CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2016
We are now open for entries – until 6pm Oct 30th.
CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2016
As above, there is now only ONE WEEK until entries close for the 2016 course. So this weekend is the last weekend you have to finalise your script before submitting it. I would urge you not to put yourself through too much stress by going right up to the deadline – get your script in early and relax! I would also like to emphasise that the deadline is 6pm next Friday (Oct 30th) not midnight.
One more question that I have received a lot is – what are applicants supposed to write in the message box? The short answer is – it really doesn’t matter. If you leave it blank, that’s fine. Or a very short message introducing yourself. Don’t feel that you need to put your life history in there (although if you have we won’t hold it against you!).
Now something about some of the films I saw last week at the excellent-as-usual
LONDON FILM FESTIVAL.
THE PROGRAM / STEVE JOBS
This was a really interesting contrast / comparison in factual dramas / bio-pics. I’ve read a lot of bio-pics through my script consultancy and this is such a hard genre to crack – and THE PROGRAM – while just about working as a piece of entertainment – fell into so many of the common genre pitfalls, while STEVE JOBS had the flair and chutzpah to transcend these pitfalls.
THE PROGRAM really suffered in comparison to the two brilliant documentary features about Lance Armstrong – STOP AT NOTHING (Alex Holmes) & THE ARMSTRONG LIE (Alex Gibney). Armstrong is such an extraordinary, complex, damaged character – this comes out so fascinatingly in the documentaries, whereas THE PROGRAM seemed superficial in comparison. It fell into that bio-pic trap of taking on too long a time-span and was forced to rush from extraordinary event to extraordinary event, without digging deep enough into any part of Armstrong’s life or psyche. At times the story was told from the POV of Armstrong’s eventual nemesis, Sunday Times journalist David Walsh – but the characterisation in the film never really got past over-familiar bio-pic tropes. There was too much of that familiar bio-pic name-checking, too much of a sprint through the exposition of the story without really casting any insights into the characters and their motivations. And the inter-cutting of real footage of the Tour De France, with Ben Foster as cyclist playing Armstrong, only served to emphasise what an amazing athlete Armstrong was, and to make Foster look like an actor on a bike.
Having said all of this, I did enjoy it – it’s such an extraordinary story, and it was told with pace – so it was entertaining. And as writers you can learn so much about writing biographical / factual drama from watching the film.
STEVE JOBS in comparison was a bio-pic masterclass. It benefitted from a really bold, imaginative structural narrative choice – no attempt was made to cover the life and career of SJ in standard bio-pic fashion. Instead, there was a very deliberate, visible, three act structure, which showed Jobs in almost real time, in the 40 mins leading up to his on-stage appearances for three different product launches – the Macintosh in 1984, the NEXT in 1988, and the imac in 1998 – in each section we see him inter-acting with the same 5 or 6 core characters in his life. And there is a definite character journey from act to act.
It’s a typical Aaron Sorkin script – wall-to-wall dialogue with barely a significant exterior location in the whole film. Sorkin breaks every screenwriting rule in the book but he’s a genius so he gets away with it. The characterisation is wonderful, and the developing dynamics between the characters work really effectively.
The film’s director Danny Boyle was interviewed on stage beforehand – what an inspiring and creatively energised man! And the lead performance by Michael Fassbender is charismatic and outstanding.
Although perhaps my favourite scene in the whole movie was the first scene – this clip of Arthur C Clarke from 1964 uncannily and brilliantly predicting the future
Another real highlight – Emma Donoghue’s adaptation of her novel ROOM, directed by Lenny Abrahmson. I hadn’t read the novel, and deliberately made sure I knew as little as possible about the story before watching this – and I thought this was a wonderful piece of story-telling and film-making. The story premise is so dramatic and emotive, and the film is narratively gripping – there is one sequence where I was literally on the edge of my seat – the dramatic tension was so powerful I couldn’t sit still. But it is also wise, thought-provoking and moving without feeling sentimental or sensationalist. One of those outstanding films that completely grips you while you’re watching it, but had me thinking about scenes and moments in the days afterwards too.
I went home and watched the trailer on my computer – if I’d watched the trailer before the film, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much. Like so many trailers, it’s packed with spoilers. Avoid it! (Although I’m sure a lot of you will have read the book – my level of ignorance about the film’s story was perhaps exceptional!)
An absolutely bonkers but rather lovely, sweet film written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. I saw this at 6pm last Thursday and was pleasantly amazed when before the film Sorrentino and the film’s stars – Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Paloma Faith – sauntered onto stage to be introduced. Although there isn’t much of a narrative to talk of, there are some great scenes, and it’s brilliant to see Michael Caine still holding centre stage with such magnetism. Sadly I couldn’t stay for the Q&A afterwards because I had to dash off to see…
BURN BURN BURN
…which was my highlight of the festival. Written by Channel 4 screenwriting alumni CHARLIE COVELL (in fact this was the script she submitted to get her onto the course in 2014), this is an absolutely delightful film. Very, very funny and also really moving. It was interesting to see how much an already excellent script had moved forward since I’d read it. It was beautifully directed by Chanya Button (first-time director) – and the casting and performances were great – Laura Carmichael, Chloe Pirrie (one of the actors on this year’s 4Screenwriting script reading day) and Jack Farthing, a brilliant comic cameo from Sally Phillips, and a wonderful performance by the great Alison Steadman in the last 20 minutes of the film.
It was inspiring to see how a highly inexperienced screenwriter has managed to break through – because she is such an excellent writer.
And here’s the great quote that explains the movie’s title –
‘the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.’
Jack Kerouac, On The Road
Until next week
All the best
October 23rd 2-15