Take note

I was very flattered to read that I'm both ace and adept at taking notes. I blushed a bit and felt the warm fuzzies of a job well done. The giving and receiving of notes is the process by which a script grows into a film. I've enjoyed that experience with a fair few folk now and it's completely different every time. I don't think there's necessarily a right way to do it. With my friends I've know for over a decade, I know I can be brutally honest. And they have the same freedom with me. With a director I'm working with for the first time, we have to learn how to talk with each other - particularly when a lot of our correspondence is by e-mail. However, I think there are some general "good practice" rules: 1) Thank the note giver before you read the notes. Your thanks should be genuine. 2) Read the notes through once and allow yourself to react. Be...
Read More

The Importance of Relaxation to the Writer

I've done well this week. I'm on 48K of my 80K target for NaNoWriMo, which puts me bang on track. I caught up while working night shifts, despite the upheaval of being abruptly pulled off nights yesterday and thrust back into a day shift today. The neurones don't fire too good on four hours sleep mid-afternoon. I've also heard back from one of my Speed Pitching contacts from LSF, so I know my script has safely reached the hands of a reputable production company. This gives me butterflies, but We'll See. So, tonight, I'm going to kick back and watch Children in Need with an extortionate pizza. Sure, I could eek out another two thousand words of novel, but I have the whole weekend to write and I've earned my pizza and my Doctor Who trailer. When you work a day job, it's easy to feel pressured to spend all your free time writing. I firmly believe you should write every day, or you...
Read More

The Writer on Holiday

If, like me, a week away from your laptop and constant access to Twitter fills you with dread, here are some tips to appease your creative sensibilities while still getting some much-needed downtime. 1) Scribble on paper and then lock your notes in the safe A paper note can be a refreshing way to examine your ideas and help you make connections you might not have otherwise grasped. As for the safe, this is not because some would-be plagiarist might steal them (see Lucy V's post here), but because the maid might be disturbed by the carefully planned murder laid out on hotel stationery. 2) Mobile apps are your friend I drafted this post in the bar with a cocktail. Evernote, Celtx, Dropbox - make sure they're synced and ready to go. Also, take advantage of any hotel wifi for a quick glance at email (though I dutifully set my auto-responder) - it's particularly good if there's a time limit to the thing, for those...
Read More

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...
Read More

Writers’ Tools: Wikis

Say you're a writer. And you live in North Wales (not the worst place to be right now). And your favourite production company is based in South Devon. And their producer is based in London. You could meet for the odd script retreat, of course. And there's phones, e-mail, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - but what if you want to work on something together? Simultaneously, recorded, organised and categorised? Enter The Wiki. What's a wiki? The most famous example is, of course, Wikipedia. It's a set of webpages available for editing by anyone with a username and providing an ever-changing information resource. The name comes from the Hawaiian word for quick, and if you've ever witnessed the speed of vandalism following an England football loss, you'll understand why. Wikipedia in itself is an excellent resource for writers. While old media snobs may doubt its reliability because it's "on-line", it's actually fantastically reliable - because it requires notability and is policed by its members. However, this post...
Read More

Lord of the Rings: to extend or not to extend?

Yesterday, for the second time in my life, I experienced an Extended Lord of the Rings marathon. My long-suffering partner had yet to see Lord of the Rings and was thrown in at the deep end. He survived - didn't even turn into an Elf (more's the pity?). But is sitting through over eleven hours of film really worth it? Couldn't one just watch the theatrical edition? Surely the extended versions are just for nerds and die-hard film fans? Consider: 1) Boromir One of the most important reasons to Watch Extended for me is Boromir's characterisation. In Theatrical, he is a weak man, tempted by the ring to bring power and glory to Gondor. He comes across as treacherous and, while struggling with himself, he ultimately comes out on top - but is it too little too late to redeem the man? In Extended, we see a lot more of the Gondor he's left behind. He has more conversation with Aragorn and shows more concern...
Read More

Sherlock: Pilot’s Progress

Previously on this blog, I discussed why I thought watching both Sherlock pilots was an excellent exercise for film-makers. A couple of weeks ago, I was afforded the opportunity to test this theory. My good friends at Realm Pictures had yet to see any of the Sherlock series and were therefore in an ideal position: they could watch the unaired pilot first, consider improvements, and then watch the aired version. ***As before, extensive episode content discussed beyond this point. WATCH FIRST.*** I shouldn't try to predict my friends' reactions. Also, seeing through fresh eyes and undergoing that experience with them gave me new perspective. The first thing was that they felt the cab connection was obvious early (I watched it with friends the first time and nobody got it, but I've always been terrible at murder mysteries). They also preferred the first Sherlock meeting scene in the computer lab, but they may be down to taste. They were not fond of the little text labels...
Read More

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...
Read More

Sherlock: A Study in Pilots

Today, I watched the original Sherlock pilot. It comes on the DVDs as an extra, the 60-minute version of A Study in Pink. *WARNING - EXTENSIVE DISCUSSION OF EPISODE CONTENT. WATCH FIRST.* My friends told me that it was pretty much the same as the aired pilot, with similar scenes and dialogue, and barely worth watching. When I saw Steven Moffat speak about Sherlock, he said that the unaired pilot suffers badly in comparison to the remake - but that, at the time, execs and distributors were wild about it and couldn't understand why the creative team wanted to remake it. My friends are right: the dialogue is exactly the same in places and the set pieces - the meeting at Barts, the pink murder scene, the "date" at the restaurant - are pretty much transferable between the two. And, then again, they're not. The entire look and feel of the two pilots is completely different, something that I believe I must attribute...
Read More

Gender-blind casting

I've been collecting screenwriting blogs for my Google Reader, and came across John August's blog post about The Bechdel Test.. I already had some familiarity with the test (and its various criticisms), but for those still in the dark: Anyway, I then made the mistake of reading the blog comments. I should know by now that reading comments on the internet is bad for my health and I end up wanting to smack someone. The usual arguments came through: "more women should write then", "but all women do is talk about men", "women want to have discussions instead of fight", "maybe men AND women just don't want to see women talk", etc. etc. ad nauseam. I then read a persuasive argument from Overthinking It that Hollywood clearly had no idea what Strong Female Character meant, and that we could articulate it more clearly: Strong Character, Female. Which led me to consider one of my favourite things: colourblind casting. For those unfamiliar, it is the casting...
Read More