Apes Rising – action trailer vs character trailer

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' not only has a ridiculously long name, but also has Trailer Issues. When I went to see X-Men: First Class (excellent film - great characterisation, spirit of the comics if not the letter of the canon), I saw this trailer: And I thought 'meh'. Don't get me wrong, I like a good action movie. I like a good explosion and an ape hanging from a helicopter is pretty cool. But why do I care about this movie? The main guy is a jerk scientist and everyone knows how it ends! Tonight, I went to see Captain America (good movie - fair characterisation, big explosions, bit too much to cram into one film) and I saw this trailer: And it drew me in. This is a real story about one man and his chimp, a story about a relationship that is humanising to both characters. I care about the science guy and I care about the chimp. It now...
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The Inaugural Realm Pictures Script Retreat

Anyone who thinks writing is a sedentary occupation should try a script retreat to Dartmoor. While on a quest to the pub, this writer got stuck in a thorn bush, dropped her handbag in a ditch and was unceremoniously fireman's lifted across the marshland by her director. Not my finest hour. In my defence, there had been afternoon wine. So, apart from ill-advised marsh treks, what happened on our script retreat? (For "what's this script retreat business?", check out my previous blog post. For "the story so far", check out The Underwater Realm blog) We had a trilogy of movies to plan based on some rough mythology and a few ideas from our production meeting in May. Also, we had done our homework, as laid out by the producer - protagonists, set pieces, secondary characters, settings and goal/task had all been brainstormed prior to our arrival in our luxury holiday cottage. As an opening gambit, we discussed our favourite movies, with particular attention to...
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Writers’ Tools: The Mind Map

Yes, I vanished again. Let's blame an abundance of both work and holidays - go summer! But I have not been idle. Indeed, friends, I have been knee-deep in preparation for a Script Retreat. Doesn't that sound grand? Basically, it goes like this: See, these guys called Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Lawrence Kasdan decided to go away for a few days in 1978 and work on this thing called Raiders of the Lost Ark. And the guys over at Realm Pictures decided they would emulate their heroes and go away for a weekend to work on The Underwater Realm. Jon Dupont, our producer, then sets us all homework to do prior to this script retreat. It's like going on a Biology Field Trip, seriously. Our first task: characters. I love characters. They're one of my favourite things about films. I grin at their entrances, swoon at their first kisses and cry when they die heroically in a decent-sized explosion. However, most of my...
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Why flatmates are disastrous and necessary to writing

I currently have three flatmates. We are all young women with the same day job (only I turn into a pumpkin in the evening). And they are a nightmare. They want to watch endless reruns of Friends. They tempt me into eating takeaway. One gossips constantly about celebrities. One simply cannot leave work at work. One hates chick flicks and another hates action movies. They are very sociable and worry when I'm out of the room for more than half an hour, which makes my writing targets pretty difficult to meet. But they're fantastic. They love going to the cinema. They have unique speech patterns, backgrounds and quirks. Two have boyfriends and one is single, looking - and that all comes with its own drama. They love to go out to eat. We gossip about our colleagues, our mutual friends, our other friends and come up with our own spin on the rumour mill. It's like having a character factory in my living room. The problem...
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Perfect Profiling

As my sit com script heads into major re-draft, the advice from all angles is the same: it's all about the characters. The situations may be inherently funny, but often the real comedy value is in putting extraordinary characters into ordinary situations - and watching them flail. To get a good grasp of character, I turned to a new book my in-laws bought me: Successful Novel Plotting by Jean Saunders.. While perusing in the tub, I came across her POV on character profiles. She used the example of her daughter and issued a string of random knowledge to encourage familiarity with the "character". However, I don't do well with random. Therefore, I codified her example thus and named it "Saunders Character Profile" (catchy): Open with a unique fact. Age, marital status/dating habits and progeny. Physical trait, personality trait and occupation. Personality trait, personality trait, and career history/aspirations. Vices and social life. Hobby, hobby and hobby. Holidays and travel. Relationship with friends and family. Tastes in film and...
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Every author loves feedback

Whether it's a review in the New York Times of your d├ębut novel or a Livejournal comment on your fanfiction opus, feedback is universally craved by authors. However, it also makes us better writers. And my pet editor just returned the first draft of my screenplay, complete with hurried post-commute comments. He highlighted character motivations as my weakest point, as well as too much talking in Act One (I've already added a sword fight in my second draft, because that's low on chat and heavy on bloody chaos). For my character motivation, I'm turning to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, as outlined in this article. Blake Snyder also refers to these "primal needs" to drive my plot forward, so I'm in good company. I'm also going to play a few "tea set" games, as my acting coach once taught me e.g. what kind of tea set does Character X possess? what's Character X's favourite meal? how does Character X spend their Saturday? These will hopefully...
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