Friday, 30 November 2012

"Suckablood"

Suckablood is an animated gothic tale of a girl scared to suck her thumb - lest the monstrous Suckablood should come. It was written by Ben Tillett & Jake Hendriks (Cuddihy), and directed by Ben Tillett. 
When the stepmother of the young protagonist of Suckablood can't beat the thumbsucking habit out of her, she calls upon the vile creature who murders children who can't keep their fingers out of their mouths. Now the little girl must spend a terrified night without sucking her thumb for comfort.
The film is #5 in a series of thirteen short UK Horror movies.



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Thursday, 29 November 2012

"Housebreaking"

Here's another short film by Jordan Kerfeld, who shared his tips on editing with us earlier this year.

This one is billed as a "Home invasion thriller." Housebreaking is part of the graduate thesis project, Tears at Dawn, is for writer/director Jordan Kerfeld, who is currently studying at the University of Texas at Austin.



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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Dance With Your City"

Remember the music video with the four guys dancing on a set of treadmills?

The song is called Here It Goes Again, and the name of the band is OK Go. (The name came from an art teacher always saying "Okay... go!" when a couple of them were kids at school, drawing).



What's interesting about OK Go is that they understand the way the world has changed, better than many filmmakers. In 2005, they placed a "stupid home video" of the band, dancing, on a website. This was before YouTube. The clip was downloaded 300,000 times, compared with 285,000 sales of their first album. The band's famous treadmill video attracted a million YouTube views within days. The record label failed to see the opportunity and they parted company with the band.

OK Go have sold more than 700,000 albums. Their videos have been viewed more than 150 million times online, and many more times in museums, galleries, classrooms, and at film, theater, and arts festivals. Recent projects include an interactive video made with the Pilobolus dance company; a live album chronicling 180 concerts played in a single year; performances at the Kennedy Center, the Glastonbury Festival, and Lollapalooza; and collaborations with the Muppets and Sesame Street.

Here is the lead singer, Damian Kulash, talking about their approach to the business.



The thing I really wanted to show you, though, is the following video. It documents the 8.5-mile parade OK Go and 100 friends took through Los Angeles. The point? To create a psycho-spatial-geo-musical-techno-sonic parade-party. They used Range Rover's Pulse of the City app to check in and spell out the words "OK GO" with the route.



Which reminded me of The Beatles' impromptu final gig in January 1969, played out on the rooftop of the headquarters of Apple Records, at 3 Savile Row, London. At the time, The Beatles were recording their album, Let It Be. They played various tracks from that, including “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “One After 909,” “Danny Boy,” “Dig A Pony” and another version of “Get Back.”

The session ended with the police shutting down the show (for noise violation). John Lennon closed with the famous sentence, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

Can't help wondering what The Beatles would have done with the internet.

Seeing we've come this far, here's the available footage of The Beatles' rooftop concert.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Katherine Thomson & Sue Smith at the Austral Hotel

Katherine Thomson is an Australian playwright and screenwriter. Sue Smith is an Australian playwright, novelist and screenwriter. Together they will form an end-of-year panel on December 4 at The Austral Hotel, where they will share their reflections on what inspires them to keep creating, what it was like before their first credit, and how to keep going when it all gets too much!

Share Christmas drinks and commiserations over 2012. Get inspired for 2013.


When: Tuesday 4 December 2012, 7:00pm for 7:30 start

Where: The Bunka @The Austral Hotel, 205 Rundle Street, Adelaide
Cost: AWG Members $5 Guests $10
AWG members can register for the event here
(Make sure you log in, first. Have a printer connected, so you can print out your receipt.)


Monday, 26 November 2012

Book Review: The 21st Century Screenplay

Linda Aronson is an English-born, Australian playwright, scriptwriter, comic novelist and screenwriting theorist. She has taught screenwriting to professionals across the world, having come most recently from a six-month tour of Europe, which culminated in an appearance at the London Screenwriters Festival.

Her previous book Screenwriting Updated (published in Australia as Scriptwriting Updated) was the leading text on how to write non-linear films, until it was superseded by The 21st-Century Screenplay in 2010.

True confession: I've been talking about writing this review for about a year now, but I kept putting it off, excusing myself that there were other things to talk about instead.

The truth is, I have felt intimidated.
"Linda Aronson is one of the great and important voices on screenwriting."  —Dr Linda Seger, author of "Making a Good Script Great"
The first screenplay I wrote that was ever seriously considered by producers was a story with a parallel narrative. I didn't fully appreciate that fact until long after it had been given a pass by... well, everyone.

Once it dawned on me that I needed to know more about the theory of structure than the usual three-act, single protagonist model, I went looking. And found nothing. Until I saw a reference to Linda Aronson on Twitter. And one thing led to another. I'm still hoping that the interview she agreed to do last year will finally appear here in December.

Now to the book.
 

It's big. Almost 500 pages, including a decent index (thank you). To put it in context, it is almost one hundred pages longer than Christopher Vogler's The Writers Journey. Vogler himself refers to The 21st-Century Screenplay as an "atlas."
"A lucid and eminently useful atlas of screenwriting technique. All the vague confusing things that teachers and studio executives say about flashback, turning points and multiple protagonists are whipped into coherent shape here, in a comprehensive, precise and extremely practical theory. An essential tool in any writer's kit."Christopher Vogler, author of "The Writers Journey"
It's not really a book, it's a kind of mini-encyclopaedia. It should, in my opinion, have been published as at least two separate books, possibly more. It is divided into six Parts, and some of those Parts are divided into as many as six Sections, and a given Section can have up to eight chapters. There are fifty-six chapters in total.

Part 1 looks at creativity and getting ideas. With expanded examples and exercises, it could be a book in its own right. Part 2 addresses conventional narrative structure and, again, could be a book in its own right. Woven through Parts 1 and 2 are twenty-five "development strategies" which could—this is getting repetitive—provide the framework for a book of their own.

So how is it, 125 pages into this one book, I'm already saying it could be three different books? The best way to understand this is, Linda Aronson has so much good stuff to say, and feels she has so little time in which to say it, that she has tumbled it all out into one place.

And it is good stuff. Even Part 2, which deals with Conventional Three-Act Structure and could have been a simple regurgitation of Syd Field, contains a remarkably different approach to the subject. Regular readers will know I have been working on my own comparative analysis summary of structure theories for years, lining up alongside one another the key outlines of Syd Field, Linda Seger, Michael Hauge, Christopher Vogler, Viki King, Blake Snyder, John Truby, David Mamet, Brian McDonald, etc. Linda Aronson has a completely fresh approach, for which she takes no credit. She calls it "the Extended Smiley/Thompson plan" and says of it:

Playwriting,
by Prof. Sam Smiley
"I first came across it many years ago in a class on stage writing run by Paul Thompson of New York University, who says that he developed it from Sam Smiley's book on playwriting."
The Extended Smiley/Thompson plan is kinda like a beat sheet, but not really. I won't go into it here, other than to say that over the last year I have found myself drawn back to rereading this section many times.

Part 3 is called "Practical Plotting" and provides a lot of common-sense information on the art of screenwriting. Part 6 is called "Getting It On The Page." It rounds out the practical advice section of the book. There's good, solid, practical advice here, but nothing you couldn't find in a heap of other books. 

If those Parts were the whole book, I would say it represented excellent value and that you should think about buying a copy. But there's more here.


Part 4 steps into the largely unexplored world of "Parallel Narrative." Part 5 reports on "Films with Structural Flaws": or Why Films Fail. This is an area that wouldn't make sense without Part 4, so they belong together, preferably as a separate book.

Parts 4 and 5 are what the fuss is all about. 


If you'll be happy writing a few short films, or maybe a couple of three-act, single protagonist features, you don't need this book. Stick to Blake Snyder, Michael Hauge, Linda Seger, or Christopher Vogler. 

But if you've ever dreamed of writing something with the complexity of a Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The English Patient, Crash, Fried Green TomatoesCity of God, 21 Grams, The Hours, or Memento, you need this book.

To be clear, a parallel narrative is about "two or more complete stories in the past and present." It is not "a linear three-act structure with a chunk of action from two thirds of the way through the story stuck at the start to grab the audience," as found in a film such as Michael Clayton.

I had naively assumed that there was but a single type of parallel structure and had been trying to work out the principles governing that. Linda Aronson tells us that there are "six different sorts of parallel narrative films, each structured differently and each transmitting a different philosophy." To explain:

"These six fall into two main categories: films that jump about in time and films that don't. The films that stay in one time frame are often called ensemble films, and there are three main kinds. The films that jump about in time are often called non-linear films, and there are two main kinds. Finally, there is a hybrid, which is very like one of the ensemble forms, but it incorporates time jumps."
If that sounds complicated, we've only just begun. For example, the non-linear forms include six classes of flashback, and four classes of consecutive story. But don't worry, there are over 250 pages explaining everything.

_____________________________

I won't attempt to summarise it all here. What follows is a brief explanation of each of
the six different sorts of parallel narrative films, together with some examples of films that adhere to that structure. For the rest, you need to buy the book.

1. Tandem narrative:

Films with equally important stories on the same theme, in the same time frame, with the action jumping between stories. Same theme, different adventures.

Traffic, Lantana, Nashville, Love Actually, Crimes and Misdemeanours, City of Hope

 
2. Multiple protagonist narrative:

Films about a small team of people thrown together in a group 'adventure'—a quest, a reunion, a siege (emotional/actual). All the main characters are versions of the same protagonist. Same team, same adventure.


Galaxy Quest, The Big Chill, Saving Private Ryan, Little Miss Sunshine, Mystic River


3. Double journeys narrative:

Multiple protagonist films with two characters journeying towards each other, in parallel, or apart (physically/emotionally). Two lives in parallel.

The Departed, Finding Nemo, The Lives of Others, The Queen, The Proposition


4. Flashback narrative:

There are six varieties of flashback, some simple, some complex, each serving a different story purpose. Some films have several kinds.

i) Flashback as illustration: a simple backstory device, e.g., when a detective asks, "Where were you on the night of April 5?" and we flash back to what happened.

ii) Regret flashback: non-chronological fragments from an unsuccessful love relationship (as in Annie Hall and And When Did You Last See Your Father?).

iii) Bookend flashback: a scene or sequence in the present that appears at the start and end of the film, 'bookending' the story (Saving Private Ryan, Fight Club).

iv) Preview flashback: the film starts on a scene or sequence midway or two-thirds through, then flashes back to the start, running through chronologically to the end (Goodfellas, Michael Clayton).

v) Life-changing incident flashback: one life-changing moment is revealed bit-by-bit in one flashback shown several times incrementally (Catch-22).

vi) Double narrative flashback: two or more complete stories centered on one enigmatic outsider are told in different time frames, with the action jumping back and forth between the two. Films in this form drop into two categories according to their view of human nature and each is structured differently. They are:


5. Consecutive stories:

Films that tell separate stories (with different protagonists) one after the other, coming together at the end. Their point is to make a political or philosophical comment. There are four main sorts.

i) Stories walking into the picture: new protagonists will walk into shot and the film switches to their stories (The Circle, Ten).

ii) Different perspectives: different versions of the same event (Run Lola Run); or different characters' versions of the same event (Rashomon).

iii) Different consequences from the same event: (Atonement).

iv) Fractured frame/portmanteau: several stories are split up and held within one story, which forms a frame (Pulp Fiction, The Butterfly Effect, City of God, The Joy Luck Club).

6. Hybrid:

Fractured tandem:

Fractured tandem runs equally important tandem narratives but fractures them, jumping between time frames (21 Grams, Babel, Crash, Three Burials of Melchiades Estrada).

Autobiographical narrator using voice-over:

The voice-over autobiographical narrator, honest or unreliable, can appear in all parallel narrative forms. It causes significant structural changes in double narrative flashback. Some films have a narrator who tells someone else's story, not their own, and who is either a minor player or an unidentified storyteller.

________________________________________________________________________

If you're worried about which is the best approach for your material, there is a whole chapter telling you how to decide.

The only other thing to emphasize is that
this is an advanced book. To follow much of it you need to be film literate. No, I mean seriously film literate. If you haven't seen most of the films listed in this brief summary, you're going to struggle to understand the points being made.
 

The 21st Century Screenplay is an extraordinary book. At less than $20, it represents an accessible investment for every serious screenwriter. You won't read and grasp it all in a weekend. It's a book which demands study; it's a book that will reward study. That's not something I can say about every screenwriting book on my shelf.

If you're serious about screenwriting, I recommend that you buy this book.

________________________________________________________________________

There is an interesting article (here) in The New York Times, 21 November 2012, which notices a trend in dispensing with storytelling conventions in the current crop of films.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

"The Desk"

The Desk is a meet-cute short film.

It was written and directed by Albert Gonzalez, and produced by Albert Gonzalez Films and The Art Institute of Houston, as part of his Short Media course. Stars Spencer Jefferies and Alana Nicole Boswell.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The MacGuffin

What is a "MacGuffin"? The screenwriting term, frequently associated with Alfred Hitchcock, describes a plot device. It is common in thrillers. It could be a goal or an object that the protagonist is willing to pursue, often without explanation as to why it was so valuable.

Examples include the meaning of rosebud in Citizen Kane (1941), the Falcon in The Maltese Falcon (1941), the briefcase in Pulp Fiction (1994) and Ronin (1998), the crystal skull in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
, and the mineral Unobtainium in Avatar (2009).

Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term "MacGuffin" with The 39 Steps (1935). He explained the term in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University:

"[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the 'MacGuffin'. It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers".
Interviewed in 1966 by Fran├žois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock illustrated the term "MacGuffin" with a story, which he repeated in an interview with Dick Cavett. The voice over in the following video comes from the Dick Cavett recording. Thanks to Isaac Niemand for this re-edit.



You can see the original interview here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Interview with Alan Watt

Alan Watt is a novelist, a playwright, a teacher, a publisher, the founder/creative director of LA Writers Lab, founder of the 90-Day Novel Press and Writers Tribe Books publishing companies, and is currently executive producer of a film being made from his novel Diamond Dogs.

Alan first taught a summer creative writing workshop at UCLA in 1998, and has been teaching and lecturing on the creative process in Los Angeles and at colleges around the country ever since. He has taught everyone from award-winning authors to A-list screenwriters, journalists, poets, actors, professional athletes, war veterans, housewives, doctors, lawyers, television showrunners, Emmy-winning directors, first-time writers, and anyone else with a story to tell.
________________________________________________________________________

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

I was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and moved to a small town in Ontario, Canada, called Guelph when I was five-years old. I grew up in Guelph.

•  What kind of a family did you grow up with?

My father is a doctor, a psychiatrist more specifically. And my mother was a Phys Ed teacher, until she had four kids in four years. I have two brothers and a sister. All of them are very smart, very ambitious. Two of them went to medical school and became doctors, while my other brother went to Business school and is now into real estate and manufacturing and all sorts of other things.

I, on the other hand, was the one who spent his days staring at clouds and living in his imagination. I had the brilliant idea of marching into my high school principal’s office three months prior to graduation and announcing that I was quitting school to go on the road and be a stand-up comic. (I had a weekend gig two hours away—in retrospect I’m not sure I needed to quit school for it.)


  What was your first paying job
?

We moved to a farm when I was ten. My two brothers and I spent that first summer picking rocks. We picked rocks for six to eight hours a day, clearing the fields by hand. My father paid us a dollar an hour. I made four hundred dollars that summer.

  When did you first decide you wanted to write?

When I was three, my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told her “a pencil.” I didn’t know how to spell yet, but for some reason I desperately wanted to write. There was something deeply satisfying about the idea of putting my thoughts down on paper. To this day I prefer to write by hand because I find the simple act of moving my hand across the page rather therapeutic.

  Why did you set up the L.A. Writers Lab?


I was always helping my friends with their screenplays, and when I started selling my work I began getting deluged with calls to read and help them with their work. I decided it was easier to set up a formal workshop where I could help them.

I am also fascinated with the creative process – far more interested in that than the result. I love working with writers who have been blocked and helping them write the story that they’ve been struggling with for years. This is why I created the 90-Day Novel and 90-Day Screenplay workshops.

The subconscious is where the truth lies. It’s where all of the complexity and paradox of our experiences are disseminated and it’s where patterns are explored. Logic is immaterial to our subconscious, which is why it is so difficult for writers to begin, and so thrilling once they’ve begun. It’s not so much a matter of ‘can I rely on my subconscious?’ It’s really that we have no other choice. I don’t believe it’s possible to write anything more than a grocery list from our pre-frontal cortex. We don’t have the bandwidth.

Now, though we must rely on our subconscious, I don’t believe that’s a guarantee that we’ll get to the end of our story. The 90-Day process involves marrying the wildness of our subconscious to the rigor of story structure. There are key universal experiences in the hero’s journey. By exploring these experiences in the world of our story, images appear and it actually becomes possible to move beyond our limited idea of our story to a more vivid and dynamic version. The truth is that our idea of our story is never the whole story. Writers tend to get stuck when they either rely solely on their subconscious, or solely on “plotting.”

I teach story structure as an experiential model rather than a conceptual model, which is a fancy way of saying that we can reduce any transformation in our life to a series of experiences. There is nothing formulaic about this approach. I tell writers that everything we can imagine belongs in our story if we’re willing to distill our ideas to their nature. I teach writers how to ask better questions of their subconscious in order to understand their story in a new way.


  What are your upcoming writing projects?

I’m currently writing a thriller for a film producer, and just completing a new novel called Days Are Gone, about a woman who leaves her upwardly mobile marriage and ends up in a small town, where she begins a relationship with a guy who is on parole for committing a terrible crime. It’s about how we forgive ourselves for our pasts in order to move on. I’m publishing it through my new literary press, Writers Tribe Books. I recently sold my movie adaptation of my first novel, Diamond Dogs, to Quad Productions, who just did a movie called The Intouchables. Diamond Dogs will be shot in the States and will be their first English-speaking movie.

Here's the trailer for The Intouchables.



  You have established not one, but two, separate publishing houses. Tell us a little about them.

It happened by accident. The 90-Day Novel Press publishes books on writing. I wrote The 90-Day Novel just as this whole self-publishing craze was heating up and the traditional publishing industry was dying. I had been procrastinating for a year in sending my agent a book proposal, and then one day I just decided that I was going to publish it myself. I knew the book was not a traditional writing book—it was much more of a right-brain book that explored the mechanics of the story process from an intuitive place. Quite frankly, I wrote the book that I wish existed when I started writing, and it’s become a bestseller here in the U.S.

Writers Tribe Books publishes literary fiction and was another accident. With the traditional publishers dying on the vine, I started getting calls from friends of mine—some really great novelists, but because their last book didn’t land on the bestseller list they were getting dropped by their publishers. The traditional publishing model cannot support the work of mid-list authors. Publishing has become like Hollywood—they need huge hits to survive. But since I don’t have Fifth Avenue rent to pay I can afford to publish authors who I just love, and rather than giving them a huge advance, we split the profits, and it becomes more of a partnership model.


  What are three things you wish someone had told you about screenwriting when you were starting out?

1) Build a body of work. Don’t spend three years on one project.
2) Be willing to fail. Keep putting your work out.
3) Write the story that you want to tell. Don’t concern yourself with what you think the “marketplace” is looking for.


Peter Finch is mad as hell, and he's not gonna take this any more.
  Name ten of your all-time favorite movies.

Here are ten in no particular order. I could give you ten more tomorrow that could supplant these ten.
______________________________________________________________________

Here's a five minute clip of Alan Watt talking about how story works.


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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Samuel L. Jackson on Al Pacino

I just realised that we haven't had any Samuel L. Jackson on here, so I move that we rectify the situation immediately.

SLJ has made almost 150 movies. One of the early ones was Sea of Love, where he was in a scene with Al Pacino. (That was in 1989, the year after he appeared with Eddie Murphy in Coming to America.)

Here SLJ reminisces about the day he worked with Al Pacino.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

"Work"

Work is a student film made by Mike Rianda in 2010. It records what happens when a young man's reach exceeds his grasp, while exploring the theme of: There is a time for every season under heaven...
One boys obsession with moon shoes leads him down the darkest road imaginable.
Don't be in a hurry to give up your day job, even if it is only going to school.



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

"Nice Girls Crew"

Nice Girls Crew is a webseries starring Sheetal Sheth as Leena, Michelle Krusiec as Geraldine, and Lynn Chen as Sophie. 

Childhood friends, now all grown up, find themselves in the city of Los Angeles. They seek refuge from their isolation in a book club where they never actually talk about the book. 
The bestest of childhood frenemies, all grown up and starting a book club.


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Monday, 19 November 2012

"IMDb Top 250 in 2½ minutes"

Here's a fast-moving montage of clips from over 250 movies, put together by Jonathon Keogh. The music is a mashup by DJ Faroff, featuring The Beatles, Joan Jett, House of Pain and Cypress Hill.

How many movies can you recognise?


Sunday, 18 November 2012

"Making a Living as a Screenwriter," John Truby

John Truby is a leading teacher of screenwriting. His book, The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, is a bestseller.

Here he talks about what it takes to break into the ranks of professional screenwriting in Hollywood. It's a sobering and realistic picture of the world of US movie-making since 2008, one every wannabe screenwriter should take a long, hard look at.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Movie poster sale

If you need something to hang on the wall, Heritage Auctions has an sale running of over 1,000 original movie posters. The 1933 King Kong poster shown below is expected to go for $80,000+, but take a look at the rest.

"Tick Tock"

Tick Tock is a short film by Ien Chi.
What would you do if you had only five minutes to live? Trace a young man's few minutes of trying to fulfill his life's highest potential.
The film won the Best Picture and Best Director awards at Campus MovieFest 2011 - the world's largest student film festival.

    
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Friday, 16 November 2012

Harry Potter posters

I have to confess that I never got into Harry Potter, but I know lots of people who love him. If you're looking for memorabilia, The Printorium is selling posters online, here.  To give you some idea of what's on offer...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Theme, a dilemma

Alan Watt
For many people, Theme is the most puzzling element in screenwriting. The following article was published by Alan Watt in The Huffington Post, a year ago, under the title How to Make the Three-Act Structure Work for Your Book.
Although this article was written for novelists, there is plenty here for screenwriters to think about. 
 
Alan Watt is a novelist, a playwright, a teacher, a publisher,
and currently executive producer of a film being made from his novel Diamond Dogs. I'm hoping to have an interview with him ready for the start of the new year.
________________________________________________________________________

Many novelists resist the idea of three-act structure because they understandably fear it will limit their creativity and lead to formulaic writing. This misconception is sometimes the result of structure's being taught by story analysts whose gifts lean more toward an ability to deconstruct the anatomy of an existing work, than in exploring the nature of what the author was attempting to express.


This can leave the student with a keen understanding of how a particular story was "assembled," while struggling with how to translate the lesson into completing his or her own work. Although one might eventually begin to grasp the inner workings of structure by staring at the various lifeless parts of a work of art, there is perhaps a more direct approach.

Story structure actually has little to do with plot. In fact, the "structure" that's being alluded to is actually the underlying theme. But what is a theme exactly, and how does working with one help you structure your story?

Here's how:

Many books on writing speak of there being a dramatic problem at the heart of a story. In fact, there isn't one. There's a dilemma.

Here's the difference: Problems are solved, while dilemmas are resolved through a shift in perception.

The purpose of story is to reveal a transformation -- to show, through conflict and complication, the world in a new way. Einstein stated, "One cannot solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created the problem." What he's describing is a dilemma.

For example: Jimmy Stewart must leave Bedford Falls in order to have a wonderful life. King Lear must find a worthy heir by determining who loves him most. Initially, these appear to be problems, but as the story progresses, we begin to see that solving one problem only leads to another, until eventually, the protagonist wakes up to the reality of his situation and realizes the fundamental flaw in his thinking, thus necessitating a shift in perception. (Note: transformation does not mean a happy ending.)

Every character in your story has a relationship to this central dilemma, whether you're aware of it or not. This is not accidental. It is theme. You don't have to hope that you're doing it right. Working with story structure is not about "getting it right." It is about making your story as clear and specific as it can be. Focusing on your characters' desire or goal will lead you directly to the dilemma at the heart of your story.

If all that happens in your story is that your protagonist achieves his goal, your reader will be disappointed. The reader's interest lies not in the hero getting what he wants, but in getting what he needs. The dilemma lies in the protagonist's attempts to square these two opposing ideas. Jimmy Stewart needs to understand that he already has a wonderful life. Lear needs to understand that truth does not lie in flattery.

Writers tend to get stuck when they try to figure out their story. Just as your protagonist is struggling with a dilemma, so are you. This is because the desire to write is the desire to evolve. At some point in the story (usually the end of Act Two), your protagonist discovers that what he is confronting is impossible to achieve, thus necessitating a surrender. And because on some level you are the hero of your story, through the act of writing, you are going to experience a death of this old identity. It's only through this dark night of the soul that your protagonist begins to reframe his relationship to his goal, thus making it possible to achieve it, if it still belongs in his life.

What's so thrilling about inquiring into the dilemma is that it invites your imagination to stretch. When you read a well-told story and wonder, "How did the author come up with that?" the answer is probably that she made herself available to a process that led her characters to places she might not have otherwise ventured.

Working with structure allows the writer to see his story from a wider perspective. Sometimes you'll write a scene, only to realize that the situation doesn't belong in your story, but if you inquire into the nature of the conflict, i.e., the dilemma, you may discover that what was essential finds its way in.

The three-act structure is not limiting, though it does demand that you be rigorous with your ideas, because story structure holds your ideas accountable to universal truths. This means that anything you imagine can be contained by structure if you're willing to distill your ideas to their nature. Story structure keeps you connected to your theme by placing your focus squarely on your character's primal desires, and in doing so, plot naturally emerges.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

"Team work"

I needed a laugh. This is an ad for a Belgian public transport company. Who knew crabs could be funny?

Enjoy!



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"Tears of Steel"

The Blender Institute is a Dutch organization which exists to produce open source 3D film projects. One of their earliest projects is called Tears of Steel. It was written and directed by Ian Hubert.
A group of warrior scientists gather at the "Oude Kerk" in Amsterdam to stage a crucial event from the past, in a desperate attempt to rescue the world from destructive robots.
This short film has been billed as: Terminator as a relationship drama!



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Monday, 12 November 2012

Free Screenplays - 2012

It's that time of the year again. The Melbourne Cup is over, so now we start the long slow climb toward the Academy Awards on February 24. Good luck, Seth McFarlane!

As part of the process, the studios are making copies of screenplays available to members of the Academy ('for your consideration'), except the rest of us get to download them legally as well. The catch is that they can disappear from the studio web pages at any time. If you go back and check the list for last year, you'll see that of the 26 on offer, 9 have disappeared. During the last twelve months, my favorite screenplay site, myPDFscripts, closed down, following repeated legal threats by studios.

The lesson is, Make the hay while the sun, she shines. And while we are in agricultural reference mode, here is the crop of available screenplays for 2012.

________________________________________________________________________
2011    2013    2014
 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Want to make a horror movie?

This poster is currently doing the rounds, in case you were thinking of joining the Horror Movie Gold Rush


Saturday, 10 November 2012

London Screenwriters' Festival - 2012

The London Screenwriters' Festival (LSF), the largest event of its type in the world, has just closed for 2012. (The Australian equivalent, National Screenwriters Conference 2013, will take place on the Mornington Peninsula next February. Yep, too remote and expensive for most Australian wannabe screenwriters to attend. The more things change...) 

I didn't make it to the LSF this year, so I've decided to write a post on the subject instead.

Chris Jones and the volunteers receive a closing ovation from appreciative screenwriters.

As I have no firsthand information, I am shamelessly depending on reports from selected eye-witnesses.

Daniel Martin Eckhart is an American-educated Swiss writer of German crime television/movies, who was a member of the Swiss Guard protecting the Pope in the Vatican for a number of years. No, I'm not kidding. Daniel has provided an enthusiastic summary of the event (along with his usual solid advice) on the blog Write, write, write.

"The LSF - I'm telling you, it's so easy to make connections here - the danger is not making the most of them after the festival. Meet new people, talk to other writers, find the execs and the directors - talk, pitch, exchange business cards ... but don't waste those opportunities. Try to be different - try to be/have/say something that sticks in their mind - and then contact them as soon as possible after the festival ... if you wait three months - most likely they won't remember you - and in addition, what does that time lapse say to the person you reach out to?"
Elinor Perry-Smith is a writer, producer and owner of Nun With A Gun Productions. She administers the blog Lock and load, brides of Christ, which included the following observations.
  • I was looking forward to this very much. I can remember going the first year, feeling quite scared but this year bounded in, business cards at the ready, keen to meet people, start up convos with total strangers and even catch sight of my co-writer Scott, which I did incidentally.
  • The opening speech by Chris was a rousing call to arms. How does he do it? Clearly the man never sleeps. He also unveiled the exquisite horror of the 'elevator pitch' in which - le gasp! - REAL executives would travel up and down in the lift (as we say here in Blighty) whilst nervous writers would give them their spiel and hopefully emerge with a business card after sixty seconds! I heard lots of people went up for this.
  • The woman of the match for me was Pilar Alessandra, who with grace and efficiency got down to the nitty-gritty of dialogue and how to navigate it to your script's advantage. Inspirational, I thought.
  • I saw David Yates speak about his career, especially about shooting three Harry Potters back-to-back. Interestingly, he said he was shooting new scripts written by women based on true stories that really made him care. In fact 'why should we care?' was very much a theme of the whole festival. Why should an audience care about your characters?
  • I saw The Red Dwarf Redux session and excitedly texted my daughter 'OMG, I'm in a room with Kryten!' whereupon she replied 'Just don't ask him to stir your tea with his groinal attachment.' Not the first time she's upstaged me.
  • Luke Ryan's session was well-attended and he was very generous and funny with how he got started and who to approach in Hollywood. Tip: Always be polite to the assistants, they want to be producers. Which is a good rule anyway! As has been tweeted before the pitch should be concise, include a logline and be sure who your audience is. Pitching is good practice in starting a relationsghip with producers. Are you an easy person to work with?
Richard Dinnick is a writer who has written pretty well everything, including Doctor Who comics. Richard was part of the panel that gave Survival Tips for writers. On his blog, Richard Dinnick, he gives this advice on what-to-do-now that the Festival is over.
  • So, make sure you get following all those remarkable professionals you met on twitter. Email all the people you met to say “hi” and to maximise the goodwill:
  • Adjudicate: why not offer your help reading their script(s)? Give them some notes? Be in their circle of trust?
  • Collaborate: would it be good to work together on your project? Or have you been inspired to create a new one, or would you like to work with that person? Make a proposition!
  • Facilitate: Did you meet someone who you think one of your other contacts would love to know? Would he or she be a perfect fit for their project/script/film? Get them together! Everyone will always remember a favour and feel well disposed towards you. Filmic karma. It’s good for the soul. :)
  • Associate: arrange to meet up with them. Christmas drink? New Year coffee? How about a working meet-up? A writers’ group for screenwriters? Or meet up and watch a DVD and critique the film afterwards – like a book club, but for films!
  • Remember, be seen and be visible was one my survival tips. So join groups, contribute, get along to other events.
  • But most of all – write! Be inspired to finish the script. Or start on that tricky re-write (and finish it)! Or start a new project (and finish it)!

Michelle Goode is a script reader, writer and editor. She administers the blog Writesofluid, where she reports on her experience witnessing a role-play on pitching and selling a screenplay at LSF. She drew the following conclusions:
  • Have a concise yet passionate and colourful pitch – know your logline and concept, don’t ramble/go off on a tangent/go over time limit and don’t worry too much about being nervous; producers *are* human and as long as you speak clearly and have a good idea they will listen.
  • It’s not enough to just write a good pitch and script. You have to know about budgets, target channels and their implications, target audiences and their implications, viewing trends/time slots, what people you want to work with (directors, actors etc) and associated costs and implications.
  • It’s bloody scary, but you have to be a businessperson as well as a writer; you need to sell your script!
Sarah Cassidy is a UK-based blogger who administers the website sarahscribbler.
"So, that rounds up my second day at the festival. It was my favourite day by far, and although the ticket is arguably expensive, I would state that I got my moneys worth on Saturday. I can’t state how motivating it is to even be in the same room as these geniuses of their craft. Normal people like myself who have worked hard, never given up when they received rejection and are proof that people can get their lucky break. Matthew Graham spent nine years trying to get a commission for Life on Mars and that was initially just a story about his uncle John."

This is a great little video blurb, a bit dated, but you can only tell that by looking at the dates. The information is current. See what you missed...