Saturday, 22 November 2014

Brit List 2014

The Brit List, the industry selection of hot unproduced screenplays, is compiled by a combination of UK producers, agents, distributors and sales companies. This year there were 140 entries with 34 scripts making the grade.
   In order to qualify scripts must receive three or more votes, be unproduced (not shooting) at the time of the list’s circulation, be written by a non-US writer and not have featured in previous Brit Lists.
   Romantic comedy Matinee Idol by writer Richard Galazka and sci-fi Gateway 6 by Malachi Smyth lead this year’s List. Both scripts recorded nine industry votes to top the list.
MATINEE IDOL by Richard Galazka (unrepresented)
Producers: Rooks Nest Entertainment
Genre:  Romantic Comedy
Summary:  Inspired by his favourite rom-coms, a cinephile tries to win a girl’s heart by pretending to be someone he’s not, only to learn that it takes more than grand gestures to turn fantasy into reality. 

GATEWAY 6 by Malachi Smyth (JAB Management)
Producers: Sentinel Entertainment
Genre:  Sci-fi
Summary:  Set in the future, on a war-ravaged Earth, four soldiers man the last bastion – an outpost in a sea-covered continent – awaiting relief or the enemy, whichever comes first.  But as the empty weeks turn to months, a paranoia descends that tests relationships to breaking, especially with the arrival of a mysterious boat…
You can read the logline for all the Brit List finalists here.

Interview with Alli Parker

Alli Parker is an Australian writer, script reader, filmmaker, production secretary in TV production, a beater with the Blackburn Basilisks Quidditch Club, president of the Victorian Quidditch Association, and an international silver medalist (2014 Global Games) at quidditch. Also, she likes chocolate.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and that’s also where I grew up.

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I feel I am incredibly lucky to have a family that is so relentlessly supportive— everyone backs each other one hundred and ten percent, every time. Looking back, I was brought up in a family that had a lot of passion for things, and I feel that that’s certainly rubbed off on me.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

When did you first take an interest in storytelling?

I was always an avid reader—from a very young age I always devoured books and stories. I wanted to write novels, but whilst I started with great gusto, I lost steam through the middle and could never figure out the endings. After I discovered Harry Potter, I found a Harry Potter role-playing site that let you create a character and write the stories from their point of view. I wrote solidly there for several years, and during that time I discovered screenplays and realised I’d found my medium.

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

My first ‘proper’ paid job was at Hoyts Cinemas. But the very, very first job I had was working in the canteen at my local football club.

These days you work as production secretary on TV. What was the career progression that landed you in that job?

That’s a tough one—in actuality, I’ve been working in the industry for years now. For this specific circumstance, I returned from London in 2012 and exploited contacts that I had to get a hold of several email addresses of various line producers in Melbourne. I managed to get a gig as a runner on the end of the first series of House Husbands, then was fortunate to piggyback my jobs, one onto the other, until I was offered the role as a production secretary on a film called Healing. I’ve continued on as that role since, although I do detour into script assisting at various points and hope to stay there more permanently.

• You keep fit by playing quidditch. You play for Blackburn Basilisks, you’re president of the Victorian Quidditch Association, and a member of the 2014 national side (the Drop Bears) that won the silver medal in Canada earlier this year. I don’t know anything about Quidditch (other than it looks unusually violent for something invented by literary types). Isn’t it irritating to have to lug a broom around everywhere?

Mrs Doubtfire practises for a game of quidditch
Quidditch is a wonderful distraction. For someone who has no background in sport, to be involved in a game that needs no experience to start playing, it’s been a fantastic adventure. The broom is not a weapon, you just have to stay on it (not as hard as it seems) and, as a Beater, I play an adapted form of dodgeball—throwing balls at people to stop their attempts at goal. It’s probably too wordy and lengthy to describe on the page, but I can guarantee you that there is likely a quidditch team near you—so get down to a game and check it out if you’re interested!

The Drop Bears in Canada, 2014.  Alli is back row, sixth from the left,
not counting the tall gentleman standing immediately behind her.
Alli in action back home.

You attended the London Screenwriters’ Festival in 2012. Give us your impressions of the Festival.

I’ve attended four out of five Screenwriters’ Festivals, the only one I’ve missed being earlier this year (2014) as I was working at the ABC
   As a result, I can’t be too specific because there is always so much going on! I’ll give you some condensed highlights: 
   The first year I went was 2010. I met the people who became my core group of writing friends whilst I was in London, including my future co-writer, who I now am convinced I can’t live without! 
   The second year I went was 2011. I was fortunate enough to meet David Reynolds (who wrote Finding Nemo and The Emperor’s New Groove) in between sessions, and proceeded to gabble uselessly at him about how much I adore The Emperor’s New Groove, only to have him respond with equal vigour and excitement, to the point where we quoted the same line of the movie together. 
   The third year I went was 2012. I proved to myself my dedication to writing when I snuck out of a session with David Yates (director of the last four Harry Potter films) to queue up for speed pitching! 
   The most recent time I went, in 2013, I think the biggest highlight was seeing how far delegates I’d met in the first year had come since we first piled into Regent’s College and decided to introduce ourselves.
   It’s a fantastic experience and an amazing community of people, but I’ve learnt that if you’re going from Australia or America, it really pays to have something properly ready or something that you really want to get out of it. And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.

With your heavy schedule, do you get much writing done these days?

It’s tough to manage writing around a (minimum) 50 hour working week and quidditch at the weekends, but I’ve long since discovered I get intensely grumpy when I don’t write, so it is really for everyone’s benefit that I do. It’s really become about making it a priority.
   I’m lucky in that my co-writer is based in London, so usually by the time I get home from work, his day is starting so we can do a few hours of writing before I’m completely wiped out. Then I generally play catch up on the weekends and, because I’m often restricted in what writing I can get done during the week, manage to get a lot of things done in one hit, if I’m having a particularly disciplined day.
   At the moment, I’m working on a rom-com feature script as well as a sitcom pilot. Then there are all those other ideas that are bouncing around and being developed—there’s always something on the go.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about working on a TV show when you were starting out?
  • People are unpredictable, so just try to roll with the punches.
  • If you enjoy your job, make sure you really enjoy it, because the next one might not be so good.
  • Relish the breaks—the time you get off between jobs can be a distant memory when it’s 1am and you’re still in the office, waiting for them to call wrap.

If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie writer in Adelaide, which one would it be?

Up until a few years ago, it would’ve been Screenwriting Updated by Linda Aronson, which covers all the basics of most structures that are around these days and is a fantastic introduction to screenwriting. But these days, it’s definitely Into the Woods by John Yorke, which is my absolute saving grace when it comes to structure, character and development.

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

In no particular order (and for all differing qualities): 
Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
500 Days of Summer (2009)
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Love Actually (2003)
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
What If

What’s next for Alli Parker?


Here's the last few minutes of Australia's match against Canada at the Quidditch Global Games 2014. If Australia win, they have a guaranteed silver medal.

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Ron Shelton on 'Bull Durham'

Bull Durham was a first draft. Only one draft has ever been written. I wrote it in about ten weeks. I wrote it without an outline, without any notion of where I was going. I went down to the Carolinas and drove around to see the minor-league ballparks. I wanted to see if that world had changed since I had played in the minor leagues years earlier, and I discovered it hadn't. It was as unglamorous as when I played: Women came to the ballpark, these players were heroes in these small towns, everyone was afraid of being fired, and these dreams were probably never going to be realized for most of these guys.
   I drove from Durham down to Asheville, North Carolina. I drove on the back roads,
and I had a little mini-cassette recorder. I said, "Well, if this woman tells the story, what would the opening line be?" And I wrote, over a 140-mile drive, "I believe in the church of baseball." I'd drive five miles. "I've worshipped all the major religions, and most of the minor ones." I'd pull over for a hambuger, keep going. By the time I got to Asheville, I had dictated that opening two-page monlogue. A couple months later, I got back and pulled that out, and I transcribed it. I gave her the name Annie because of "Baseball Annie," and I had a book of matches from the Savoy Bar that I'd been at. That was Annie Savoy. I just kept writing, and I wrote the whole script. Gloriously, the producer read it and said something that producers are incapable of saying these days. He said, "I want to shoot it now," as opposed to, "I'll give you my notes next week." A few days later, we were shooting.

Ron Shelton, as quoted in Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ridley Scott on filmmaking

This all audio, no moving pictures. Okay? The (muted) sounds in the background come from Thelma & Louise, which Ridley Scott directed and here discusses at length.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Pixar list of recommended books for interns

I received a request for a link to the Pixar list of recommended books for interns, but failed to locate a copy on Google.
    So, I contacted Brian McDonald, who, I knew, has a couple of his own books on the list. And, prompt and helpful as always, Brian sent the following the next morning. The original version is numbered 1) to 25), but pairs the books by William Goldman together as one, and the same for Brian McDonald. I have given each book it's own number.

1) The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri

2) On Film-making, by Alexander Mackendrick

3) On Directing Film, by David Mamet

4) In the Blink of an Eye, by Walter Murch

5) Adventures in the Screen Trade, by William Goldman

6) Which Lie Did I Tell?, by William Goldman

7) Hitchcock, by Francois Truffaut

8) 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them, by Ronald Tobias

9) The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film, TV and New Media, by Bruce Block

10) Film Directing: Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen, by Stephen Katz

11) Invisible Ink, by Brian McDonald

12) The Golden Theme, by Brian McDonald

13) Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet

14) Conversations with Wilder, by Cameron Crowe

15) Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, by Steven Bach

16) Comics and Sequential Art, by Will Eisner

17) Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud

18) Cinematic Motion, by Steven Bach

19) The Five C's of Cinematography, by Joseph Mascelli

20) Film Editing, by Karel Reisz

21) The Conversations, by Michael Ondaatje and Walter Murch

22) Trickster Makes This World, by Lewis Hyde

23) A Short History of Myth, by Karen Armstrong

24) On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

25) The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

26) The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim

27) The Writers Journey, by Christopher Vogler

If you haven't read these, take advantage of the commercial Xmas season to buy yourself a present. (Maybe buy a different book for a friend who writes. You can swap later and get double the value.) I'd recommend reading them all, starting with the book covers shown, in sequence. If you don't know Invisible Ink, you'll be out of the conversation at any number of screenwriting get-togethers. Buy it now.

How do you show character choice?

Tony Zhou is back, with a simple demonstration of one way to show a character making a decision.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Repetition in music

How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus? Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. Why?

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners.

Lesson by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, animation by Andrew Zimbelman.