse (or actually sat down on it), put myself in front of my computer and wrote something new.

I realised I should always be working on my next project and building a portfolio of quality screenplays. Words had to be typed for that to happen. The most terrifying words you can hear are, "Loved your script. Can you send me something else?" only to realise you don't have anything else to send. That's why I have the words - WRITE YOU LAZY EFFER!!! - written on the whiteboard above my desk, as a constant reminder I'm only ever as good as my next screenplay.

So if you call yourself a writer online then make sure you are actually writing...all the time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Industrial Scripts - Talent Connector

Industrial Scripts have finally launched their Talent Connector service for unrepresented writers, a scheme based on similar successful services in the USA.

To qualify for Talent Connector you first have to purchase coverage for your script from one of their gang of well known and respected readers, who also read for major production companies and agents. If they think your work is good enough, they'll place you and your script on their scheme.

I know what you're thinking, why should you pay out a large sum of money to have your script read when getting on to the Talent Connector scheme isn't guaranteed? If your work is good enough surely it will get picked up when you send your work out to producers, something you can do for the small cost of postage? I know where you're coming from, as I had the same reservations.

But what Industrial Scripts are offering here is a chance to get you and your work in front of top producers and agents you wouldn't normally have access to, who are usually protected by a mountain of assistants and the words, 'no unsolicited screenplays.' The readers that work for Industrial Scripts also work for such mammoths as Paramount, Working Title, Warner Brothers and Universal and their recommendations carry serious weight with these top producers and agents, which is why Talent Connector puts you and your work in front of them, right on their desk and not on the desk of an assistant.

I have to point out I think this scheme is really only worth while if your writing is at a certain level, that point where production companies are inviting you to submit more of your work and you're getting good feedback on your writing. If you're not at this stage you'll only get frustrated when you and your work isn't recommended for Talent Connector.

You can read all about Talent Connector here.

It's a fantastic opportunity, a great chance for up and coming writers to get themselves and their work noticed, and well worth the money. A sound investment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Loves Me Not Scripts

Loves Me Not Films have launched a new script service for writers that is just that extra bit special and it's well worth a look. The ever wonderful Steven Russell explains why below.

"Working directly with writers, we aim to provide services ranging from development notes to story lining collaboration on a specific script, assessing and analysing their targets, goals and techniques to improve their work.

What we aim to not do is stop working with a writer when we stop reading their script. Thanks to our extensive writer and producer relationships, we are able to manage a script's development directly with a writer, following up to get them read by fellow producers as well as agents and directors. We allow for a collaboration in managing and pushing forward a writer's career. Where all our services meet, we can offer the chance for producers to read scripts developed directly with our writers, scripts that show a strong story dynamic and commercial sensibilities."

You can get in touch with Steven at the following places:


steven@lovesmenotfilms.co.uk // 07734 212 845
www.lovesmenotfilms.co.uk // twitter @lovesmenotfilms // www.facebook.com/lovesmenotfilms


Monday, July 11, 2011

Competitions

Last Friday the 8th July my bleak drama Faith was announced as the winner of the Prequel to Cannes Feature Screenwriting Competition 2011, a great achievement of which I'm very proud. It got me thinking about competitions and how I've approached them in the past and I've come to a conclusion that maybe I didn't treat them with the respect I should have done.

Competition deadlines are dangerous to writers as there's a temptation to rush off any old rubbish just so you can meet that deadline and enter - you've got to be in it to win it after all...right???? In reality you're not doing yourself any favors by rushing your work just to enter for the sake of entering. I know this to be true, as I've been guilty of this on many occasions. Starting a script a week before the final deadline isn't the best preparation in the world. Rushing that script means you haven't put as much effort into as you could have and the quality of what you've written isn't going to be great. It's no surprise then that a good percentage of scripts (more than half the total entered) fall at the first hurdle simply because not enough thought went into them. By doing this you're just wasting your entry fee; you might as well spend it down the pub.

Another danger for writers is thinking of script competitions as the be all and end all, entering everything in sight and hoping you get lucky. It almost becomes an addiction and yes, I've been there too. Again you're not doing yourself any favors, weakening your chances by not focusing your efforts.

It's better to choose four or five screenwriting competitions per year and concentrate on entering those with scripts you've been working on for a while. Better still think a year ahead and then you have a glorious 365 days to work on anything you might wish to enter in the future. Planning ahead, deciding which competitions you're going to enter, what script you're going to enter with, and making sure that script is ready and polished to its best increases your chances significantly. It's worth bearing in mind that my screenplay Faith took three years to write from conception to finished draft, most of which was spent rewriting it over and over again until it sparkled. That's why it has also made the last 25% of entries in another screenwriting competition.

Does winning a competition lead to numerous offers of work and agents begging at your door? I doubt it, but it does elevate your exposure to those in a position to help you forward your career and gives you the opportunity to show what you can do.

Competitions aren't an easy way into the industry and nothing will ever replace good old fashioned hard work as a way of getting you noticed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Luther - Quality Drama

The last episode in series two of Neil Cross's excellent psychological drama Luther aired last night on BBC1 and yet again proved what a talented writer Neil is.

It's a brilliantly written drama with fascinating characters and awesome dialogue, with a central character so screwed up by the death of his wife he is one step away from becoming the people he hunts. It is simply 'must watch' TV. But why only four episodes this season?

I think the final episode suffered a little because of the shortened series and in places felt a little hurried. New characters were introduced to tie up subplots, even though those subplots felt they should have run for longer. Perhaps there were six episodes planned and those subplots were meant to play out over the full series, but were rejigged to accommodate the four episodes?

I also felt the series was missing something with the loss of Alice. She was John Luther's intellectual equal and the only person who truly understood him. Without her it always felt Luther was going to sort things out eventually and that his foes, although initially threatening, were simply no match for him or his intellect. Alice provided that flicker of doubt as to whether Luther would be able to beat her - was he cleaver, cunning, dangerous enough to match Alice and eventually defeat her? For Alice to simply walk away when the series had only just begun felt wrong and not in character, especially as she was jealous of Luther's emotional attachment to his wife in the first series. Why did she not feel the need to compete for Luther affections with Jenny Jones, someone Luther cares for, but who would have been so far out of her depth against Alice? I really hope in the third series (surely there has to be one) Alice is reintroduced, or at least there should be an new character equal to her to truly challenge Luther.

Don't get me wrong the second series of Luther was still awesome TV drama and thoroughly worth the watch. The writing is some of the best I've seen this year, and despite its slightly hurried feel the final episode still entertained. A job well done by Neil Cross.

Monday, July 04, 2011

London Screenwriters Festival 2011

A rumour has been making the rounds on Twitter in the last couple of days claiming this year's festival might not got ahead. I am pleased to read this is untrue, as the above screen capture shows the festival is most definitely going ahead as planned in October.

See you all there.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Helping Hand

I get a lot of emails asking for help and I answer them all, as I do with all my emails. If someone has taken the time to write to me it's only right I take the time to write back...even if I'm busy. If I can't help them myself I'll point them in the direction of someone who might be able to.

Most of these requests for help I get come from media students; I was one once, so I'm only too happy to do what I can for them. A good example of this is when I was contacted by a tutor from Bangor who asked if I had any old scripts the students could film for their course. I was very happy to help them out, sending them two very old scripts. They had fun making them and I got a buzz seeing scripts I thought long dead get made. A win/win situation for all concerned. But there's always someone who has to go and spoil it for others.

I was contacted at the beginning of the month and literally begged by a MA student in London for a short script, as he needed something by the 10 June at the latest, as he had to film four short films as part of his course and was quickly running out of time. I explained to him I was very busy with several paid projects and consequently was only taking on paid work, but I offered to squeeze him into my busy schedule for a small fee. He was still eager for my help and happily agreed to pay.

I kept the student up-to-date with how I was getting on, sending him copies of the script as it progressed, and at all points he said he was very happy with what I was producing for him. When I presented him with the finished first draft ready for him to come back to me with any notes he told me he really liked it. I then didn't hear from him and the 10th June came and went. I sent him two chase emails and finally got a short, abrasive email back from him on the 15th saying he wasn't sure about my script and would get in contact if, and when, he had any notes for me. The alarm bells started ringing in my head.

I wrote back to him asking what was wrong and why he had changed his mind about the script? I got a very rude reply stating he wasn't going to pay me and that he considered the matter closed. So I Googled his name only to find out he'd put a ton of adverts online over the last couple of months asking for scripts, two even posted after his deadline of the 10th June, none of which stated he needed them urgently. It was then quite obvious to me I had been conned and this student was getting writers to write him scripts, making each one think they were the only one working for him, claiming he needed them urgently so that he had several scripts from which to choose from when he was ready to film his MA project.

Now it's not the money I'm concerned about, the money isn't important at all, what gets me is this student got me to write him a script using lies and deceit, knowing I was busy and couldn't really spare the time, and then when the project was done he simply wanted to cut all ties. I suspect, although this is only supposition, he intends to claim credit for the screenplay himself. He'll find it an impossible task now though, as I hunted down his course tutor and told him categorically that this MA student wasn't allowed to use my work in any form and I even sent the tutor a copy of the script to use as reference. I also asked him if he could have a talk with the student about professionalism...he was only too happy to do so.

The moral of this story is be honest and don't deceive those you are working with. It takes years to build up a good reputation and only moments to lose it. This business is built on reputation and word of mouth, and if the word about you is bad then you'll find it hard, or even impossible, to get work.

If anyone out there thinks they've replied to this student's ad, or is working for him now, then please email me and I'll answer whatever questions you have in private.

The unfortunate down side of this is I will now probably say 'NO' to the next student who writes to me asking for help. This doesn't mean I'll stop helping people who ask for it, I'll just be more cautious when people approach me, at least for a while.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Forty Key Scenes - Revisted

The most common problem I see in scripts from new writers is lack of structure. I've been there too many a time myself, but I now get praised by producers for my structure, as many of the scripts they receive aren't. I discovered a little trick that helped solve that problem years ago.

When I start plotting a new script I always use the forty key scenes rule to help me, or a variation thereof if I'm writing a TV pilot episode. I don't know where I first picked up this idea, or which book I read it in, but it's been an invaluable tool over the years and really helps to focus the story telling. How do these forty key scenes work? It's really easy, let me show you.

Take forty blank index cards and stick them to a wall, or pin them to a cork board, in four rows of ten. Your first row is your fist act with the last card being your act one turning point. The next ten are the first half of act two up to the midway point. The next ten are the second half of act two with the last card being the turning point into act three. Your final ten cards are act three.

Use these cards to write down a brief outline of each scene, paying close attention to the important places as the first and second act turning points and the midpoint. You'll see if your plot has a problem, or doesn't have legs, as there will be blank spaces. It's your job to solve those plot holes and fill those blank cards. You don't have to follow this idea ridgedly, this is only a guide to help you think about your plot and work through any problems it has. You can make it as flexible or as ridged as you want. Whatever works for you.

I've adapted the forty key scenes rule a little bit since I first used it years ago and I've now incorperated a very good idea I came across in Blake Snyder's - Save The Cat! At the bottom of the cards he adds a +/-, or a -/+, used to indicate the emotional change in the scene. Take the scene from Star Wars where Ben Kenobi is teaching Luke how to use the Force while on the Millennium Falcon. Luke starts off disbelieving when he can't see to deflect the training orbs bolts, a - in this case, but when he finally 'sees' the training orb even with his eyes covered this changes to a +.

The other idea he talks about is adding >< at the bottom of the index cards to represent conflict. Drama comes from conflict so if your scene doesn't have any it's going to fall flat. Find the conflict in the scene and write it down here.

The advantage of writing your scenes down on cards is that you can move them around at will. A scene might not work in the place you intended it to go, but it might work elsewhere. It's just a simple matter of moving that card to its new place.

Only when your forty key scenes are completed can you then start to write your script confident you've worked through all of your story's problems. The forty cards will provide you with a blue print for your finished script, and trust me your script will be much better for all that preparation.

Give it a try.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Deadlines

I have deadlines. I like deadlines.

There's nothing quite like the overwhelming feeling of panic to help your breakfast make a sudden, unexpected return mid morning. The terror floods over you, slapping you in the face, poking you in the eyes and tweaking your nipples two hours before you have to email your script. Then you suddenly realise you're shit, your script's shit and most importantly someone is about to find out you're a hopeless fraud.

Overdosed on coffee you sit in front of the screen your balls sweating (or have you just wet yourself?), your heart pounding (too much coffee or the early signs of a heart attack?), stomach churning (watch out for breakfast) and your mouth dry (drink more coffee). This script is utter bollocks, the worst thing you've ever written, but it has to do because now you've only got an hour.

AN HOUR!!!!!

You type furiously changing as much as you can in the little time you have left. Maybe you can rescue this, make yourself look at least semi-professional? You probably can't! You're gonna fail miserably. You pathetic twunt!

HALF AN HOUR LEFT!!!!!! Oh fiddly funk buckets....where is the time going? Now you're typing furiously, tears flowing freely down your cheeks. There's an excruciating pain in your neck from sitting tensed up, but you can't worry about that now, because you've only got ten minutes.... OH SWEET BABY POTATOES!!!!!

Your howls of desperation have worried the neighbours, who are now enquiring through your letterbox if you're OK and if you need an ambulance, but it doesn't matter now, because there is no time left.

You press send....and wait for the inevitable, the "you really are the worst writer on the planet", response you know is coming. Your career is over, you sad sack of hamster pooh.

The email is here. You can't open it, dare not open it, but you have to....you open it and....no, that can't be right, they actually like it....they really like it....THE FOOLS!!!

And breathe!

By crikey I LOVE deadlines.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Traveller - Set Photos


Hanging around on set.


The very talented Ibrahim Renno.


Yes, they did roll a car down the highway just for my little script.


"Stop shining that light in my eyes, I can't see where I'm driving."


"I can see my house from here."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Traveller Trailer Is Here

The Traveller trailer is here at last and the short film I wrote last year is also an official selection at the Cannes Short Film Corner this year... Excitos!!!

Click HERE to see it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide

Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide

I became aware of Celtx last year while working on a short film project I was commissioned for. It looked like a good bit of kit, but I already had an excellent piece of writing software and didn't require another one, nor did I have the time to learn how to use a new program. Then I became aware of Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide so I thought I'd give it a go.

The eBook was extremely helpful and I was able to learn as I went along. It's an easy read well laid out and it's very easy to find exactly what you're looking for. The book covers everything from your computer requirements, loading the software, the basics through to advanced use. The more I read of the book the more I discovered I could do with Celtx (even aspects of the software as a writer I will never use, but which will be extremely valuable to those looking for a complete production package). The book was so good I even recommended it to the person who first told me about Celtx and even he discovered things he never knew he could do before.

Although I only used the book to learn how to use screenwriting side of the software it does also teach you a lot more about exactly what Celtx is capable of on the production side of things and anyone who has Celtx, or is thinking of getting it, should really get the book as it will definitely help them make the most of the software.

Here are some of the features you can expect from the book.
  • An illustrative guide to writing and formatting professional scripts and screenplays in the only way acceptable to Hollywood producers and agents
  • Work with all the powerful tools of Celtx to come up with brilliant scripts for films, documentaries, stage plays, even comic book scripts
  • Master other pre-production planning features including storyboarding, scheduling, and casting
  • Maximize the power of Celtx with helpful tips about both the software and how to sell your completed work
  • Part of Packt's beginner's guide series – practical, simple, and illustrative
  • eBook available as PDF and ePub downloads
You can buy the book from here or from online book type places.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Pets In A Pickle

Some of you may know I have been working on a TV drama series adaptation of a novel. Well today I can reveal that the novel in question, Pets In A Pickle written by the talented Malcolm D. Welshman, is due for release on the 3rd of May and can be bought online at Amazon.co.uk.

For the launch of the novel Malcolm has been interviewed by the Daily Mail and the interview and extracts from his book are due to be printed in the Saturday edition of the Daily Mail one weekend this month (not sure exactly which Saturday).

The book is a fantastic and humour laden read so if you have any spare pennies please feel free to go and buy yourself a copy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Writers' Block: Reality Or Myth?

Ian plonks himself down in front of his computer, fires it up, loads his latest screenplay. The cursor blinks accusingly at him, taunting him, making him acutely aware the rest of the page remains blank.

Ian stares at the screen, his fingers hover over the keyboard in anticipation. He pleads for the words to form on the page, but it remains as blank as Ian's mind. He can almost hear the cursor laughing at him.
We've all experienced it at one point or other, that horrible pause when things just aren't working and the desperate need to write something, anything becomes all consuming. But can this really be called writers' block, does such a thing really exist, or are there ways to beat it into submission and regain your creativity?

Some people argue if it isn't happening you should walk away and do something else, and come back to your work later. Make a cup of tea, take the dog for a walk, anything that will distract you from the fact your brain isn't in gear yet and it's going to take a little more time and maybe several mugs of coffee before it is. Some days it just doesn't happen, there's no point in pushing yourself and ending up hating the project you're working on. Right?

Wrong! I think it's just lazy, an excuse to procrastinate. You're a writer, so write. Get angry with that block. Show it who's boss.

There's always something you can write even if the scene you want to won't come out of your stubborn, locked brain. Thinking about the cursor and blank page just makes matters worse. Getting up and walking away will only make you feel guilty for not writing and angry with yourself and more importantly with the empty page. Thinking like that just escalates things. It doesn't have to be like that, really it doesn't.

If you get stuck on what to write it usually means you haven't done enough preparation on your script and your brain is telling you the only way it knows how, by shutting down and demanding you go and play Xbox for a hour. Don't listen to it and go back and work on those characters and plot, and the next time you sit down to write your masterpiece you won't have the same trouble.

Even if you're stuck at one particular point in your script it doesn't mean that you can't skip to the middle, or the end and write those instead. Even if you have a particular scene in mind, but it doesn't come until much later in the script it doesn't mean you can't write it now. Don't think for a moment you have to write your script in linear order, because that is just foolish and is why you're blocked in the first place. There are numerous other ways to get the creative juices flowing. Here are a few of my favorites.

Get drunk, write whatever comes into your head and rewrite it tomorrow. If it's rubbish, which it probably will be, it doesn't matter because you'll be rewriting it tomorrow anyway. At least you'll have words down on the page and crap words are better than none at all.

Put some background music on really loud (I listen to my Oasis albums on loop) to distract that naughty part of your brain that's holding the creative side of your mind captive. Any type of music will do just as long as it's something you can have on in the background that you won't pay much attention to.

Pick too characters, stick them in an imaginary elevator and start an argument. Write four sides of A4 like this. Not only is this great for working on your characters, but also jump starts your writing. Alternatively you can come up with your own ways to get your creative juices back on track so you don't have to steal mine.

So does writers' block really exist? Yes it does, but only if you let it. Now go and write.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rejection Revisited

I've spoken about rejection and how to handle it before, but it's something well worth going over again as it's all too easy to forget that sometimes rejection does hurt.

It's important to build up a thick skin against rejection, but even if you do there will always be that one rejection too many that gets to you. We're all human and we all desire to be loved and liked; writers even more so I think. The important thing as a writer is not to let others see you're hurting and not to rant publicly about it. That is a big mistake, a big fat no no in media circles, and a sure fire way to get yourself a bad name. It's worth remembering that if someone Google's your name they might come across your moan and think you're hard to work with and avoid you. No one likes a moaner, not even other moaners.

Go and Google your own name right now and see what comes up. If any moaning, or anything negative comes up then remove the offending article, blog or Tweet. I did this the other week and found two very early, very negative blog posts which I later removed. Here's a few other important things you might want to consider.

Rejection isn't personal. No one ever died from rejection. Rejection doesn't mean your work is rubbish, it just means they didn't like it/or it wasn't right for them at the time. Someone else might like it and snap your hand off.

Remember, be positive at all times online and keep any negative thoughts behind closed doors. Your career will thank you for it.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

What No Blog???

Today will mostly be my birthday.

In celebration of that fact I have taken it easy this week after many weeks of working like an absolute loon. To treat myself today I will be lying out in the sun and drinking bucket loads of beer. Huzzah!!!

Normal service will resume once my hangover has gone...that will probably be Monday 11th.

Bye for now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If Your Name's Not On The List...

'Unsolicited scripts are not welcome.'

Surely the person who made that decision should be stripped naked, rubbed down with sandpaper, smeared in lemon juice and beaten to death with their own underpants just for daring to slam a door in the face of your awesome talent? How very dare they, how very dare they indeed!

OK STOP! *slaps you in the face with a week old halibut*

Unsolicited scripts are not welcome for several reasons; it may be you've sent your script to a small production company and therefore they don't have the staff to read unsolicited work, they may have decided it's easier to let agents do their work for them rather than hire readers because they want to save their money for chocolate digestives instead of the plain ones with their tea, or maybe they just prefer to spend their time on Facebook, Twitter or Googling their own name every five minutes to see if they've moved up the listing. Whatever the case there is still a way of getting them to read your work without resorting to kidnap and nipple clamps.

If they have an email address send them a short, very polite email telling them you are aware of their submissions policy, that you don't have an agent, but you were wondering if they would kindly read a one page outline of your project. Most recipients will ignore you, some may even laugh in your face, some might take out restraining orders and some will reiterate their submission policy *just* to make it clear to someone as stupid as you. But there may just be one producer who emails you back and says, 'oh go on then'. Think of it from their point of view, they would rather read a one page outline than miss out on the script of the century.

If you don't try then why bother writing your script in the first place?

If you don't ask, you don't get.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Outcasts & Being Human Series Finales

Outcasts: I really liked the final episode. It set up some interesting cliffhangers for the second series - if they had been given the go ahead for one - and the dialogue was much improved. The only thing I really didn't like was the fact that Julius Berger's villainy was watered down when we learnt he was working for someone else. He would have been a much stronger/evil/power hungry character if he had been working on his own. Yes, we know that the people he was in collusion with were far more manipulative and dangerous than Julius had been, but I personally would have preferred to see him more in control and not someone else's lap dog. Not a bad episode though.

Being Human: My God, what great drama! This is what good TV is all about. While we were teased by the 'Wolf Shaped Bullet' and who it might be, it really could have only ever been George. Any other choice and it wouldn't have made any sense, or had such poetic justice, it had to be George just as Mitchell had to be the one to kill Herrick. But what hit me the most besides the awesome acting from Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, Lenora Crichlow, Sinead Keenan and Jason Watkins, was the even more awesome dialogue..."I'm only doing this because I love you." That is how great dialogue should be written; that is how great drama should be written. Being Human blew away everything else that was on TV that night. If all TV drama was that good I'd never get my arse off the sofa.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Outcasts

I like it. I know it has its faults, but I genuinely like it...so there :-P

What are those faults? Here are the two major faults as I see them: dialogue and characterisation.

The dialogue in the first episode was clunky, on the nose, often repeated in the very next scene, over expositional and used far too much to keep the story moving along. I know they had a lot of back story to get through to set the scene, but it was just so obvious in the dialogue and ruined what could have been a very good first episode. You can see the actors struggling to say the words sometimes, even in later episodes where it hasn't been such an issue. But is this the fault of the writer, or is someone else to blame? I can't see that the writers are to blame too much for this as the poor dialogue happens in almost every episode, each written by a different writer, therefore I can only assume someone else is having a bad influence on what goes into each script.

Characterisation is also very weak, characters doing odd stuff simply to justify the plot rather than their own existence. When Julius Berger came on the scene it was obvious from the moment we first saw him he was not to be trusted, yet on several occasions during the series so far people are actually being nice towards him rather than suspicious. He even got placed on the council with no opposition at all. Indeed in one episode Stella tells Julius she's going to keep an eye on him because she doesn't trust him and the very next episode she's all excited, singing his praises because he's got her daughter talking to her. Where did her suspicion, her distrust of the man go? I also thought they could have done a lot more with Mitchell Hoban, showing his slow decent into the madness that eventually took him. I don't want to be told he was a good man, I want to see it and his journey to his eventual suicide.

I think the faults emphasise just how much the series focuses on the telling of the story at the expense of characters and dialogue. The plot is everything! It shouldn't be. For me good stories are told through good dialogue and characters.

What I do like about the show is it's boldness. It dares to challenge, bring us a new, interesting world, which grows even more intriguing week by week. Episode five has been my favorite episode so far and even though I looked, and believe me I looked hard, I couldn't find a single fault with it.

So what now for the show? Will the BBC green light another series, or will sci-fi on the BBC be dead for the foreseeable future?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Outcasts And Tweets

I was very disappointed yesterday to read several tweets from writers slagging off Outcasts after it was moved from a Monday night slot to a Sunday. Come on writers, whatever your feelings towards the program, slagging it off, laughing or making jokes at its falling ratings is just plain rude.

What if it was your series that everyone was slagging off? How would you feel then? You can be sure Outcasts' creator Ben Richards is feeling bad enough without you heaping more misery on him by doing this. Constructive criticism is a good thing and should be encouraged, but there is no place in our industry for slagging off, or just being plain rude about another writer's work. There are too many others out there who have it in for us writers to begin with. Have a bit of respect, a bit of compassion for a fellow writer who dared to try something different.

The series may have its faults (I will blog about this issue in greater detail next week), but it is bold, ambitious and daring, something good TV should be. Please don't forget that without writers like Ben trying new things we would be stuck with the same endless, repetitive, boring stuff forever. Without challenging ourselves, or our writing, there really would be nothing out there for us. As writers you should know that sometimes things work and at other times things don't. You should also know that TV is a collaborative process and many factors bring changes to original scripts.

As writers you should know better.