Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Do you read screenwriting books on a regular basis?

You might think that as I have five features under my belt as a screenwriter I wouldn't really need to read screenwriting guides? You would be wrong. Every writer, however experienced, should be reading as many screenwriting books as they can lay their hands on.

I don't know who the quote 'knowledge is power' is attributed to, but they knew their stuff. Knowledge is power! As a writer I don't want to get complacent. I can't afford to, there are far too many up and coming writers out there eager to step into my shoes. I need to keep on top of my game, constantly improving, refreshing my skill set and making sure I'm reading as widely as I can.

At the moment I'm reading THE TV SHOWRUNNER'S ROADMAP by Neil Landau. Even though it's written around the US system of writing teams there is still a lot that's relevant to the British TV writer. It's a cracking read and I'll review it when I finally find the time to finish it. I have also loaded up  several screenwriting guides to my kindle, so when I'm on my travels I can still fill my bonce with writerly goodness.

I think it's important as a writer to find your own way to work. There are plenty of books that tell you exactly how you should write a screenplay and they can vary quite considerably in their approach. Over the years I've read a good few of them and taken a little from each to find my own writing style. However, I won't stop there. I'll keep on reading, keep on revising how I write my screenplays and I'll never stop doing this. Anything that improves the quality of my work has to be a positive thing.

So don't be shy, pop down to your local book store, or log on to Amazon, and get your head in a book. When you finish it, get another. When you finish that one, get another... and so on. Don't worry about cost, you can always trade them back in at Amazon. Now go and fill your head with as much writerly advice you can get your hands on and I promise you your writing will benefit from it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best at pitching, which is why, as with everything I want to get better at, I have to practice, practice, practice.

First things first...

RESEARCH - Without it you'll be shooting blind. Who is the individual you'll be pitching to and who are the company? Google them. Find out as much as you can. Does your pitch match the type of programs/films they have made before? Have you watched some of their previous output? If so, it's good to talk about what you love about them.

When I researched someone I pitched to earlier this year I was delighted to discover I had actually met him a year or two before and mentioned it at the beginning of the pitch. It was an instant connection as we found we had something in common. It put me instantly at ease and I was able to deliver a confident pitch.

PRESENTATION - Be happy, interested, friendly and enthusiastic, especially about the projects you're about to pitch. Be professional, never diss yourself or sound unsure, never slag anyone or anything off and if they ask you a question you don't have an answer for then and there, be honest and offer to email them later with an answer. They won't mind.

When I'm pitching I'm very conscious I don't want to babble, to continue waffling on and on until the producer or director is fast asleep, snoring their head off and drooling down their chin. It's best to keep a pitch short, to around about a minute or less, and be succinct in the words you use. Here's how I pitch.

TITLE - This is important as a good title can sell a film. Remember SNAKES ON A PLANE?

GENRE - What is it? Is it action? Is it a thriller? Is it a comedy? Or is it a coming-of-age drama? This is also very important so the producer/director can tell if it's a good fit for their slate or not.

LOGLINE - This is one to two sentences roughly describing what your idea is about. Basically a small single paragraph of information stating who the protagonist is, what their goal is and what's standing in their way of achieving that goal.

And that's it...

OK, so you might think that's too short, how are they going to know how utterly brilliant your project is from this small amount of information? Don't worry, all you want to do is give them a taste. The worst thing you can do is give them too much information, an overload, especially if the majority of it is irrelevant.

If they're interested in the idea they'll ask you more penetrating questions about your project. Then you will get the chance to expand on what you've already spoken about. If they're not interested you can quickly move on to the next pitch and you won't have wasted your precious time, and more importantly theirs, waffling on about a project that isn't a fit with them.

PREPARE - I would recommend memorising four or five loglines, to the point where you can recall them at any moment and are confident enough to slip them into a conversation casually. They shouldn't sound as if you've rehearsed them, they should slip of your tongue easily, like an everyday conversation.

Remember, if you don't know the ins and outs of your idea how are you going to be able to get it across to the person you are pitching to? If you're not sure about your project, then they won't be either. You only get one chance to pitch so make the most of the opportunity. Practice every day if you can, to your partner, to your friends and even your kids (if they'll listen), so the pitch becomes second nature.

Good luck...although if you prepare and practice enough you shouldn't need it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


One of the most important aspects of being a writer staring at FADE IN: of a commission is making sure you deliver, not just on time but also exactly what you've been asked to. Failure is not an option.

If you promise to deliver a screenplay by a certain time always try to finish it and hand it in early. It makes you look good. I alway like to use the example of Scotty from Star Trek, who always gives an over estimated time for the repairs to be completed, so he can finish them earlier and maintain his reputation as a miracle worker. The same should apply to you.

When I was asked recently to make significant changes to a screenplay at the last minute, roughly about  a third of what was written, because of notes the director had received from the money men, I promised him it would be finished in no more than four days. I actually worked my butt off to deliver a rough draft by the end of the very same day. The thing is I knew the director wanted the changes fast, I knew they were big, and I knew they were necessary, so I cleared my desk and got my head down and got it done in a day. I could have taken my time, handed it in, in the four days I had promised, but I wanted to get it done and do a good job. A final check of the script the same night by the director and I was given the go ahead to tidy it up and proof read it the next day, before handing it in. That's two days, not the four I had promised. I delivered exactly what he wanted and I delivered it early.

Before I write a word I always ask the producer or director when they want the next draft by. Even if they say there's no rush, or in your own time, I still push them for a date. That way I can plan ahead and make sure I finish early... every time! I like to impress. I don't skimp on the quality of my writing, I just work harder, faster and for longer each day to deliver an early draft. Director and producers are always pleased when a script lands in their inbox a few days before they were expecting it and then they're more likely to refer me as a writer to others as well.

Make sure you deliver too.