SCREENWRITING NOTES

Posted by admin  /   September 25, 2015  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on SCREENWRITING NOTES

Hi There,

One of the things that has struck me recently has been the creative community’s response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

The Mat Whitecross-directed / Crowded House – Help Is Coming / Benedict Cumberbatch poem video makes for powerful, emotive viewing.

And this eloquent, impassioned article by playwright ANDERS LUSTGARTEN in the Guardian is equally powerful.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/13/refugee-crisis-david-cameron-bomb-syria

I defy you not to find these creative acts of film-making / writing / poetry / performance / music etc stirring and inspiring – but there’s something very wrong when it’s the creative community rather than the elected politicians, who are the ones making all the (right) noises.

But perhaps there’s hope that, while there is a big public backlash against the amoral cynicism of politicians who effectively turn a blind eye to this human tragedy on such a huge scale, at the same time a significant (enough) proportion of the UK’s voters mobilised themselves to get Jeremy Corbyn elected by a massive landslide as labour leader.
Personally I found his election, and the footage of his first P-M’s questions as labour leader two of the most cheering, inspiring moments in UK politics for years.

And I defy you not to be stirred and inspired by this campaign speech he made.

Let’s hope that this really is marking a turning of the tide against the calculating, bland, unprincipled politicians we’ve had to put up with for so long. I’d like to think that one of the key factors in Corbyn’s victory was Blair’s deeply arrogant demand to the voters not to elect Corbyn. If ever anything would persuade people to vote for Corbyn, surely that was it. And in the days since he has been elected, the vitriolic nonsense spewing forth from all parts of the press and politicians has only made me even more delighted that Corbyn has arrived to bring some humanity, conscience and honest conviction to British politics that is very long overdue. Suddenly, shockingly, an intelligent politician with ideals and beliefs – and most importantly a belief in helping other people.

OK, I’m getting down from my soapbox now.

Connected to this – and more kudos to the creative community – I recently re-watched Oscar-winning documentary CITIZEN FOUR. The bravery and personal sacrifices made by film-maker Laura Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald, but in particular Ed Snowden, the man at the centre of the film, are immensely admirable. Snowden in particular knew that through his actions he was walking away from his life in the US, from his friends and his family, possibly forever. This really must have taken great courage – essentially sacrificing his settled life for a principle. The film quietly and subtly conveys this bravery very effectively – it’s a gripping piece of film-making.

SINGAPORE ‘DRAMATIC STORY-TELLING’ COURSE

…which leads me onto this 4 day course that I ran last week in Singapore. It’s always fascinating meeting TV writers and creatives from other cultures, and hearing the stories they want to tell. This course was mainly attended by writers and story-liners from Singapore’s biggest media / TV company, most of whom work on 5 day a week 30’ continuing series. Over the course of the week, I got an increasingly strong sense of the stories they weren’t able to tell – and of the state-censoring blandness that severely limits the parameters of their story-telling.

One of the stories created within the room was about the unmasking of an anonymous political blogger – someone who railed online against the over-interference of the state, and who said online what it wasn’t acceptable to say in the press – and who developed a huge online following. I discovered that this was based on a true story – of a real anonymous blogger who was unmasked – and arrested and through trumped-up charges, convicted and imprisoned.

HIGH TIDE THEATRE FESTIVAL 2015

…and the day after getting back from Singapore, I was off to Aldeburgh, Suffolk for a weekend at this year’s High Tide theatre festival.

My two highlights were SO HERE WE ARE by Luke Norris and A SHORT GENTLEMAN by Jon Canter.

Luke Norris was on the 2014 Channel 4 Screenwriting course (and one of the other outstanding plays at the festival was LAMPEDUSA by the afore-mentioned Anders Lustgarten – who was on the 2012 Channel 4 course).

The premise for SO HERE WE ARE was the reunion of 4 guys in their 20’s for the funeral of the 5th member of their old 5-a-side football team, in Southend. The first half is set in the present, and in the 2nd half we go back to the past and meet the 5th member of the team, and begin to understand the circumstances around his death.

This clear narrative premise and structure was one of the things I liked about the play – but the writing itself was outstanding – some wonderful characterisations and dialogue. The play managed to be involving, funny and ultimately very touching.

A SHORT GENTLEMAN was adapted from his novel of the same name by Jon Canter. This was a reading, rather than a fully-staged production, and a 90 minute monologue, performed really excellently by David Shaw Parker. The novel is wonderful and so too was the adaptation – funny and wise, and full of great lines. Having sat in the same venue on the previous afternoon for a shorter play, contemplating how incredibly uncomfortable the wooden bench was, during A SHORT GENTLEMAN I was completely comfortable – ‘mind over matter’ is a funny thing!

I recommend you look out for this play if and when it moves beyond Aldeburgh – but if not, I strongly recommend the novel!

One other play I saw was staged ‘in the round’ and was more notable for the entertainment value of observing 4 out of the 6 people sitting opposite me battling (not very successfully) sleep through the whole play. At one time all 4 were asleep simultaneously, and one of the sleepers came very close to falling off her seat. I felt very sorry for the actors, who were doing as good a job as they could with the material they were given…

Until next week

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

Sept 25th 2015

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