Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Lucy's second outing for Creative Essentials easily tops the first, despite the fact she chooses to write about the arguably more difficult and ambiguous genre of drama.

Reading through the book it's easy to see Lucy has grown in confidence since her last outing as her writing is more assured and she has an obvious fascination for the subject. I get the impression she really enjoyed working on this one and it shows by the amount of detail she goes into.

Lucy begins by exploring what drama isn't, highlighting the common mistakes most new writers make, differentiating between 'writing' and actually 'selling' drama screenplays, showing how easy it is to write bleak, depressing drama where everyone suffers before dying (or worse) and giving reasons why this type of drama is almost impossible to sell, but can however, be used as the perfect tool for a calling card script. Later she helps guide the reader by further splitting down drama into sub genres, such as - The Short Film, The True Story, The Enlightenment Story, The Morality Tale and so on, giving examples for each, so the reader can define their own idea more clearly and prevent them from succumbing to the usual pitfalls.

What I like most about Lucy's book is she has obviously spent a great deal of time watching and researching drama, because she not only uses produced examples but also unproduced ones. These examples are littered with solid reasons why Lucy thinks they work, plenty of helpful writing tips and important selling points to make the reader's own dramas more saleable. Add this to interviews with the writers and the reader has a comprehensive view of how and how not to write drama screenplays.

Throughout the book Lucy also explores emotional truth, emotional response, theme, common themes and ideas to avoid, what sells, characters, stereotypes, archetypes, depressing verses devastating, character arcs and change, change agents, closed protagonists, loglines, structure, linear verses non-linear, less dialogue, SCREENplay verses screenPLAY, the difference between internal and external conflict and even provides a handy drama resource that can be download from her site to help the reader really define their own drama.

Thoroughly researched, Drama Screenplays it jam packed with valuable information, laid out in an easily accessible way and is a must for any writer, new or established, as a start to finish guide or just to refresh their knowledge.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Some days it's hard to keep going, when all you want to do is curl up into a ball and hide under the bed covers... but those are exactly the days you should keep going! Perseverance is the key to a successful career, without it you're writing solely for yourself.

I read a question on the interwebs the other day, from a new writer asking if he should send his script out to more than one production company at a time. Let's put it this way, you send your script out to one producer, the producer takes three months to read it and get back to you. The news isn't good, it's not for him. Then you leave things another month as you recover from the rejection, before sending your script out to another producer. That means the maximum copies of your screenplay you send out is three... in a year... that's not good, is it?

After you've done your research into which production companies best suit your screenplay, send copies out to as many as you can, then go write another script. If you get a rejection then have two other producers in mind to send you script to the very next day. Don't keep bombarding the same producers either, send them a screenplay and if it's a no wait a month or two before sending any new work.

In essence your work should be produced and sent out in a constant stream, stalling on this leaves you with no opportunities to create, and it's those opportunities that will keep you going. Persevere and you will be rewarded.

Happy writing everyone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


One Page Pitches are an art form, difficult to write and get right and probably the most important and powerful selling tool at a writer's disposal. So how exactly do you write a great One Page Pitch? Here's how I do them.


The font you use is just as important as everything else. Get it wrong and your pitch will be a difficult read, or at the very least not inspire much enthusiasm in the reader.

I used to use FINAL DRAFT COURIER for everything I wrote until I came to the realisation readers spend their entire lives staring at that font. Your font doesn't need to be fancy, just clear enough to read. I wanted to give readers something different to look at, easier to read, which is why these days I use ARIEL in all my pitch document and treatments.


At the top of the page, centred, in bold, in capitals and font size 14, you need to put your TITLE - ALIEN.  Below this (non capitals) you need to state the format and genre of your pitch - a sci-fi/horror feature proposal. Then below this 'by (your name)'.

The next line should be your Tagline, written in ITALICS, in font size 12 and captured in quotation marks - "In space no one can hear you scream!"

Then below that your Logline (written in a plain font size 12).

And finally below that your pitch (written in a plain font size 12 as above), containing a brief outline of the conflicts, characters and plot.


Your pitch will be selling your genre, so if your script is a comedy then your pitch should also be funny, a horror then your pitch should be tense and full of scares, etc. If your script is a comedy and you pitch isn't funny then it's not doing it's job.


The most important aspect of the One Page Pitch is to show conflict. Your protagonist must be in peril and you have to show this, especially the conflict with other characters. If you don't your pitch will be dull and flat. Show your protagonist bumping up against problems and obstacles, and make the reader really feel for his plight.


I've been guilty of this myself on many an occasion, but you should never end a pitch with a question - Will Ripley be able to defeat the Alien and escape home? You want your audience to ask this question, but not your reader. The reader needs the full picture, what happens and how the film or TV series plays out. If you don't tell them they'll think you don't know yourself and it'll go against you.


Add your NAME - EMAIL - PHONE NUMBER (or your agent's details) in the footer at the bottom of the page. It's OK to do this in Courier font as it's not part of the main document.

Here's an example of one of my pitches (copyright me of course) for reference only.

a 6 x 60 minute comedy drama TV series proposal
Dominic Carver

‘Second best.’

A middle aged man, disillusioned with being the sidekick of superhero Captain Cosmos, struggles to find himself as he juggles his family life and his secret identity, while looking to get the credit he thinks he deserves.

DAVID TUCKER has just turned 45 and he’s already smashed head first into his midlife crisis. By day he works as a traffic control officer and by night he becomes The Gnat, sidekick to the superhero Captain Cosmos. His landmark birthday prompts him to reevaluate his life, his job, his friends and family. It’s only then he realises he's completely lost.

David hates his job... both of them. He constantly struggles to keep his secret identity from his wife LUCY (42), who’s obsessed with aerobics, fad diets and is desperately trying to reclaim the body she had when she was twenty, and his son ALFIE (17) , who is uncommunicative and embarrassed by his parents on a daily basis. David’s trying to find himself again and thinks coming out from under the shadow of Captain Cosmos to become his own superhero is a much better idea than buying a powerful motorbike, falling off it at high speed only to watch it be totalled by a passing manure truck. But even branching out on your own can have its mishaps - like not being recognised by the police and being arrested for exposure when you’re trying to suit up in a phone box.

Millionaire IAN BAINES (44), aka Captain Cosmos, doesn’t understand and is too ignorant and self absorbed to notice his crime fighting partner isn’t happy with his life. Lucy doesn’t have time for her husband to give him the love and support he needs, and Alfie is too wrapped up in his raging hormones and his own burgeoning super powers to spend any time with his father.

The only one who claims he understands David is PROFESSOR DOOMSDAY (56), aka estate agent MARCUS WAINWRIGHT, turning him against Captain Cosmos, his wife and his son, taking him out drinking and generally leading him astray. But Professor Doomsday’s motives are far more sinister than simply turning David evil - he wants to destroy him, to bring him down so that he’s in no place to rescue his son Alfie. It is Doomsday’s dastardly plan to have Alfie become one of his minions and to join him in the crime of the century - stealing the Royal Family and replacing them with robots.

This is David’s journey to find himself once more, make it as a super hero in his own right, rekindle the romance with his wife, reconnect with his son and save him from the evil clutches of Professor Doomsday.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I've been reading a few discussions online recently about One Sheets, or as I call them One Shits, as people prepare for this year's LSWF. You can probably tell by my pet name for them I'm not a fan. In fact I think they're a giant waste of time and effort. Here's two very good reasons why...

Reason One -  What are producers and directors actually looking for from a one page pitch? Are they looking to see how talented you are as a graphic designer? Are they looking to be cheered up by a nice visual? Or do they want to know if the person sending them the one sheet can write?

That's looking at it simply, they really want to know three things; can you write, is the idea any good and can they work with you? And that's all they want to know. That's all you should be concentrating on. Forget designing one sheets, the only thing your reader is interested in is the pitch, not how prettily you can draw. The picture isn't going to sell your idea, your pitch is. If the pitch isn't up to standard, or more importantly of interest, then the picture isn't going to sway things. So why include it?

Reason Two - What does adding a picture to your pitch actually say to the producer or director? It says you're probably trying to hide a poorly written pitch, or a terrible idea, with an illustration intended to distract. It's saying to them that even YOU don't believe your writing is strong enough to stand out on its own without a picture to accompany it. If they think you don't believe in your writing then why should they? After all if your pitch is to do its job it'll put pictures of your idea in the readers mind anyway, they don't need a visual prompt to help them out.

It also says you have specific visual ideas of how you want your project to eventually look. And that's not your job. That's what directors, set builders/designers, etc, are employed for. Illustrating your pitch only tells the producer/director that you have very strong ideas about how you want your work look and it may put them off working with you. After all they are looking for someone who will be easy to work with, who will happily take on board their ideas and be OK with the fact their original idea will eventually change and evolve as others add their input. A picture can easily say you know exactly what you want and you're not willing to change.

From my experience a one page pitch, with your idea written on one side and blank on the other, is the best way to go. I've been offered feature commissions, been invited in to chat to TV people, who are now earmarking me for episodes of their shows, all because my one page pitches did their job. And there wasn't an illustration in sight. A good one page pitch doesn't distract from your idea, shows the reader if you can write or not and tells them you are serious about your writing and ideas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Here's a quick blog rewind looking back at networking, especially helpful for those of you going to LSWF this year... and I might have edited it a little to update it ;-)

Pimp Yourself


I have found by years of trial and error that the best way to get work is to put yourself out there and by that I mean you need to network like a fanatic, getting to know everyone and showing genuine interest in what they are doing. When I say everyone do I mean just producers and directors? No...I mean everyone, everyone even remotely connected to the entertainment industry, actors, casting directors, script editors and fellow writers at all levels. And you have to show a genuine interest in their work, because if you don't they will know and think you're sucking up to them just to further your career. I don't have that problem because I have a passionate love of film and TV and a general curiosity about people, so I find it a pleasure to talk to others (even if it does terrify me sometimes) and find out what they are working on. Remember it's about them, not you, so never, ever go begging for work. Remain helpful, polite and never pushy. If like me this comes naturally to you, then it's a great advantage, otherwise you'll have to work very hard at it.

I find it helps to keep a spreadsheet of the people I meet detailing when we last talked and what about, as it can get quite confusing when you have met literally hundreds of people, especially if you are as rubbish at remembering names as I am. Some days I even need help remembering my own name.

Signing up to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help with the process, but you must remember everyone will read what you write so keep a separate account for personal use and gobbing off, and one for professional. You are what you write after all. Personally I chose to only have one account on each site, as it would take too much time to keep up with separate accounts. Therefore I have to be very careful not to Twitter or Facebook when I come home from the pub and think it's funny to post a picture of my bum. General personal stuff is fine, it makes you appear human, just as long as it's not offensive.

Writing ten or fifteen short scripts and offering them free to up and coming directors is a great idea to get your name and work out there. Plus if any are made it will give you something to be proud of and a credit on your CV. A good place to find directors is on Shooting People. Always remember to check out the directors previous work first to see if it's of the quality you want your short to be and if they are intending to place the finished film in festivals. That last bit is important as this will increase your exposure. Remember collaboration is always good.

If you've done your job properly people will also be genuinely interested in knowing what you are up to and might ask to read a script or one page pitch. If they like your writing they might even offer you some work.

It's really all about building relationships and an awareness of your work. Do this and eventually people will come to you when they need a writer and one day you might even get paid for it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


I've read a lot of great books on screenwriting over the years, all with their own unique take on format, structure, characters and dialogue, but I've honestly never read a book quite as good as Pilar Alessandra's THE COFFEE BREAK SCREENWRITER. Why is it so good?

First of all, and most importantly, it's because Pilar breaks down the art of writing into smaller, more manageable chunks, ten-minute sections you can work on in your coffee break, hence the book's title. Pilar does this by asking questions and prompting the writer to write down their answer, which does initially give the impression of being formulaic, but really isn't, as you'll discover when you get further into the book. Pilar is very conscience of the fact her approach could be formulaic and ensures the writer is as flexible as possible as they build their characters and plot, actively encouraging them to play around with structure to discover for themselves if there is a better way of telling their story. The questions are also designed to work and rework the writer's idea, refining it and adding layers, pointing out the common pitfalls of structure and story and helping the writer to avoid them.

Unusually though Pilar doesn't begin with developing characters, as I prefer to do. Instead she starts with story, structure and outline before getting to character. I was a bit dubious at first but after reading those three sections I understood why Pilar did this. One of the first things discussed is character flaw and emotion, something quite often missing from new writers' screenplays. Character flaw drives the conflict and emotion is what draws an audience in. Without these important elements a screenplay would be dull, flat and uninteresting.

Once the story, structure and outline are done then Pilar investigates character, importantly including the antagonist and secondary characters - who are quite often under developed - so they're all fully realised and very real to the reader.

Then comes the first draft, or the speed draft as Pilar calls it - rougher than what most writers would call a vomit draft - building up the initial rough draft outline, adding new scenes and layers to existing ones, until the full first draft is finally complete. Again, unusually, dialogue is explored after the first draft section, not during, which is great because dialogue is deserving of its own chapter and a separate focus on it really helps a screenplay to stand out.

The section I found most helpful was the approach to the rewrite process. I have trouble with rewrites as I always try and do too much in one go, but Pilar splits things up into different passes - concept, structure, story, scene, character, dialogue, format, element and holistic - stressing that most writers won't have to work their way through every pass. It certainly cuts down on the amount of work and concentration needed for rewrites and is also extremely helpful if like me, you are constantly being interrupted as you work.

Pilar also talks about craft, again not up front but after the initial rewrites, so the writer can look at action lines, fight scenes, emotional action, scene transitions, character and setting descriptions and tonal writing amongst other areas, before getting to work on the final edit.

Finally Pilar discusses screenplay presentation and opportunity, exploring networking, marketing materials and pitching, with her own unique and valuable insight. There are no long, plodding chapters to read either, only short sections, lessons and insight, so the book can be read in ten-minute bursts, making it easy to handle, especially if you can't devote the time to read the book from cover to cover in one sitting. This is the best screenwriting 'how to' book available for new writers at the moment and also has practical sessions for the more experienced writer. It's a book you'll want to refer to again and again. All in all Pilar's fantastic, incredible, useful advice makes THE COFFEE BREAK SCREENWRITER the only book that should be a 'must have' in your collection.

Pilar Alessandra will be at the LONDON SCREENWRITERS' FESTIVAL (LSWF) later this month from the 24th to the 26th of October, so if you're going make sure you attend all of her sessions. And if you don't have a ticket... why the bloody hell not???? Get one today, don't delay!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

LSWF 2014

October approaches, as does the annual networking event LSWF. Have you got your ticket yet?

Unfortunately, for various reasons I won't be going this year, the most important of which is because it's my son's birthday that weekend and I've missed the last five attending the festival. He might forgive me if I'm with him for this birthday. I'm gutted not to be going, to hear all those informative and inspirational talks, to miss all the networking, meeting new friends and old, and quaffing a few beers at the bar every night in good company. I will be there next year though... for certain!

To help those who are going on the 24th of October here's my definitive guide on getting the most out of the festival.

How To Get The Most Out Of The London Screenwriters’ Festival - Dom's Ultimate Guide


LSWF is just over five weeks away and by now, if you're serious about being a writer, you should be preparing for the event. Here’s a brief outline of what you should be doing in the weeks running up to the festival:

  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 an opportunity 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, and 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 (more on this later).
  5. Check the list of speakers every couple of days, research them, choose the ones you want to listen to (or even approach 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 accessible when you've bought a ticket), research everyone on it, highlight people of interest you want to talk to and send them a preliminary email and arrange a meeting if possible. Remember though the delegate list will also have people on it from previous years who may not be going to this year’s festival, so it is well worth asking if they are. LSWF will send you a delegate book nearer to the time with a comprehensive list of all those attending, but don't wait for this, get ahead of the game.
  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 on them.

How To Prepare In More Detail

You've bought your ticket, printed off ten copies of your screenplay and now you're ready for LSWF... 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.


Above I talked about how you need to research your fellow delegates and speakers. This is very important. You’ll have an advantage over most of your fellow writers if you know who is going to be at the festival and what they are currently working on. There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to a well-known producer and not knowing what their last film was.

To give you an example I actually managed to get work from the 2011 festival simply by scouring the delegate list. I discovered one producer who was looking for a writer for his project so I researched him and his company and then sent him an email to set up a meeting at the festival. To cut a long story short the screenplay is now in Hollywood and the buzz around the project is getting everyone excited. If I hadn’t done my research I would have missed the opportunity.


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. Don’t take full screenplays. If a producer is handed twenty screenplays and one, one page pitch, which do you think he’s going to read first? I saw someone hand a very well known and successful TV writer a full screenplay and a pitch in a large folder a previous year. He didn’t take it home with him. Would you want to be weighed down with all that paper for your train journey home? Stick to one-page pitches…trust me!

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.


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 that 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. There is absolutely no excuse not to have any. 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 2010’s festival 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 in previous years not to hang around with people I know. 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 at the 2010 festival.

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 now I really enjoy 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 while you do. 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.
  • 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.

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.

Essential Items You Will Need To Take:

  • 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 (There is a fantastic phone app you can download that has the schedule, a map and a list of speakers included to help cut down on the things you need to carry. Download it now.)
  • 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 notebook - 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 whose 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.

Summing Up

  • 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 most 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.
Start preparing now, you want to be able to be a step ahead of everyone else. Good luck, enjoy your festival and I'll see you next year.

Monday, September 08, 2014



Not another 'how to' screenwriting book I thought, when it was sent to me to review. But Robin's approach isn't 'just' another writers' template to follow, but rather an insightful guide that prompts readers to think for themselves.


Surprisingly Robin doesn't begin by writing about structure but takes things back to that little spark that fires the imagination. After all the 'idea' is just as important as how you write it and it is often overlooked in other guides.

'Stuff' - as Robin calls it - is to writers as wood is to carpenters. Robin explores how to gather, ferment and communicate story, with 'stuff' providing the building material. But what is 'stuff'? Stuff can be anything from a snippet of conversation to how someone acts, those small observations of real life that ignite ideas.

Robin illustrates his idea of 'stuff' by relating the tale of how an incident in a pub, when he was a writer/director/producer working in theatre, informed a scene in an episode of Eastenders he wrote years later.

Robin does cover the usual stuff - structure, character and dialogue - but even here he restrains from suggesting ridged rules, instead preferring to explore ideas and encourage readers to think for themselves.

The book does feel a little academic in places - not surprising as Robin has taught screenwriting in the past - and I found myself going back over a few sections just to make sure I was correctly inturpreting Robin's message. I did come away assessing anew how I create and tell my stories and with a strong sense I had learned a great deal from Robin's ideas and suggestions.

Robin, like a few other authors, also sets tasks, encouraging readers to explore and evaluate their own ideas, as well as providing plenty of examples of his own to illustrate his points.


A great book for beginners, with plenty of ideas to inform even those more experienced writers. A little academic in places, it can take a few attempts to fully absorb Robin's message, but none the less it's a useful volume to have in your collection.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


As two feature projects I've worked on, one as the writer and the other as script editor, gather momentum towards production early next year, I couldn't resist reflecting on how both these projects came about and how quickly they have progressed over the last month or two.


Having already adapted COWBOYS CAN FLY for producer Sean Langton of Trebuchet Film Production, from the novel of the same name by Ken Smith, I was asked if I could help out and work closely with the writer Julie Grady-Thomas on BROKEN BOYS, guiding her as she wrote the next draft. To her credit Julie really got stuck in and wrote an awesome script she can be very proud of.

Since then the project has landed a multi-award winning director in Jan Dunn and has attached an awesomely talented cast in Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Suranne Jones (Scott & Bailey), Thomas Turgoose (This is England) and Reece Douglas (Waterloo Road). BROKEN BOYS is due to go into production in January and this is all down to the talented people who have worked so hard to make the film happen.


David Luke Rees and I were originally attached to a feature project (as director and writer respectively) which unfortunately didn't work out. However, ever the optimist, I didn't let the opportunity go to waste and contacted David to see if we could work on something else together, after being very impressed with his award winning short film TO MEET IT WITH AWE. Then in February he came to me with an idea. We both loved what we came up with and it grew to the extent that in May I handed him the finished screenplay.

Thanks to David's magical networking skills CONDITION was received incredibly well and it wasn't long before David was able to set a date for production in February of 2015. He is now stupidly busy setting about pulling everything together for his feature producing and directing debut.

It has been a fantastic year thus far and the first two months of 2015 are just going to be AMAZING!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


On Saturday I'm off on a well deserved holiday. And I need one.

As I was deciding what to take with me to North Cornwall I thought I'd do a quick little experiment on Facebook. I asked whether I should (a) just take a notepad and pen with me to jot down ideas, (b) take a notebook and the laptop and work on one of my specs, or (c) take nothing, leave it all behind, clear my head and come back refreshed.

I was quite surprised with the results. There were seven votes each for A and C, with a mix of writers and non writers across the two. Personally I though all the writers would have said A and the non writers C.

What really surprised me though was that only one person said B. Yes he is a writer and obviously understands fully the addiction that is developing stories. There is no break from it, not on holiday, not when you're asleep, not even when you're on you seventh pint of beer in the pub with your friends. Writing is more than a passion and more than a job. It's what you have to do everyday, because if you don't it would send you mad. So why did only one writer insist I take my laptop?

Could it be that life gets in the way of writing for most people? I can't speak for anyone else, but I do believe writing has to come first in your life, if you want to be a success at it, if you want to be more than just good and more importantly if you want to make money. Nothing else can be allowed to get in the way, despite how much you would like to go off and do other things.

Having said that if I don't spend time on the holiday with the family I will be in a great deal of trouble with my wife. So as a compromise I'll just take my notebook and pen, after all I don't need the laptop as I have a writing program on my iPhone. I'm sure I can sneak a few pages of writing in here and there while I'm hiding out in the loo from the kids ;-)

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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Lots to do? Struggling under the weight of it all? Then you need a list!

Some days I don't know whether I'm coming or going I've got so much to get through. It's hard to decide where to start, what to work on first and what to ignore (at least for a few days). The answer is simple and I don't understand why I struggled on for so long without thinking of it - make a list!

All you needs is a numbered bullet point list (easily created in word) so you can list out all the things you have to work on. Put the most important project at the top - for me anything that is commissioned and has the nearest deadline - then put the least urgent projects towards the bottom of the list. As you work through them cross them off... simples!

You'll be surprised at how such a simple thing can motivate you so easily. It's especially satisfying for me to cross off the work I've done and I'm really happy to see my list with black marker pen through several lines. It tells me I'm making good progress.

Sometimes I even go further. If I've got several projects that are important I'll make another list, organising my day so I can give some of my time to each of them. It's a great help clearing urgent work quickly.

It's also a good idea spending 10 minutes every day, before you sit down to work, to quickly go through your list and update it if necessary. I find my list can change quite often and I always want to try and keep ahead of myself.

Another list I find useful is one for goals. No, not the goals in the World Cup, but in the achievement sense. Set yourself goals for the year, pin them up on your wall behind your computer screen, where you can see them easily. As you achieve these goals cross them off. Top of my list at the moment is to get one of my features at least into preproduction by Christmas and another to be commissioned for a TV episode. Remember though, setting unrealistic goals will only leave you frustrated at the end of the year when you don't meet them. The idea is to motivate, not disillusion.

Spending ten minutes a day to organise your lists, will make your day go a lot easier. Good luck!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Danny contemplates his next gem of advice.
Last weekend I spent a lovely couple of days at Kingston Lacy in the company of other writers, listening to the wise words of Danny Stack. The occasion - Writing for Children's TV, all thanks to the organisational skills of the lovely Rosie Jones.

After two days stuffing myself with the sweets, biscuits, coffee and fruit, I came away with a greater knowledge of the world of Children's TV, a bigger belly and ten A4 pages of notes. Some of the things Danny covered over the weekend were:

  • The UK Tax Credit for animation.
  • Which channel was looking for the most writers.
  • The one page pitch.
  • How to approach production companies.
  • How to get a commission.
  • The breakdown of age groups.
  • The breakdown of episode length.
  • Beat sheets.
  • Scene by scene.
  • Fees.
  • Series bibles.
  • Brainstorming ideas.
  • Pitching.
  • Writing an episode.
  • Get voice over artists on board to help pitch your show and characters.
Danny shows us they way.
It was a wonderful learning experience, in delightful company, and Danny even made time to listen to our ideas one-to-one and give feedback. If you ever wanted to write for Children's TV then it's really something you shouldn't have missed.

Luckily for you Danny is doing another course on November the 15th and 16th, again at Kingston Lacy. You can find the link HERE.

In other news from Danny, the Kickstarter campaign for 'Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?', a children's mystery feature he wrote with Tim Clague, due to shoot later in the year, begins next week (keep an eye out for it). There are also auditions being held at Lighthouse, Poole's Centre For The Arts on Saturday 14th for the child parts in the film and you can find the details HERE.

While I was locked in a room with Danny over the weekend I took the opportunity to interview him
about his up coming feature and here's what he had to say.
DOM: Where did the idea come from for 'Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg'? 
DANNY: Tim was keen to do a kids’ film, and what with me writing a lot of children’s TV, it seemed like an ideal way to team up and make something. We brainstormed a few ideas until we came up with a murder mystery set in a summer camp where 4 misfits kid investigate the apparent murder of the camp’s mascot. Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? was born! 
DOM: When are you planning to begin shooting? 
DANNY: We start at the end of August, and shoot mainly weekends over September and October, before finishing with a full week’s filming during October half term. This is due to children’s availability, plus our low budget needs. 
DOM: How much are you looking to raise and what will it be spent on? 
DANNY: Our Kickstarter target is £12,370 which is to cover our day-to-day production costs: transport, food, filming with kids, insurance, etc. We’ve got two stretch target goals in mind, one to cover our Kickstarter commission fees, and the other to secure a cameo from a well-known actor so that we can broaden the appeal of the film even more. 
DOM: Is the Nelson Nutmeg costume up for grabs for whoever donates the most? 
DANNY: Not at the moment!  But that’s something we could look into once the film is finished! 
DOM: Where can people go to be kept updated about 'Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?' 
DANNY: We’ve got the main website and we’re on Facebook as well as Twitter 

DOM: Where can people go to volunteer to help out during filming?
DANNY: We’re lucky to have a great local crew helping us for the film so we don’t need any volunteers as such. However, if you’re interested in being an extra, then check out the Kickstarter page for that particular perk, or contact us for more info. 
So there you go. Good luck Danny and Tim.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Act 3 is where the following should happen...

The final battle.

Where the protagonist and the antagonist have their climatic struggle, where they face off for one final time before the champion emerges victorious. It's worth noting here that the protagonist doesn't have to win all the time. Sometimes it can be far more interesting for the antagonist to win, or the protagonist to win only to find his life still changes for the worst. Don't ever be afraid to mix it up, to play with the audience's expectations, to give them something they'll talk about for ages after. This is what will make you stand out form all the other writers out there. And above all, whatever direction you decide to go, your ending should always satisfy.

Tying things up.

All your plot threads must be resolved by the end of the screenplay. There's nothing worse than walking out of the cinema and thinking, 'What happened to that tall guy after he popped out to buy some garlic bread during the final battle scene of the zombie apocalypse?' Tie up all those loose ends. Again they don't have to have a happy ending, they just need to be resolved. Your act 3 will look messy if you don't and will be very unsatisfying.

New world order.

I've read a lot of scripts that end just after the final battle between the protagonist and antagonist, especially with thrillers and action scripts. However, I like to add two or three scenes more to show the protagonist's new world, how he's changed and how that change has affected his immediate environment. How has the protagonist grown? What has he learnt? What has changed? What is his new world view? How do his friends/family/work colleagues react to the changes in him?

So there you go, three acts split into four easy sections. Remember though, there are no hard and fast rules about what you should do. You should always be flexible, adapt ideas to fit your own writing style and not be afraid to experiment with new ones. All the things I do when writing a screenplay have been honed from literally thousands of hours of discovering what works for me and what doesn't. I'm always eager to listen to other people's ideas, just in case there's something there that will better my writing.

Happy writing people.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


So what happens after the midpoint? Well this is where I throw everything and the kitchen sink at the protagonist. The fun stuff is at an end and now I get down to the meat of the screenplay. This is where I make the hero suffer.

In this section things should get gradually worse for the protagonist. Really bad in fact. Bloody awful and desperate for him, if the truth be told. I pile the shit on and watch him suffer. What doesn't kill him, makes him stronger. It should be so bad for the protagonist the audience should be wondering how the hell he is going to get out of this a) alive and b) triumphant.

The hero should be at his lowest point just before the break into act three. He should be broken. He should be defeated. He should be at the point where he cannot see any way, logical or illogical, to get through the problems facing him. This is where the antagonist rises to the height of his power, on the verge of triumph.

In a thriller this is the section the hero begins to take the fight back to the antagonist, instead of just reacting to what happens to him. Now he must be proactive. Now he must make the antagonist react. He will still fail at what he attempts, maybe even have the odd small victory here now and again, but fail he must if he is to be the broken person he needs to be by the end of the act.

As I said above, just before the break into act three, when the hero is at his lowest point, everything has gone wrong, the antagonist has the upper hand and the hero stares defeat in the face. Here he must learn a truth, something about himself, or others, or a situation, so he has the tools, mental or otherwise, to finish the job in act three. Call it a revelation if you want, but it must allow the character to grow into the person he 'needs' to be.

As I write strong character driven screenplays, for me the hero always has to learn something important about himself. He has to realise it was a fault within himself, a personal flaw, that has prevented him from succeeding. Only when he realises this can he move on, grow and step into act three.

The final part - ACT 3 - next week.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


The 2nd act is usually the toughest for writers to get their head around and personally I struggled with it a great deal in the early days of my career. That's why I now split the act into two parts at the midpoint. By doing this I have found it a great deal easier to plan and execute what happens and I now rarely find myself in the terrifying position where my writing grinds to an agonising halt.

The first part of act two is where I have some fun, explore the theme of the script through the interactions of the characters and let the protagonist explore his new world. I like my protagonist to learn the things here that he'll use in act 2 part 2 and act 3, when things get a lot tougher for him, although he may not necessarily know he's learning anything at the time. But as I say above the main aim of this section is to have fun, a couple of set pieces, lots of snappy action, very little character musing and only a smattering of character development.

All that will come later on. It's also very important to make sure there is enough conflict going on in amongst all that fun. My hero will try to achieve mini goals and fail, he'll gather what he needs for later on and he might even think he's actually getting somewhere. If only he knew what I had planned for him in the next section of the script, he wouldn't be so smug.

It might help you to think of each of these sections I have talked about, and will be discussing, as mini screenplays, with their own beginning, middle and end. The first part of the section being the set up, the second part the confrontation and the third and final part as the resolution. It's a lot easier to break things down into smaller chunks than struggle with something as a whole.

In a thriller the first part of act 2 is the section where your protagonist should be running away from your antagonist, flight not fight, where the hero reacts to the actions of the antagonist and isn't proactive. Part 2 of act 2 is where the hero finally fights back.

Then we come to the midpoint.

The midpoint is lie, in as much as it's where the hero thinks he has made progress or has failed in his goal. Blake Snyder calls it the the False Hope or the False Defeat which turns out not to be the case in act 2 part 2. For example in a thriller the hero runs from the antagonist and at the midpoint either believes he has escaped from him or that he's dead. This is the False Hope because if it was true the film would be over. In reality the antagonist isn't dead or been throw off the scent of our hero and comes back even strong for the act 2 part 2. The False Defeat is the exact opposite where the hero believes he has failed only to have his hope renewed after the midpoint. Used wisely the midpoint is a powerful tool to catapult the protagonist into the rest of act 2.

Next week act 2 part 2.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Last week someone contacted me with a story idea looking for advice on how they might go about turning it into a screenplay. It got me thinking about how I write, present each act and how I use structure when writing features. I tend to think I write organically, writing what feels right and not really sticking to one formula for every screenplay. However, looking closely at it this week I have begun to see a pattern in how I write. 

So over the next few weeks I'm going to blog about my writing process. It's important to note these are not ridged rules to follow but simply my process, developed and adapted from reading as many screenwriting books as possible and finding the process that suits me best. My advice would to be to use these blogs as a guide only and find your own way to write, that's comfortable and advantageous to you. Here goes.

I usually aim to write around a 100 pages for each feature, splitting the screenplay down into four sections of 25 pages, to make it easier to plot and control. The first act covers the first 25 pages and this is how I lay it out.
  • (Pages 1-10) THE SET UP 
  • (Between pages 10-15) THE INCITING INCIDENT
  • (Pages 10-25) THE DECISION
  • (Page 25) INTO ACT 2 
THE SET UP - This where I set up the normal world, where I introduce the protagonist in their natural environment, doing every day things and living their life. Here I show who the protagonist is, their immediate world, the current state of their life and their emotional well being. This is where I show what the hero has to lose, or not as the case may be.

THE INCITING INCIDENT - For me the most difficult section of a screenplay to accurately pin down. What is an inciting incident? The inciting incident is something that happens to the protagonist that turns their world upside down and catapults them into a new one, like the near rape of Thelma in Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise (although some might argue it is Louise shooting and killing the attacker that is the inciting incident. I think one causes the other so the attempted rape is the inciting incident for me).

I've read a lot of books that say the inciting incident has to be on page 10 and should never be later. However, I don't subscribe to this point of view. I find the inciting incident naturally falls between page 10-15 anyway and you shouldn't get too tangled up in trying to get it on page 10 exactly. As long as you have something going on to keep the audience interested, that shows the hero's character, then I don't think it matters too much if it comes a little later on.

The protagonist must be passive with regards to the inciting incident. This is how an emotional connection is made with the audience, when they feel for the hero because something has happened to him and invest in him enough to follow his adventure into the second act. By passive I mean the hero must never look for the inciting incident, or do something that he knows will lead to it. Sometimes the hero's actions can inadvertently lead to the inciting incident, even though it was never their intention. Again using Thelma & Lousie to illustrate this point, it's Thelma who gets drunk in the bar and dances with her would be attacker, which eventually leads to Louise shooting and killing the man. But she doesn't know her actions are going to lead to the attack, she's just innocent, thinking she's having a good time away from her abusive husband, unaware of the threat her flirtatious dancing poses. The audience can see it coming and a connection with Thelma is made.

And one more thing, the inciting incident is always, always personal to the hero, something that affects their life and prompts them into action.

THE DECISION - What happens then when the protagonist is poised on the precipice of this new world at the inciting incident but there's still a while to go until the break into  act 2? How do you fill this section?

This is what I call the decision section, where the hero decides whether to take up the challenge or not, where he debates the pros and cons and ultimately comes to the decision to go on the adventure. The hero won't always be the one to dismiss the inciting incident before finally accepting it, sometimes it will be the hero's friends that will try and talk him out of it, try to tell him it's dangerous, or wrong. What is important is the debate. Should he, or shouldn't he take up the challenge?

INTO ACT 2- This is where the protagonist finally decides to move forward in an attempt to reach his new goal, where he leaves his familiar world behind and is thrown into a new, unfamiliar one. I feel it's important that the protagonist throws off his passivity here, that he makes the conscious decision to jump into the new world. If he doesn't there's no story.

Now you're into act 2 and the fun has only just started...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I consider myself pretty good at writing dialogue but after reading Rib Davis' WRITING DIALOGUE FOR SCRIPTS I'm determined to become even better at it.
The best book on dialogue I've read so far.

In his book Rib discusses all aspects of dialogue and how they are affected in screenplays; from characters' agendas, to tone, pace and conflict. He explores in great deal how a characters' background, environment, age, thoughts, views and job all contributed to how they speak. For me this was the best part of the book, the most interesting and informative, and it has certainly made me think more about my own dialogue and how I approach it.

I now realise even though my dialogue is pretty good I've only really begun to scratch the surface of it and to make my writing stand out more than others' I'm going to have to work harder at it. Rib has shown me there is a lot more to dialogue than simply making it sound good, it also has to sound authentic, and to do it right requires a certain amount of research.

The second subject I found interesting was the difference between naturalistic, non-naturalistic and highly stylised dialogue, and how each of them worked best in different formats and genres. It was also helpful to have examples, to see by tweaking who was talking and when, how the words spoken could change and have a greater impact.

The latter half of the book deals with other types of scripts, most notably radio plays and theatre. I felt this section was a little light and maybe could have been explored in greater detail in a separate book, as Rib seemed to skim over so much, in contrast to the detail he went into in the first section.

On reflection this is a great book even though I think it should have concentrated on TV and film screenplays specifically, with a separate volume dedicated to radio and theatre dialogue. Everyone, even if you think your dialogue is good, should read this, as there's always room for improvement.

I'd give this book 3 out of 5.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


I recently got the chance to interview Chris Lunt, writer and creator of PREY, a new three-part crime thriller coming soon to ITV. Here's what he had to say...
DOM - When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and what was it that influenced you?

CHRIS - I've wanted to be a writer all my life. I can remember writing plays about a character called KNAVE when I was about seven (I didn't know it was a real word or a jazz mag at the time). Knave was a sort of Han Solo character, I might have to dust him off. I started taking writing seriously about ten years ago, and turned professional in 2010 following redundancy. I love movies, I read books, I'd like to say that either are particularly arty or intellectual, but they're not.  I love STAR WARS, STAR TREK, INDIANA JONES. I read biographies to inspire characters in my writing, but beyond that I'll read sci fi novels, or stuff about UFO's which I love.

DOM - What was your first screenplay and what valuable lessons did you learn from it?

CHRIS - It was a thing called G2, which started out as a possible DOCTOR WHO spin-off set in the 1800's that got knocked back. At the time I didn't have the confidence to write it myself, so the company I was working for brought in another writer. I realized pretty quickly I could be doing a better job, so I think the important lesson was 'give it a go'. I spent a lot of time pitching that, and learned A LOT about how the film industry works. I'm pretty good at spotting the blind alley's now.

DOM - How long have you been writing and what were your achievements before you got your big break?

Chris Lunt - writer/creator of PREY
CHRIS - I've been writing professionally since April 13th 2010 - the day I was made redundant. I thought "it's now or never" and had a bit of redundancy money to act as a buffer. Things happened very quickly after that, and I think part of it was not having a safety net. Talk about focusing your mind. I'm not sure I'd have ever made it if it hadn't been make or break time, and, as terrifying as it might sound I'd recommend it to any writer - lose the safety net. Before the writing took off I worked for a CGI company doing sales and client handling, and before that I was a camera man for the Discovery Channel. I was 'The Eye' on a series called TWO'S COUNTRY you'll never have heard of. I think both those roles, the camera work and the CGI, gave me a practical understanding of how stories work through the lens - obvious for the camerawork, but in CGI the whole shot exists in those frames and that gives you a perspective on what works and why it works. My writing is very descriptive, and I think that's through those two threads of experience. Another bit of advice I'd give writers is get an overview of how things work.

DOM - What was your big break and how did it come about?

CHRIS - Meeting Nicola Shindler at Red Productions. I wouldn't be anywhere without Nicola and Richard Fee and Caroline Hollick, my script editors. I had no right to say I was a writer when I met them, but Nicola saw something in me and never stopped pushing me forward. The best thing that has ever happened to me professionally is getting PREY greenlit and having Red Productions make it.

DOM - What motivates you?

CHRIS - My partner Catherine, and not being able to pay the mortgage.

DOM - Who have you enjoyed working with so far and why?

CHRIS - Honestly, I've enjoyed working with everyone. Early struggles gave me a pretty good bull-shit detector, so now I know when to avoid even stepping off down that route. Apart from the brilliant Red Productions, I've worked with Hartswood, Wall 2 Wall, the BBC, ITV, many more - Elaine Cameron, Eleanor Greene, Polly Hill, Phil Collinson, among many others, and they've been nothing but supportive. Right now I'm working with Drama Republic on two script commissions, and they're great people, and Kindle Entertainment on another and I'm really enjoying that. I'm very much a collaborator, so I think that helps, you know, when they realize you'll take criticism and do your best to work with notes etc. Also, and this is really important to realize, getting knock-backs is a major part of this game. If you're not getting a knock-back a month then you're not working hard enough. You have to take them, brush yourself off, then get on it with a smile of your face. You can never see your arse or sulk! If you're good to work with, then the people your working with will be too and they'll want to work with you again. You have to be that person they want to be in the room with. Maybe I'm lucky, but there's no-one I've worked with that I wouldn't work with again post going professional. I have been working with the Guvnor, Jed Mercurio, on one job, and that's just been great. He's brilliant and a top, top bloke.

DOM - Who would you most like to work with in the future?

CHRIS - Honestly, I don't know. I do have a very specific plan - something I want to do, and my agent knows this and we're working towards it. It might not happen, but even if it doesn't I know I'll be somewhere on the road towards it. Some people - a very famous Showrunner in fact - said at last years BBC Writers Festival  that he didn't have a plan, that writers can't have a plan. I totally disagree with that. My plan is a ten year one, I'm four years into it right now, and I think I'm heading in the right direction. So long as your heading towards something, surely that's an achievement, even if you don't attain the actual goal. Besides, this Showrunner had ended up running the one gig he'd been a fan of since he was two-years-old. No plan?! Then it was a hell of a fucking coincidence!

DOM - Describe your working day?

CHRIS - None of this "I write till 2pm and go for a walk" bollocks. My hours are 9 - 6, 9 - 6. 9 - 8. 9 - 1. 9 - 6.... I'll work Sunday for a couple of hours if I've fallen behind on something. If I don't have a gig I'm being paid for then I'll work on new stuff or spec stuff. I have two spec scripts doing the rounds at the moment, one of which is being optioned.

DOM - How did you land your agent?

CHRIS - Ironically, his agency owned the rights to that character my spec script was about, so I contacted him asking if they were available, he liked the cut of my jib and signed me. We since moved to Casarotto together. My agent, Rob Kraitt, is brilliant. We're a great team as I'm fine in the room and knocking on doors and being mouthy and he's a brilliant agent. He's a good mate now.

DOM - What things can you not live without in your work space?

CHRIS - Right now I'm looking at an Ipad, an arcade machine, a TV with Xbox360, PS3 and Atari 2600, a coffee machine, two comfy chairs and a lot of movie posters. My office is damn fine. I write to music, so I need that too!

DOM - Coffee or tea, and how much while you're working?

CHRIS - Coffee, espresso, five or six a day. I have a Dolce Gusto coffee machine, the one that looks like a duck. It's red.

DOM - What one piece of film and TV do you wish you had written?

CHRIS - Oooooooh... I love The Shield, and I'd kill to be smart enough to write something like Modern Family. I'd love to write on a series like Star Trek if it ever comes back. And there's this one movie franchise... I've said too much!

DOM - What are your five top tips for new writers?

CHRIS - Work hard, I do and I'm the competition... Be a team player, you're not always going to have your own way, but the best idea's will win, so have them, don't spit your dummy out if you don't get your own way... do your best with notes, no matter how much you might disagree with them, one of two things will happen - they'll realize they've given you a bad note, or you'll realize they didn't. What they will know for certain is that you tried your best to make it work.... Build relationships, but only with the right people. Trust your instincts and avoid the bullshitters even if they're promising you the world, do research, don't mither, work on being good in the room, that means being able to pitch, people buy into 'you' as much as what your pitching... Finally,  and to my mind most important - focus! When I started four years ago I quickly became part of a peer group of similarly emerging writers. The majority of them were also producing short films, directing, or doing this and that, that's absolutely fine, but I was a writer - it's all I do, all day, everyday, and it took that focus to achieve anything. A lot of those guys are still producing short films, or directing or this and that. I'm still writing. But now I'm getting paid for it. Ironically, I'm also being offered exec production and Showrunner roles (although I much prefer the idea of Lead Writer to Showrunner).

The awesome John Simm giving it moody!
DOM - Tell us about Prey?

CHRIS - It's a three part ITV drama about a copper, Marcus Farrow (played by John Simm) who gets accused of a crime he didn't commit. I can't say much more than that. But I will say that I'm very, very happy with how it's turned out. It was directed by Nick Murphy, and he's done an incredible job. There's a screening for the RTS and Indie Club on the 23rd of April, so if anyone goes to that they should say hello.

DOM - What else are you working on at the moment?

CHRIS - Bringing Down the Krays for Drama Republic and the BBC, Dreamland for Drama Republic and ITV, Division for ITV in-house, The Famous Five for Kindle and ZDF, and Driven for Slim Film and TV, BBC and AMC... they're the script commissions, there's a pile of other stuff in development too. 

DOM - Any last words?

CHRIS - Writing is absolutely the best job in the world. There's no feeling like being on a big set and knowing this is all down to you. Seeing your characters brought to life by serious actors, and the vision realized by the director and producers is fantastic. To achieve that it has to really be what you want, and perhaps most importantly, you have to really be honest with yourself and believe you can do it. In my experience there are two types of emerging writers - those that in their heart of hearts think they can do it, and those who actually, if they were being truly truthful, don't. You can go from one to the other. For me, it was redundancy. It went from a nice dream to something that HAD to happen, or I'd have to go and find something else to do to make a living. You have to cross that bridge. Oh, and yeah, you'll know you're a pro when other peoples success stops feeling like your failure. Don't let those who lampoon your ambitions bring you down. It is in the nature of monkeys to throw shit.

Brilliant stuff, thanks Chris.