INDIE TRAINING FUND Courses that I’m running in the next few months–
May 19th 1 Day SCRIPT EDITING ESSENTIALS http://www.indietrainingfund.com/courses/script-editing-essentials/?event=3953
June 21st 1 Day STORY, CHARACTER & IDEAS MASTER-CLASS http://www.indietrainingfund.com/courses/narrative/?event=4060
This week, some random jottings about various screenwriting-related subjects…
THE GOLDEN AGE OF TV
Regardless of whether this is something we’re in the middle of or not, there has been some brilliant TV drama to watch in the last few weeks, some inspiring screenwriting by writers who are absolutely at the top of their game –
BETTER CALL SAUL
My particular favourite show of the moment, I’m going to be a bit bereft now that Season 2 has come to an end. It’s a funny show – because it’s a prequel, we know ultimately where the characters are headed – and it’s in the show’s interests to get there as slowly as possible. Some people have complained to me that they find the story-telling a bit slow but personally I love the leisurely pace, the depth with which they explore the characters. It’s a brilliant example of how to dramatise character. Ep 8 started with a spectacular 5 minute shot that was a brilliant spectacle in its own right. But the episode in Season 2 that really stood out for me was episode 9 – written and directed by the wonderful Peter Gould, co-creator of the show. I thought this was a master-class in dramatic writing. Nearly every single scene stood out for me as a wonderful illustration of how scenes work at their best – so many scenes of wonderfully interesting, intense, subtly-observed character dynamics. Jimmy McGill, his brother Chuck and Mike Ehrmantraut are three of the richest, most interesting characterisations in any TV drama series.
HAPPY VALLEY Series 2
As good as, if not better than series 1, this was an absolute delight, packed full with wonderful, complex characters, and story-telling of real flair and excitement. Moments form Series 2 are still running round my head – particularly that heart-rending, funny, shocking climactic showdown on the railway bridge between Catherine and John. The combination of Sally Wainwright’s writing and Sarah Lancashire’s performance has made Catherine Cawood one of the most memorable characters in British TV drama. Roll on LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX series 4, in which Sarah Lancashire is equally excellent and impressively different.
LINE OF DUTY Series 3
The first episode in particular was a tour de force. The story kicks off with such pace. Not a second wasted. It lays its cards on the table, with a clear dramatic proposition. TV story-telling at its best.
After the opening action – a brilliant, tense action sequence that dramatised character, another brilliant 12 minute police interview scene – a great example of how to dramatise exposition. Subtle, brilliantly-observed character dynamics at play.
Ep 1 was structurally very similar to ep 1 of series 2 – with the high-octane opening action sequence, which set up so many questions for the series as a whole, the set-piece of the 12 minute AC12 interview scene – and the unexpected death of one of the central characters at the end of the first episode. This narrative structure once again worked brilliantly, even though the story itself is very different.
The later return of the Lindsay Denton character, and the reveal that the series 2 story is connected with the series 3 story were clever touches.
It’s also really bold, interesting story-telling that in one crucial aspect of the story – the identity of the ‘caddy’, the police traitor on the inside – Jed Mercurio has given us this key information so far ahead of his characters.
THE A WORD
This has also provided a lot of viewing pleasure. As ever with Peter Bowker’s writing, the characters and dialogue are a delight – the dynamics between the characters are so well-observed – although dramatically I don’t think this has the impact of some of his best work.
CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE ALUMNI
It’s been very exciting to observe some of the successes of 4Screenwriting alumni in the last few weeks.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the BAFTA Rocliffe Drama Forum, where one of the three winning scripts was RASHEED RASHEEDA by Wally Mamode Jiagoo. The reading from the script at BAFTA reminded me of what a great script this is – funny, touching and culturally challenging – and it was great to catch up with Wally afterwards and hear so many positive responses to his script. I hope he and this script go on to have the success it deserves.
At LOCO, the London Comedy Film Festival, currently running, there are two outstanding pieces of work by 4Screenwriting writers to look out for –
Cat Jones’s excellent short film, LITTLE BIG HOUSE, which she wrote and directed, and which is playing until April 26th http://locofilmfestival.com/programme/ishorts_funny_girls/
Charlie Covell’s wonderful feature film BURN BURN BURN, which is on TOMORROW, Saturday April 23rd, and which I recommend highly. One of the most enjoyable British feature films for a long time. A real joy.
And finally, on BBC3 (online) the follow-up (of sorts) to REGINA MORIARTY’s (another 4Screenwriting alumnus) MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND is VINAY PATEL’s MURDER BY MY FATHER. Vinay was on the 2015 4Screenwriting programme and it sounds like his feet haven’t touched ground since last summer. He has been getting all the work his talent and hard work deserves. MURDERED BY MY FATHER is not only an outstanding, really gripping piece of drama, it’s also really important – it tackles a subject that demands attention.
Myself and three other script editors are currently working with this year’s 12 course writers, and it’s exciting to think / hope we may have scripts as good as these by the end of May.
A feature documentary that came out earlier this month about Scottish cyclist GRAEME OBREE, subject of the earlier feature film, THE FLYING SCOTSMAN. BATTLE MOUNTAIN is about the now 48 year old Obree’s attempt to break the man-powered land-speed record on a bike he designed and built himself (Obree was one of the foremost cyclists in the worlds in his prime). This film is a wonderful character study of a completely compelling, charismatic eccentric. Obree comes across as magnetic, highly engaging but also a bit mad – completely driven, incredibly innovative, always thinking outside the box, but at the same time his will to succeed is at times obsessive to the point of dysfunction. It’s strange how competitive cycling throws up so many memorable, extraordinary characters (eg Lance Armstrong). BATTLE MOUNTAIN made me think about how fictional characterisation works at its best – the most memorable, interesting characters are obsessive, driven – and deeply flawed.
Until next week,
All the best
April 22nd 2016