Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Media & Identity- Online Assignment 2

What kind of media did you like as a child? In what ways do you think these media shaped your gendered self?

The main things I used to be into were Football, Wrestling, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thunder Cats and Karate Kid. Other things I liked were Street Hawk, A-Team, Knight Rider and He-Man. But I’m not really a product of that media and nor are my views. Its more an indirect influence on my identity today. As I’ll try to explain:

When I was younger my behaviour and attitude to a degree did reflect those shows I watched. For example; Wrestling and the macho nature of Knight Rider, A-Team, Football, etc and the inferior one dimensional representation of women. But I think the media formed more off an outlet and a way to express myself, however right or wrong that was.

But looking back I wasn’t conscious of how I saw things, I just acted. But from the way I acted I clearly grew up thinking that men were strong and macho and women were passive and weak. Men were the heroes and women were the sexy sidekicks or romance interests, who would distract the hero from his duty. But that’s the media influence. However my home situation was led by a single mother. So I clearly had proof that women certainly weren’t weak or just sidekicks to some macho guy. And so through adolescence and being able to think for myself I realised that it’s the stereotypical view of gender and therefore a change occurred.

I like to consider myself a good person and I view everyone as equal. That may be to a degree a product of some of the media I consumed but its more my upbringing and self-development in countering my childhood prejudices and views on gender to reach an opposite and more balanced view.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The Sound of My 'Voice'.

Not my actual voice. But the one that exists in my scripts. The one that script readers and executives are dying to hear. Well read.

‘If a professional writer doesn’t have a voice. Then he doesn’t have a profession.’

I’ve read about writers finding their own voice and the need to do so. But I never knew what mine was. I was aware before that I used to imitate my favourite writers/directors, which informed my voice then. But I overcame that, which was great and all. But I still didn’t know what my voice was or when I’d find it.

‘I’ve found my voice’.

But it wasn’t a simple case of ‘finding it’. But just noticing that its been with me all the time. I realise now that its just an expression of my real self and the more I realised who I am and what I like and dislike etc the more this informed my ‘voice’ and has enabled it to shine through.

So now I’m at the stage where I’m aware of ‘my voice’ and I don’t need to worry about imitating other writers or just being a collection of clich├ęs and conventions.

I actually feel like a writer now, which is great and i thought i'd share it with everyone.

If anyone's actually out there.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Good Luck.

For a long time I hated the saying, Good luck.

‘Good luck’.

What does it mean?

I’m not able enough to succeed so I need luck on my side?

My trouble with the term started when I was introduced to Holden Caulfield. He pointed out the stupidity of it all and it made sense. Good luck is as phoney as it gets.

So I adopted the term; All the best.

‘All the best.’

That sounded more genuine and caring - as that’s what I am so it would be nice to put it out there.

But my problem was that I didn’t understand the term, ‘Good luck.’ So now that I do I won’t be so critical and judging of those who say it to me.

My understanding came when I was watching a program on television and a man said what he thought ‘Good Luck’ meant to him. He said ‘its where preparation meets opportunity.’ I thought that’s genius and completely true.

So that got me thinking.

Say we’re three years from now. I’m in the high street looking through a window to the biz and a smart man in a suit approaches me. He asks ‘If I’m here just to look or do I want to enter.’ He points to the door. It has a BBC plaque on it. Or it could be C4. I say ‘Yeah I want to enter. More than anything.’

So he says to me ‘What do you do? What’s your stock and trade?’

I say ‘Writer. I’m a scriptwriter.’

I sense interest under his intimidating appearance. He must be a producer or a top exec.

He asks me ‘What do you write?’

I say ‘Mainly drama. There’s nothing better.’

He then says ‘What are you working on now?’

I get nervous and tell him ‘Nothing at the moment.’ and then bend the truth ‘I’m in between projects.’

He then says ‘Tell me about the last script you wrote.’

I hesitate and then say ‘I haven’t actually completed a script yet.’

Do I need to say anymore?

Nope. You did yourself proud.

The man bids me a good day and goes through the door. I catch a brief glimpse inside but couldn’t make anything out. The door then shuts.

I think most writer starts out by being in the writers bubble and don’t write much or anything. Its the dreamland. The fantasy of doing without the actual doing.

‘I’m a dreamer. I want to write films and television.’

Its how we became to write but now we have to venture out into the world and take it seriously.

So this idea of preparation meets opportunity got to me and made me think that if I’m to benefit from this ‘Good luck’ then I should be prepared for when it happens. I've realised that I should stop dreaming about this career and accept that its a reality and start working towards it.

A good piece of advice from Stephen King, as he points out in 'On Writing' - is:

‘Writing shouldn’t feel like a chore.’

Friday, 21 September 2007

Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.

That’s scriptwriting. We all know.

But is it natural to rewrite everything in life?

Essays. Letters.

Of course.

Emails, blogs and even texts messages? Does it matter that they’re not the polished pieces of art you want them to be?

Yes.

I spend hours refining emails. Not the short ones. Although it does take a while to get it right. Does it sound right? Do I sound like an arse? Did I get my point across. Etc. But does it really matter? Emails aren’t meant to be like essays. They’re not being marked. And if i offend someone it wasn't my intention. But as long as we stay emailing then that’s a good sign.

Blogs?

I spend hours perfecting the perfect blog entry, which goes against the whole point. Blogs are meant to be natural and spontaneous. Nope. Not my blog. For a day or so after I’ll keep re-reading a particular entry to make sure its exactly what I wanted to say and if I say it right. Fair enough. I think. I don’t want people to get the wrong message and I certainly don’t want to sound like a patronising arse.

But then that leads into going over another, then another and then the whole lot. This is a problem. So I apologise to subscribers, if any if you have hundreds of emails about my blog updates when in truths there’s probably only two new entries.

But texts messages?

Is this whole rewrite business getting a little out of hand?

Yes.

I will spend quite an unnatural amount of time perfecting the perfect and most suitable response to a text message. ‘Is it too much?’, ‘Too little?’, ‘No that doesn’t sound right’, ‘I don’t think he’ll get the joke.’ etc.

So that explains my delayed reply. Even a day or so after.

Also with email and text message replies; I have to feel like its time to reply. It needs to feel right to me. Its weird. And a little compulsive. You can’t force these masterpieces.

With art it should be natural.

Has this entry got out of hand yet? Yes. And much earlier. But I think the thing I’m trying to say is ‘Don’t censor yourself.’ In your writing, scripts, emails, blogs or whatever. If you do then your really living out a persona and hiding your real self.

A nice piece of advice, I forget who said it. But it goes something like this:

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’ -Cyril Connolly

This wasn’t the one I was thinking of but it pretty much says the same thing. And I’m sure you can draw the difference between personal replies and scripts.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

As the saying goes.

‘An idea doesn’t exist unless its in more than one place.’

A good point and true. But when I first heard it I didn’t take much notice. Well I had no reason to at that stage. Its only when I came close to losing everything (a third time) I realised how important it was.

If there are ideas that you just couldn’t bare to part with or it would literally be the end of the world if you lost everything. Then backing it up in one form just isn’t enough.

I’m sure that this applies to those ideas that are floating around in your head and forming in their own time.

‘It’s all up here in my head.’

That’s all well and good. But really what good is it there? It may be forming but there’s still nothing to show. No back up for amnesia. It could happen.

Just play it safe and write everything down. Back everything up. Not once or twice. But go to the extreme. Store it on a memory stick, a data cd, online file storage, hard copy. Etc. And regularly.

If you believe in your ideas its not worth the risk.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

I can’t be bothered to write. None of its good anyway.

I don’t know if anyone is completely confident with what they write or are motivated twenty-four-seven to write. If you are then congratulations, if not I think its something that will improve but won't ever go away.

I do think that most aspiring writers suffer the same problems with confidence and motivation. For me personally it boils down to most of the time I have no confidence in writing and on short occasions I have a lot.

In the times of no confidence I just try to forget everything and everyone and just write for myself. The moment you start thinking what other people will make of it and comparing it to greater works - its ruined. Just go with your instincts and shut out everything else.

I’d like to think I have high standards when it comes to stories and being critical. So if I can make myself happy then that’s the first obstacle out the way and for me the most important.

An example of a clash between high and low confidence was with a short drama script called Brother Sleep - began with the best of intentions this summer. Its about a ten year old boy who feels the victim of some injustice in the world but doesn’t know any better.

At the beginning of the summer I returned to the initial idea and it felt great and I felt confident about it. It would be like another Narratives. So I had a blitz on that but then it stopped. I’d gave everything in the idea and then had nothing more to give. Also the story and what happened had been devalued the more I thought about it and worked on it. So instinctively I blamed the idea for not being good enough and keeping my interest. So the confidence plummeted and I left it.

This I’ve found happens with a lot of ideas - I give it my all, leave it, feel bad about it and then return to it a later date. But this time I felt like I could write it all in one go. I felt that confident. So weeks past and I felt pretty sad that I’d done a one eighty on the project.

‘You always kill the things you love.’

That’s I what I thought I did. But a month later a new thought on it sparked off another train of ideas that lead to that return in confidence and motivation. I’m still on that high with it even though I’m on a break from it, which is great. The scene breakdown awaits adapting.

What I gathered from this was that in most cases having low confidence in yourself and your writing boils partly down to all these great ideas that stay for awhile and then go. Or those great ideas that go nowhere. Its bound to knock your confidence each time. But its not your ability that needs questioning.

‘Every idea has a time.’

Tarantino said it best - in relation to his written opening scene of Kill Bill (he’d left for four years) - 'it was left in a draw and has been building up ever since.' And when he went back to it - it had built up so much, it was all there in his mind and was ready to be written.

In no literal comparrison - this is true for all those projects i was so confident and determined to write at the beginning of the summer. Some have returned and others are waiting for their time.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Now for the salesman in me.

‘Psychology for Screenwriters - by William Indick.’

I think this book should be on every serious screenwriters bookshelf. It’s the first of its kind and is worth it. I'm only on the third chapter. So it must be good eh?

This book made me realise i didn’t know much about my characters and what really drives them. It opens up a whole new world of thought not to mention literally the minds of my characters.

At the heart of any story is the characters and to know their psychology and what drives them in its basic terms is an invaluable tool. Its the most vital elements of a script. Structure, story, dialogue can be re-worked later, characters can‘t without heavily compromising the journey and whole reason of your script.

As an example;
The Neurotic complex; the id, ego and the superego; all exist within ourselves and are in constant conflict - but due to the difficulty of conveying a character’s inner conflict the three types are displayed visually - in different characters; the id and natural impulse is represented by the villain. The ego, the protagonist and the superego, his father. So the inner battle of our hero becomes a visual one.

This isn’t just a book on psychology. Its tied into films and scriptwriting and gives you ways in which to further build on conflict in your script. It’s a pretty incredible book and revelation for the budding screenwriter.

'You will buy this book.' - as his hand slightly motions past your face.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Heroes. Pilot. Script.

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on an U.S. pilot script. It's a joint project and has been going about three months. But the reason its what I’m working on now is down to the pilot script of Heroes: Genesis. (Not why it exists but why I’ve returned to work on it.)

Heroes is one of these shows that (as a writer) makes you feel many different emotions all at once; firstly awe, at the fact that its such an exciting and original show, then jealously, because it is such a great show and you wish you had written it and then comes, self-doubt and worthlessness, because you’ll never be able to write anything that good. Also add possible heartbreak, when a major element/reason of the show mirrors one of your own ideas. But I’ve managed to suppress the negative and i'm in complete awe of the show. Above all else its inspiring and that's what took me back to my script.

I printed the Heroes script out around February I think - with the intention of reading it as soon as possible. I always knew that I wanted to read it before I saw it. But it never felt like the right time to read it. I had flicked through and caught the opening picture of the eclipse and then at its various stages with multiplying cockroaches and saw the end picture- the last image of the pilot episode. Some people had already seen the show or were currently watching it. But I couldn’t bare to watch it online or downloaded to DVD- to me it just goes against the whole point of a good show. I always knew I wanted to experience the Heroes universe in my own time.

The right time came five months later and the night before the episode is about to air on BB2.

I’m no expert on reading scripts or reviewing them but a few things come to mind with the Genesis script; above all - its quality. It's well written and thought out. It's visually perfect, dramatic, suspenseful, has amazing intrigue; complex but is presented in a simple way and has a variety of distinct characters who have clear goals. Overall it was an amazing read and experience.

One of the reasons for reading the script before I saw the episode was to see how it translated and how much of it did.

*Minor Spoiler Alert*

A very interesting and rightful cut was with Issac - he had handcuffed himself to the radiator in a bid to kick his habit. But ended up doing a 'saw' and cut off his hand to free himself for a fix. I don't know how this original conclusion came about as surely Issac would be needed to paint more images of the future.

They also cut a whole character and his story out of the pilot. This character is D.L and he now turns up in a later episode. But its easy to see why he was cut because he wasn't completely necessary and didn't advance the story at all.

Another noticeable cut was with Claire, the cheerleader and having dinner with her family. This was a great scene and a favourite of mine mainly because - in reply of her mother asking what she did today she said 'I jumped off a cliff and didn't die'. Her mother then tried to identify with her and said she'd had many metaphorical jumps herself. But really didn't understand what she meant.

Also in this scene her father wasn't said to be the mysterious villain guy with the glasses, which was odd. Her father in the scene was called Kent. So it seems they decided afterwards to combine him and the father character for better effect or he planned to take his place during the series and they brought it forward. One of the great things with the script - was that this villian character was only known as Horn Rimmed Glasses.

An odd change was the names of Peter Petrelli and his (flying) brother. They originally were Ethan and Harrison Cambell.

Although I loved watching the episode it did seem to run past me pretty quickly. It's being able to read at your own pace, the enhanced level of detail and being open to interpretation and free of boundaries is why I prefered reading the script over watching it.

The fact that the script was so visual and entertaining it inspired me to return to a project that was similar in its market and target audience. It's something I’d left for awhile and didn't seem as keen on. But it wasn’t that the idea was boring or had no life it was the fact that I had done all I could on it so far and just needed some new inspiration and perspective. And there was no greater inspiration (and reality check) than Heroes.

You can read the Heroes pilot script here.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

I think we need a break.

Something that i've known for a while but not fully appreciated until recently - is the the value of 'time away' from an idea and continued 'experiencing' of other stories - to keep your mind still going and open to inspiration. Its through being inspired that we want to create and only through experience can we be creative.

The above is a probable theory for overcoming a block or disinterest in an idea. Sometimes you can overdo it and put everything into an story/script for a relentless period of time - and then nothing. You've wrote down all you feel, everything associated with the idea - and now you're at a standstill.

This is good.

It either means you need to go away and research your arena or characters more - or its time to go away and recharge your batteries - take in other creative forms and return with new energy, inspiration, perspective and ideas for your story and characters.

At the other end it could mean you didn't get a quick enough grip on the story and characters in the first place and you let them get away. So you need to put the time in to get to know them.

Monday, 6 August 2007

One Hour Drama.

For the last two weeks i've been working on a new idea for the one hour drama and have managed to create something just as dramatic and moving as Requiem. Oddly enough it was one of the ideas that came out not going with that.

For next term we need to have two outlines for this. So for my second I have two ideas in mind and they also came out of leaving Requiem:

1. A social/political sci-fi drama about a future who favour politcial honour over family.
2. A family drama about the effect of a high school shooting on the killer's family.

I still want to complete a first draft of this for next term. Although at the moment i think i should be concentrating the two outlines.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Free your mind.

Something to note.

With Requiem I pigeon holed it as the one hour drama from the beginning. Limiting its possiblilies to exist in any other length. I then reached a level where the one hour requirements were filled and then realised that for this to really be something special and truthful - the characters needed more development and execution. There were a few doubts along the way but i continued not wanting to accept them. But then the inevitable decision was made.

But every story should be approached with an open mind. Unless you feel instinctively that its a certain length or medium. But otherwise just stay open to the possibility it might not conform to what you think. Just trust your instincts, which should also include a critical eye. If its not what you originally thought and becomes something else then it doesn't matter; it shows you that your instincts are correct and opens the possibility for even better ideas to come.

This is also true for all elements within a story; characters, scenes, your favourite moments etc. Its not about keeping and losing ideas its about finding the right place for them and at the right time.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Returning Home. Pt. 2.

It's been a month since i've been back and all i've done - hang on this sounds familar! Yeah I still haven't got a job, which is getting worrying. Some agencies avoid students now and others have too many registered. I'm healthy and have two kidneys. I just hope i don't have to lose one.

Anyway, things have changed drastically on the one hour drama front and pretty much writing in general. Requiem wasn't meant to be. But there are a few possible ideas, which in actual barrels of drama surpass it. But none of them have a decent title, which is a problem.

Animation-wise i've given in to my lack of self-confidance and have abandoned them. I hope for now. Also short drama, Brother Sleep - the right mood for its gone. I just need a new idea to re-ignite it.

Television-wise things haven't been better. I now have a new series, which is one of the best i've come up with. Bet you didn't think i was going to say that! But at the moment i'm just trying to decide on its target audience and finding a new title as the one i had was ruined by an already existing show.

The sports drama series is moving slowly. A few posts have appeared on the forum and five of us are now registered. I think we've pretty much got our arena, which isn't just the sport its also in a specific location. A location that brings varied characters and constant drama. We're still open to other arena ideas so everyone can have their say. But time is passing. I think i need to start researching the two arenas because at this stage its more important than characters and stories.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Requiem.

Requiem is no more. As the one hour drama anyway.

For awhile the thought about losing this story to the university had crossed my mind. But i thought if i think that about everything then i'll never be able to finish anything. So i just carried on. Everything about the idea and its characters just seemed to get better and better. I could see the film complete from beginning to end, from scene to scene, from motive to motive, how it would be filmed and acted, everything. So i decided it was time to start writing a scene breakdown. I only completed the first act.. At forty-something development pages and a month of ecstasy with it. I knew that this wasn't my one hour drama.

I came to the point where two things clicked at the same time. One, this story was a feature film and it would be an injustice to cut it short and Two, i don't want to give this up to the university. So after having the greatest feeling about a story and love for its characters i immediately stopped and closed down the file. A weird sudden-divorce. All i wanted to do was get a head start on the project to free up some time next term. I was way ahead but now felt like I had wasted a month and was behind. After the initial panic and self-doubt (I'm not going to top this!) I got down to business and followed my instincts. Even at the sudden departure i felt excited about finding a new idea because it was a challenge.

Many ideas came and felt great in terms of human drama and originality. But the more I developed these ideas the more they appeared larger than sixty minutes or didn't feel as good as Requiem. What was depressing is that in some cases they were more dramatic. But that wasn't the problem. I then got a bit paranoid because i knew that if i didn't top Requiem - then i'd never find an idea. But i thought that wouldn't happen. Not right away anyway. All i needed was time away as it was still fresh. So it was like a sudden divorce. I needed healing time, which is crazy if you think about it. It is only a script. And i might be taking it too seriously.

But its through this process that i believe (as corny as it sounds) that everything happens for a reason. If i didn't have that moment of realisation then I would have missed the opportunity of coming across some of my best ideas yet.

I've got a new indie comedy-drama feature, which i feel great about and within a few hours was fully formed. At one stage this was going to be my one hour drama but then got too good and i realised also that it was a feature story.

Also as a result i've got a great drama premise, which is too specific to post, but is very close to becoming my one hour drama. It's sad as hell and surpasses Requiem and anything i've written. All that's stopping it - is its title. I could have everything i want in a story but if the title isn't right then it won't happen. Its crucial.

One of the problems of getting the right idea for this is its end climax - it has to be explosive in its final moments of absolute drama. My last two scripts; for Narratives and Audiences had this element and its something i feel i need to top for this. If i don't feel that high octane/dramatic peak of everything coming together for the story's climax - then i won't bother with an idea. No matter how good it is.

I know its not a good idea to put unecessary pressure on yourself but in this case it seemed to work. For me personally i work better under pressure and having to overcome the next challenge - although to have time with an idea to fully explore and develop it is something else.

'Follow your instincts' is something that continues to amaze me. I don't know if its true for everyone but i know it works for me. But even with the bad choices or even losing notes on an idea something better ends up surfacing. What will be - will be. Shit happens. Damn i thought Requiem was the one!!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Returning Home.

Since I’ve been back I’ve done nothing but write - it’s been about two weeks and I now feel the urge to make an appearance into the outside world. Actually I think it’ll be my third. But I’ve been making the most of my free time and i know when i get back to uni there won't be any. Due to that I’ve also been developing and working on next terms projects; the one hour drama and the sports drama series. But what I really need to do is get a job whilst there won’t be no next term.

I’ve continued to work on Requiem, which I hope will turn out as I picture it. If so it will be pretty amazing. If not, a big shame. I’ve got 30 pages of development on that, which overall I think is about a third. Plus the sports drama series. I’ve had some good ideas for that. But I’m putting all ideas on that on hold for now and just focusing on research.

Outside uni-wise I’ve been working on a number of things. One of the best things is a thirty-minute short film, called Brother Sleep. It was the first idea I had for Narratives (from an old one) but passed on it because it was a bit thin. But I always knew I’d expand on it and write it someday so I didn‘t mind leaving it. And now’s seems like the right time.

I’m also working on some television pilots and hope to have one written and the other two planned by the end of the summer. I also plan to have a few short animations completed for next term to offer to the second and third year animators.

Since I’ve been back I’ve also looked at the last years unit guide at all the assignments given in the second year. That was a big shock and made me realise that the first year in terms of work load and limited free time was nothing. But the second year from what I see is ten times harder. There’s so much more development work, the assignments are bigger and we have to balance many projects at once.

Next year is going to take some serious self-discipline and effective time management to pull off. It's pretty worrying stuff. That’s why I'm trying to get as far ahead as I can with the one hour drama and the sports drama. I don’t want to go into next term unprepared. I'm now attempting to have a first draft of Requiem for next term.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Writing Short Animations.

Jan Weddup, (scriptwriting lecturer) has often said that I should offer to write for the animators in the third-year -- because it’s a good way to get your name attached to a high-quality animated piece and make a contact.

I’ve always been interested in animation and writing for it. But when it comes to animated shorts (ha ha) I didn’t have a clue on how to write one and always thought that its something that a) I don’t have the comic-ability for and 2) the skill to write such a piece. The thought and prospect laid at the back of my mind for a good five months and then one day I began thinking about ideas.

BU animation-wise I knew what could be done by what I’ve seen and I knew what I liked story and character-wise. But when it came down to it I didn’t know where to start. So I started looking at a few animated feature ideas I have (which I know will only ever be dreams) and taking their concepts and seeing if I could condense their essence into an animated short. But that was just the beginning.

As I began to think in terms of animation it was only time until new ideas started coming. And i didn't have to wait long. An idea came out of nowhere and I ended up finishing a first draft pretty quickly. It’s four minutes and I see it as being animated in a pretty basic way. Basic is probably an insult but it doesn’t need to be photo realistic or anything.

Its the story of a mischievous fox who gets his last lesson in the ‘Book of Life‘. It can work on a basic animated level or in fine detail. Its features are; trees/garden scenery, inside two rooms of a house, two animal and one human character and object interaction.

It’s in typical animation comedy form - although subtle; I don’t like to consciously think about writing comedy because in my opinion (and perfectionist/mildly paranoid mind state) it ends up ruining it. It almost did for this although its more irony than actual purposeful laugh out loud jokes.

Although one stupid joke (that isn’t funny) still makes me laugh. But it needs to be there because what its based around is a link to the persona of the mysterious villain-hunter character. It’s the first joke (attempt) in the script and I think of it as what Dewy in Scream 2 refers to as ‘lowering peoples expectations to effectively manoeuvre within any given situation’. I’m a geek I know. It works visually that’s why I still laugh when I think about it. It’s the only stupid joke though.

The rest all felt natural to do so i didn't have to over think them. The main thing with writing it is obviously what I find funny but also bearing in mind other peoples expectations. But Book of Life is something that I would want to see and would enjoy. And that’s why we write.

After the Book of Life my short animated receptors (ha ha) were pretty much turned off but more ideas started flowing. At the closure of what I thought was a freak accident of a good idea wasn‘t so. I’ve now got four solid ideas that I will complete before the summer is up and more in the works. Its seems that a once closed door has now been opened as I can’t stop seeing short animations in everything. All the ideas are completely different in terms of high/low concept and content and I’m not really sure if any are good or appropriate. But I’ll be happy if at least one is liked.

I was worried about not fitting enough in to make the reveals and end sting in the tale work and I knew I only had a few minutes of screen time. This is where time apart really helped. Coming back with a fresh mind helped to add certain details and takeout what wasn’t advancing the story and only dragged it down. And that’s the main thing with writing just go with your instincts and your learn by your mistakes. I actually took some of my favourite things out but I’m always prepared to do that because in the end; its about writing the most effective story for the audience. Not for you. Another thing that I’ve learnt with writing animation is that its good fun. So I think everyone should try it and your probably surprise yourself. I did.

Tips I’ve learnt. (I know I’m no expert. But they might help.)

-Initially, keep it small and simple. That way you have room to manoeuvre and add depth and detail to make it appear more bigger than it is.

-The best comedic shorts are based around a situation, moment or moral tale.

-Keep in mind audience (and your own) expectations at every turn and try to beat/raise them.

-Character expressions. It’s what animators want when reading a script and its what the story’s all about. So make the main character stand-out and likeable. (At first I didn‘t have any reaction or personality with the fox in Book of Life- he was just a mischievous fox in his first appearance. But now his thick black eyebrows are his trademark. I should think of some more.)

-The character(s) is everything. At the heart of the story is the oddball main character/hero. So think about how vulnerable/likable and original he can be.

-Watch short animations to get a feel for what you can do and where you can go.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Sports Drama Series. Second Post.

The forum‘s now set up, which is good. So hopefully we can start making some progress on research and even story-wise.

When thinking about ideas for this its hard to not go off on a tangent and completely explore the story and other characters and their stories. So what started off as one character is now effectively the main set of characters for the series and all their interrelationships and back stories. But I know that I can’t present that as a whole because we’re meant to be creating this together and its probably too early to have the main characters. So I’ll just split them up in their single characters and story and just use them and their connections as possibilities.

I’ve approached ideas for this in a different way than before. I started by looking at lists of the most popular sport films. I then underlined from a review- what makes each one special and what’s original about it. I then started to work these essential ideas and ways into possible characters and storylines for the series. For example; with A League Of Their Own, which is a great film. I’ve used the male (Tom Hanks) as the fish out of water in an all girl baseball team and turned it into a female, who has recently brought the (sport) club and has to earn respect from the all-male team and including the hard-nosed coach, her ex-husband. Other strong characters that stood out and were begging for representation were Maggie from Million Dollar Baby; her sheer determination for self-respect, which in a way is combined with the above character. Also the underdog that is Rocky Balboa, who’s father coaches the team and is often ridiculed by him because he has no interest in sport. But when they’re short of players he’s asked by his mother (new owner-from above) to fill in. So he does and although they lose he gains a moral victory and gains some much needed respect. This then changes the everyman into some what of a hero and creates a much needed role-reversal between his father (coach) and himself.

When you look at the series as a whole and start thinking about the certain people who’d live in the area it becomes easy to see who’d live there and how they’d all relate and bounce off each other. But my problem is I get carried away and write it before we’ve had the chance to sit down and actually write it. So I think its good to come up with characters and stories and cast designs early on. But also to keep in mind the likelihood of them sticking is slim. But overall it can’t be bad having too many ideas because they can be used for other things.

There are seven other people in the group so all will have their own characters/stories and self-satisfying agendas. So the trick then (for your own ideas) is to take a little bit of what everyone wants and put that within your main ideas. So they’re more likely to accept them. Compromise without compromising. Finding out what people want and doing it before it’s a conscious thing on everyone’s mind. The last thing I want is someone to be unhappy about something or feel left out. So I’ll try and include everyone’s own interests in each of my ideas.

It’s still to early to be thinking about characters and ideas in a time where research is the main thing at this stage. So I think I need to return to kind of research that‘s needed and will be presented in the series bible.

An invaluable source for this was the example series bible and assignment brief from last year on Media 2. This gave me a greater insight into what‘s needed and I now feel confident in how to go about achieving that.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Feature. Early Thoughts.

Probably way too soon to be thinking about it. But I have been. I’ve been thinking about the types of things I could do for it. It's a big undertaking and will need a lot; story and character-wise to carry the weight of ninety-minutes.

Initially, like I thought with the one hour drama, I’d do something different. Sinking (Narratives) and Marlow Road (Audiences) are in the family-drama arena (from the parents point of view) and I thought I’d challenge myself for sixty-minutes and do something in a different genre. But that didn’t happen - although the main focus in Requiem (One Hour Drama) is a teenager and only child. So something did change.

So now I’m thinking that for my feature I’ll do something different. But now I know I won’t.

Initially I thought: A feature. Cool, I’ll do one of my sci-fi films. I had one in mind, which is essentially a futuristic cop conspiracy/thriller but with a twist and is pretty straightforward. But then I thought: Sci-fi?

I know I want to write sci-fi someday but my main passion and one of the big things I want to write is the offbeat family drama or Indie drama as it may be better known as. The dysfunctional family is my calling. There's something quite remarkable about these films, which are essentially dramas but offer so much more about life and what it is to be human. Its often presented in black comedic form and that's the beauty of it.

It's the comic relief from life that keeps us alive (mentally & physically) and no other film highlight that importance. Similar examples to my own aspirations are cult films like; The United States Of Leland, The Squid And The Whale, Imaginary Heroes, Igby Goes Down, Thumbsucker, Storytelling, American Beauty, etc. Although they're not exactly what I want to do they are the closest examples. (It's this type of storytelling that's missing from the small screen. Hello Mr. T.V Executive!)

Anyway, getting back to the point- I thought it would be more useful writing something in the vein of what I wanted to write feature-wise (after I left uni) than something that‘s limited to something that I want to try someday. So that got me thinking and a few existing coming of age-like features came to mind. There’s a main bunch that I’ve been developing over the years and I‘ll probably choose one of those. But by having to pick one (if it works out) I feel that I’m choosing ‘to lose it’ - because I know if I write it for the university then there’s no chance of it existing outside - not to say that it's amazing and will be sold. But it's nice to know that every idea you have has a chance.

But the way I’m looking at it is that a) it can be used as a spec-script and b) it will give me experience of not only writing a feature but one in the vein of some of the serious projects that I want to write in the future. So I hope it will give me enough experience and knowledge and push me to write the others. On the other hand I may not even choose an existing idea I might even create something afresh, which would be pretty cool. But I think it is worth considering testing and fully exploring one of them.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Soundtrack your script.

Something that I've done for my past three scripts - was create a soundtrack for it. A playlist of songs that immediately brings me into the overall or main emotions of the script; and that features specific songs to get me into a certain frame of mind for a character or mood for a certain scene. It gets me closer to how my characters are feeling and in the position where I am them. Then I can make choices.

But music isn't always the way to go. There are times when its a distraction. But overall its helped me. Mainly through pre-writing and the first draft.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Sports Drama Series. First Post.

I’ve started researching and have found some possible interesting sections of sport; i.e. Marketing and Sponsorship. I’ve also got an idea that would be set during the build up to the 2012 Olympics and would show the different sides and dramas of the people involved in its mammoth preparation. Each episode would be a countdown to the big day and show a different section of the preparation.

I made the choice not to work with friends on this because I didn’t want to play it safe. I wanted to be dropped into a new situation and have the challenge of getting to know new people (or people I vaguely knew, better) and work with them in an industry like environment.

The thing with this and what I’ve heard from people is everyone wants to pick their favourite sport, which I think is wrong and in a group of eight is never going to work. The way I see this and for me personally is: as long as we can create interesting characters and exciting stories then I’m not worried about what sport we choose. It can be anything. It’s all about the characters anyway and there’s no saying on how much the sport has to feature. People should be thinking of a place where there’s a number of distinct and different characters who are caught up with each other and clash on a regular basis. The sport can either be in the background or in direct relation to their jobs and everyday activity. I think the best way for the series to work would be to have the sport in the background and the characters and their lives (within the area) however connected in the foreground.

We had our first meeting today, which was good. The ball is now rolling. I presented my Oylmpic idea but we decided that a small and simple idea is the best way to go and what we feel the tutors want. Everybody presented different possible storylines and arenas so we have something to work from. We ended up with an (almost) final idea for the sport and its setting. But I still want to keep the door open on other possibilities for awhile and especially as two people didn’t turn up. So they’ve still got a chance to have input on the arena and we’ve got time if something better turns up.

We set ourselves a deadline to decide what sport/arena to go with, which is Sunday 15th July. I will set up a forum online for communication and idea posting over the summer.

Personally I think the sport/arena we have is the one we’ll end up going with. I’m not a fan of the sport and think there’s nothing to it. But the job now is to act on what I said earlier about creating interesting characters and pretty much turning the sport/arena’s ‘boring’ stereotype on its head.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Summer Project Unit [A Reflection]

Overview: To create a cross-platform media package that somehow relates to the three words; End Of Empire

The groups were made up of students from Scriptwriting, Television Production and Interactive Media. The purpose was to get us working in an industry-like practice to produce a product using our specific skills.

In the first tutorial I came with a treatment for a short film and its tie in website. Initially I wasn’t going to pitch it because I wasn’t confident enough and didn’t think I’d be able to get it all across. But at the last moment I went ahead with it and must have pitched it well because everyone got it and liked it. I wasn’t completely in love with it but we ended up making it anyway. But from that pitch it made me think that if I’m passionate and confident about an idea then I shouldn’t worry. People will stick with me if I’m initially nervous because I believe in what I’m talking about.

With the script: the clear problem was that there was a lot to get across. But I believe I did the best job I could (in my input) and managed to help put across the right/necessary information. This was a new experience for me; having to work with someone to write a script that would be shortly made and presented to a large audience. I valued my experience and learnt how to compromise more. I also feel that I was able to draw on my previous directing/editing experience when writing this script. I believe it helped me to visualise it more and get down its essence to what’s needed and in terms of what can be shot.

Main flaw: the best short films are the simplest. Ours in comparison was a little complicated. But in our project’s defence the complete experience and understanding is through the entire package and not just in the film. Our story is told over the 360 degree platform.

Before this project I had certain technical and group work experience. Also this year I had helped produce a 6 minute film, which refreshed on my experience and taught me a few new things. I brought this to the table for this project. But I soon learnt that this group/project was far more professional and advanced than what I’d previously been involved with.

In our subsequent meetings and during production/post I was being asked questions about the script and had to deliver a quick answer. I soon got used to this and became confident at offering ideas and answers.

In post production I was able to expand on my editing skills and worked closely with the director and editor on the final edit of the film. This collaboration was extremely gratifying and proved to be a good thing. The quality of the complete product was to a standard that I didn’t think was achievable. Its made me re-focus on the quality of my own work and professional attitude if I’m to stand a chance in the industry.

Awaiting Mark.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Godspeed.

We have our new assignment. The one hour drama. We only have to have two outlines by the new term. But i want to take full advantage of the time we have and get started straight away.

Initially I thought about breaking away from the family drama of my previous uni scripts and try something new and challenging. Also I knew that I couldn’t top the tragic pain of Christine and her final actions in Sinking (Narratives) or the paralysing guilt and mourning felt by Jason in Marlow Road (Audiences). But it’s a genre I’m drawn to and feel strongly about so I decided to proceed into the new challenge.

The initial title was Godspeed and is based on a one situation-short story I wrote. The character of Logan and the situation will form the basis and opening for my one hour drama.

I’ve begun initial development on the characters and certain revealing scenes: human affection, revealing hidden emotion, universal messages on being human etc. - They are what a character in ‘Waking Life’ refers to as ‘the holy moments’ in a film. They are what I see first in a story or a particular character from initial conception and then I create everything around it that precedes and follows. A script/film is all about those moments. About being alive and knowing it.

After initial development on Logan and his story, I began to think about his parents. Once I knew where they were both coming from and where they’d end up I had a problem; because now they are competing for centre stage. All three characters stories and character arcs are just as powerful as each others. This then led me to rethink the title and change it to something that not only reflected the state of Logan but all of the main characters.

That’s when Requiem was born. This then inspired me to create a premise for each main character in relation to the title. What I found was that the three of them are each dying from something different. And it’s within this combined tragedy that I hope to create something far more dramatic and unlike anything I’ve ever written.

The amount of time we have before we officially get this assignment is too good to waste. So I hope to have a scene by scene breakdown (at least) by the start of the new term and a first draft by Christmas. This will leave enough time for a second maybe third re-write and final draft revisions before the deadline in April/May 2008.

Something that I didn’t really do on my previous scripts and that I will do for this is research. At the same time as developing the story and characters I will do as much research into their world and themselves as I can. My arena for Marlow Road wasn’t very strong and for a story of this length I think that arena and equally character research is just as important as what happens.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Audiences Unit [A Reflection]

Overview: To write a 40 minute script based in the real world that shows evidence of set up, development and resolution featuring a subplot.

The reason for the assignment was to develop on what we’ve learnt in narratives and to produce the script untutored, relying solely on other students feedback.

My script, (Marlow Road) is about a father who accidentally kills his own daughter in a hit and run.

This idea was actually one of the ones I came up with for Narratives. At the time I knew I couldn’t write it and didn’t have a clue how to write it. But for this it felt right and I began work on it immediately.

Pre-Writing: I followed the same pattern of development I first used for Narratives. I wanted to know everything and have a complete scene breakdown before I started the script. With the narratives development I was trying something new. So with this script I tended to skip large chucks of development because my mind was aware of certain ways of fast tracking through ideas.

Outline & Treatment: Also with this assignment we had to provide development material. A first and final outline, a treatment and first draft.

First Draft: was very similar to the final draft. It was delivered later than I liked but I didn’t want to compromise the development by starting it too early.

Final Draft: I had enough time to go over the final draft, which was down to my effective time management, which proved to be extremely valuable.

Weaknesses Feedback; Failed to properly introduce one or two minor characters. Also my arena wasn‘t very strong and need a more vivid and evocative portrayal.

Script Development Overview: Quicker development-78pages. More effective time management. First Draft. Final Draft and Review time.

Overview: looking back I think I could have possibly scrapped the secondary character of Psychiatrist Kelvin and used best friend/police officer Brian to get the necessary info and plot point across to Jason (main character). The script was packed and there wasn’t enough room for manoeuvre. Cutting Kelvin would free up some valuable space. I haven’t really thought about it but that seems like the obvious weakness/improvement.

Mark: 67%

Essay:

This was the first time I got a large selection of books out and early on. So I had time to read through my research and select and understand certain quotes and theory. I also broke the question down to understand what was needed and pinned it to my noticed board.

Mark: 60%

I feel that my academic progress has been slow but noticeable. From my first essay (Images) I have gained a five percent increase, which puts my essay level from a 3-1 up to a 2-1. This is a slight but further improvement on my previous essay. I hope to continue at this pace of development into the second year and by the third will be at a level worthy of a decent grade for my dissertation.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Images Unit: Production [A Reflection]

Overview: In groups to film one of the chosen six minute Images scripts.

I’ve had experience at college with group production work and was able to bring my knowledge and skill into this project. I furthered my experience with directing/camerawork and working in a team to achieve the best possible shots. I was not only able to build on my creative input but also the basic editing skills I learnt at college.

It wasn’t an overly vital part of the unit hence the percentage but it was important in terms of working in a group. However, I learnt that in the future I will be more vocal in my points of view and have confidence in my ability.

Mark: 68%

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Narratives Unit [A Reflection]

Overview: to write a 30 minute script based in the real world. It should feature a subplot and be resolved.

The reason for the unit was for us to think in terms of a complete narrative with a main plot and supporting subplot that interweaved, fed and influenced each other. Also to set up, develop and resolve a story and characters from the beginning that went through change and made a choice at the end.

From the initial brief and feedback from the lectures I got the impression that they wanted a family orientated drama. It was easy for me to think within that arena because it’s something I’m extremely interested in. From the start I wanted something that I felt strongly about and something that would carry a certain level of quality and professionalism. In the development of my idea there were a number of influences that helped me to define what was needed to create a good 30 minute script. The following advice I received from a seminar on the short film Lady Luck:

Kick your story off fast and open with an attention grabber.
The complexities a character can contain.
Power in relationships.
Designing your cast for difference.

This changed the whole way I looked at and approached my own 30 minute script. Another film that was highly influential was The Deadness Of Dead.

Tutorial [The Pitch]:
It’s about single parent, Mike who has three children; Tasha, sixteen Scott, fourteen and Graham whose eight. Their household is a noisy one and has its far share of fights. But it’s one where they’re loved although they don’t quite know it yet. Mike longs for the mornings when he can go to work and get a break from what he sometimes calls a “living hell”.

But this to them is soon seen as happiness because tomorrow their mum will turn up on the door step. After a heartfelt plea and guilt trip he agrees for her to see them tomorrow after school. She then pushes him further to agree on a trip to a caravan park where they can get away for a few days and catch up on lost time.

During which Scott begins to connect with his mum but only shows it when his dad isn’t around. Tasha hasn’t got any time for her mum and gets closer to her dad. Graham is taken by this new person named “Auntie Christine” because he has someone he can waffle on to who won‘t get annoyed or tell him to shut up. Mike on the other hand feels himself splitting down the middle and soon wonders if he‘s made the second biggest mistake of his life.

Feedback: Its more like a feature film story and needs to be simplified and narrowed down to its essence.

Initially I was worried about pitching the idea but as soon as I started to receive encouraging feedback I realised it wasn’t the idea that the problem is was my lack of confidence. The feedback from my tutor was valuable and spot on. It was easy to accept the changes need but it was hard at first letting go of certain things. But I trusted my instincts and soon the essence of the story made itself clear and I knew what had to be done. The timeline of the story had to be shortened and the number of characters. So sister Tasha went and so did the Caravan Park holiday. In came Scott’s birthday and his birthday meal, the same day of Christine’s return. Something I learnt early on is that you have to be prepared to cut your favourite things; that happened with losing Tasha (an essential part of the family dynamic) and therefore her ‘Sinking’ speech, which connected to the title and revealed her deep hidden feelings about her absent mum. In retrospect my initial pitch was far too long and could have been cut down a lot. It needed to state the main character, his goal and direct opposition.

Pre-writing; From the go I knew that I would approach this script with more planning and preparation. I knew 30 minutes was going to be a challenge but also enjoyable because there’s time to develop the characters. We received our assignment in the last week before Christmas and I stayed for an extra week to concentrate and plan as much as I could of the story. By the end of the week I had 38 pages of story and character development and a clear idea of what would happen in the script.

My script, (Sinking) was about a mother who returned to her husband and two boys after six years.

I found it very useful to talk to other people about my idea. It’s something that I’m very reluctant to do. But if you find the right person and have a certain confidence in your idea then it will more than pay off. If it doesn’t lead to anything new then it will help to further clarify the story within yourself. In this case a such talk changed my mind about the suicide of Scott (finale) and made me realise that it wasn’t his story. The story is his father’s and therefore Scott would be stealing the finale from him, which is a golden rule in scriptwriting: Never take the finale out of the main character’s hands. So gone was Scott’s suicide and in came a highly charge argument between Mike and Christine, in which she reveals her secret. From that moment Scott never became more than a secondary character and one half of the subplot. Having pitched a few times to the tutors and regularly to colleagues I now feel more confident at pitching and hope to be more open to it in the future.

First Draft Comments: For my original draft the subplot featured a couple who were friends with the main character. Their story reflected his own and with his wife returning reflected what they used to be. The script was a few pages over the limit and their story made the script too crowded. It wasn’t clear who we should be following as both stories featured equally. I made the decision to cut the subplot and replace it with the two boys, which I should have done from the beginning. But at first I wasn’t quite clear on the definition of a subplot and how much it should feature. But having done it this way made me define the main character and his story more.

Final Draft: I felt it got down to the essence and the heart of the story. But through lack of time management and setting myself deadlines I didn’t have time to go over the final draft.

The last minute re-write of the opening scene resulted in a scene that was quite redundant and dialogue heavy. It featured the main character at work but didn’t advance or foreshadow the story in any way.

Main things learnt:

Dialogue has two purposes; to reveal character or push the story forward.

I now know I should be fighting every single idea; character, scene or line of dialogue, sub plot etc and find reasons to throw any of it out. And it's when I can't find reasons to get rid of something that's when it should stay and belongs in my script. Everything on the page should have a reason for being there.

Script Development Overview:

Looking back I think I spent maybe too much time developing as it ended up being 157 pages from initial concept to the final draft. Having spent so much time developing I didn’t have any time to go over the final draft before I handed it in. This proved to be a problem because as I’ve said the opening scene was redundant and there were a number of typos and a few melodramatic moments. I also ran out of time to read over and consider any new ideas.

Mark: 68%

Essay:

When it came to the essay I left it till the last few days. I didn’t manage to get out the books I wanted because all the good ones had been taken. So I had to settle for what I could get. Before the end of the year I attended a workshop on essay writing, which was useful. It helped me to think in terms of what is needed from the question and break it down into an argument and into for and against sections. The recent lesson and handout on essay structure from my Pal session also helped to clarify approach, research and discussion.

Mark: 58%

Even though I left it to the last minute my essay mark was an improvement on the previous one.