Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Just finished a draft? What do you do now?

Send your script out to two or three people you trust to give you constructive feedback, then save it and forget about it. That's right, forget about your screenplay. When you get your feedback hide that away too. Whatever you do don't send your script out, it's not ready despite how well polished you think it might be. New writers make this mistake far too often and here's why it's a bad thing to do.

You've been working hard on your script, close to it for weeks, maybe even months. The temptation to say, 'Ah, it's done,' is overwhelming sometimes, but because you have been so closely focused on the screenplay you have become blind to any faults it has. You need time away, to have a breather and get a fresh perspective on things. Too many new writers, and believe me I've done this myself, see a competition deadline coming and start writing a few weeks before it, rushing to get the screenplay completed. By doing this they don't give the work enough time to grow and they often wonder why the don't do well in competitions. The reason is simple; your screenplay isn't ready and though you may be blind to its faults, the reader won't be. It's better to start several months before the deadline, not a few weeks. Give yourself time to get your work to a stage that is going to impress.

I'll give you a recent example of a feature I had been working solidly on for about eight weeks last year, from the first rough draft to a second more complete version. I was really pleased with it and I left it alone for three months and last week sent it to a director I know for his feedback. What he had to say was invaluable and I quote...
"I think it’s a little too idyllic for the subject matter. Everything seems to be a bit too perfect and easy for someone who’s gay and coming out in the countryside in the 60s. The only real tension comes from the two bullies. Everyone seems pretty accepting of Toby. His real obstacle seems to come from himself accepting, but there doesn’t seem to be too much soul searching."
And because I've had that space from the screenplay I can also see that now, I even saw it when I reread it, before I even looked at the director's notes. His feedback just confirmed what I was already thinking. So of course the next rewrite will concentrate on the point he raised.

So once you've had a gap away from your screenplay say after a month, maybe two, open your document again and reread it, making notes as you go. Write down where you think the screenplay is weak and what you can do to improve it. Then, and only then, read your feedback notes, at least twice. Compare those notes to yours and make further notes if you need to. Then put it all away again for a couple of days.

When you come back to your screenplay read it again and the notes. By now the notes would have sunk in and you should have a very good idea of where the screenplay falls short. The rewrite will now be a lot easier. When it's done you'll have a well rounded script. Of course the more times you can repeat this the better your script is going to get. I would suggest doing this at least three times. When you see the amount of constructive criticism reducing then you know your screenplay is ready.

Have fun and happy writing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I don't have a blog planned for today. Not that I didn't try to come up with an idea for one but all the ideas I had didn't seem right, or didn't quite work. That's just typical of writing sometimes.

The last three weeks I've been working as a script editor for a producer friend of mine, on a feature due to shoot in the summer. It was a tough ask considering where the script was, but the writer showed her worth by working super hard, listening to the ideas I had for changes and she managed to finish the script in less than the twenty-one days we were asked to do it in. It was great to work with another writer who showed such passion and an openness to listen to someone else's ideas and suggestions. And it was a pleasure for me to read each act as she sent it to me. It was a delight to watch a writer grow in confidence right in front of my eyes.

'Hope' is a word I hated when I was a new writer. Waiting to hear back from producers and agents used to drive me mad and I would be checking my email every minute or so. I've learnt over the last two years while writing for film that nothing ever happens quickly. All four projects are moving forward at their own pace and I'm happy about that. If they weren't moving forward then I would be worried. I have other things to get on with anyway, one spec comedy feature to finish off and a spec thriller feature to start, so it's not as if I'm sat here twiddling my thumbs waiting for something to happen. And that's not counting the meeting I have on the 3rd with another production company.

Hmm, I think I might be drinking too much coffee. Several years ago I was drinking ten cups a day and stopped because it kept me awake at night. I started drinking coffee again six-months ago and although I only drink two or three a day I'm worried my body is getting used to it. I don't want to be drinking ten mugs a day again. Besides my body doesn't really like caffiene. Letting me drink strong black coffee is like giving a six-year-old a kilo bag of sugar and a spoon. It's not going to end well.

Staples are delivering later. I need more index cards. Indeed I feel quite anxious I have less than twenty left. Checking the window every few minutes to see if I can spot the TNT van. Hurry uppppppppp, I want my stationery fix.

Out for a drink tonight with a couple of writers. They buy me beer so I let them pick my brain about writing...I'm nice like that. Then tomorrow I'm meeting up with an award winning director. His current feature is doing rather well. Would be great to work with him in the future.

My agent is awesome.

So is my wife, as she proof reads everything I write. My spelling is that awful.

Hmm, think the coffee has sunk in now, so I apologise if things get too random.

Who's booked up for Danny Stack's course at Lighthouse, Poole in February???? If you haven't, book up now. Well worth the money and you'll learn loads.

Wonder if I should change my office around? It's been like this for six years. I really want a new desk, this one is too small.

I actually got complemented yesterday by a gay producer I know for coming up with the line, "sodamisin' spunk sponge," for a feature script of his. He replied via text saying, "I love it. I think it's original homophobic! LOL!" I aim to please.

I've put on too much weight over Christmas and sitting at my desk all day doesn't help. I'm two stone heavier than I was three years ago. Must exercise.

I need a new Mac, this one is playing up...and more stationery!

Swapping back to Sky Fibre tomorrow. Farewell forever BT, you sucked big time.

Right, must get on with this one pager I promised a producer would be done by 11am.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


So what is it like to live the writer's dream, move to LA and work in Hollywood? English screenwriter Tim John tells us how it is in his new book Adventures In LA-LA Land.

The book covers every aspect of Tim and his family's adventures from arrival at US customs, buying a house, meeting stars, dealing (or not) with LA wildlife, the hot weather, the wrong parts of town, Halloween and many more curious things. It's not just a book about the Hollywood movie machine, it's a guide for surviving what is considered by many the craziest place in the US, and therein lies the book's beauty and allure.

I have to be honest I was expecting, and would have liked, more detail on the Hollywood side of things, meetings, stars and studio execs, how to handle them and survive in such a rollercoaster business. After all that's why Tim went to LA in the first place, to write movies and get paid for the privilege and I would have liked a little more insight into that area. However, it didn't really matter the book was a little short on horror stories from the studios, because it was such an enjoyable read from start to finish. It constantly entertained and was difficult to put down, even when I knew one in the morning wasn't a good time to still be reading and I should probably get some sleep.

Tim weaves his tales like the experienced writer he is, allowing the reader to discover for themselves the absurdity and wonder of the west coast of America without having to force his own brand of humour on them. And that's refreshing.

There's a section in the book to cover every aspect of living in LA and my favourite has to be, 'Family Matters,' with several chapters dotted throughout the book. It was great to read how each member of the family coped in LA and how Tim's job affected them, how they grew as people, the highs, the lows, the setbacks they experienced, the joys, the surprises and everything that made their seven years over there personal to them.

It's a fantastic journey and one I would recommend reading about. Go and buy the book, it'll make a welcome addition to your screenwriting bookshelf.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


A New Year! A new start! But what goals are you going to set for your writing career this year? Do you set them high? Do you set them low? What's realistic and what's not? Let's examine your choices.

Aim high or low? I guess there's nothing really wrong with aiming high but as long as it's realistic. If you're a new writer and you set yourself the task of winning an Oscar, it's not going to happen...sorry!. Realistic could be aiming to land a commission for an episode on Holby or Doctors. That depends of course, on where your career is at. If you only started out last year and have only a partially finished feature it's highly unlikely anyone from TV will look at you. You could still keep the Holby and Doctors goal but how bad would you feel if you didn't realise it? It's all about keeping motivated and if you make it difficult for yourself you'll lose that motivation. Set your goal high by all means but set it so it is achievable. That may include getting a couple of short film scripts made, place well in two or three competitions, or simply finish that feature you started last year and write another. If you set your sights realistically you won't be discouraged when you don't meet them.

Aiming too low can also be bad for your motivation. If you're a writer with a reasonable track record and you set you goal to get an episode of Doctors and you actually get seven, you might begin to think you're a writing genius, or get over confident and become complacent. Mistakes will creep into your work and then when things go quiet again you'll start to wonder where it all went wrong. Disillusionment and a lack of motivation become your old friends again. If last year you wrote two episodes of Doctors aim for four this year. If you wrote a feature, aim for two in 2014.

Don't stretch yourself too much and equally don't make things too easy for yourself. Set realistic goals that you know you have a good chance of achieving, that way by the end of 2014 you'll be pretty pleased with what you have accomplished and be motivated for 2015.

My goals this year are to see one of my four features go into production, to write a TV episode and have it broadcast, and to write one spec feature and one spec TV pilot. Achievable goals? Not too low or too high? They are very realistic I think. Anyway, we'll see how well I do at the end of the year.

But what about you? What are your goals for 2014? Please share below.

Happy New Year everyone!