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CREATIVITY IN LOCKDOWN

Posted by admin  /   April 01, 2020  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting Reading, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CREATIVITY IN LOCKDOWN

Hi There,

I hope you are all keeping well in these strange and severely restricted times. It seems we’re just going to have to be patient, be kind to ourselves and each other and try – although sometimes it’s not easy – to keep feeding our creativity, as things we were looking forward to disappear over the horizon.

Above all, I do think it’s important that we find ways to keep talking to each other at the moment when we’re all stuck inside. I’m lucky enough to be with wife and youngest daughter but my three elder children and their partners are in various parts of London. We’ve set up a weekly quiz on zoom, set by a different family member each week. It’s a fun way of formalising continued contact.

Here are a few recommendations that I hope will be help to brighten your lives a little in the next however many weeks –

BOOKS – using the extra time we all have to read is something that has given me real enjoyment in the last couple of weeks (although I’m lucky enough to still have plenty of excellent scripts to read in weekday working hours!). This is when a kindle (or other reading device!) really comes into its own.

I have chanced upon some brilliant books in the last couple of weeks –

English Monsters by James Scudamore.

If you were interested in my musings about boarding school a few months ago, then this is the book for you. It’s beautifully written – essentially about the damage that boarding school does to people, how that damage can run through your whole life. But it’s about much more than that. It’s about family, friends and surviving trauma. I found it powerful, moving and thought-provoking. The book made me (again) think about incidents from my own years at boarding school – not just the bad moments but the good as well.

But I think this book has a lot even for people who didn’t go through the boarding school experience – it’s just a great piece of writing.

James Scudamore also wrote this excellent article about the book and his own personal experiences (I would advise reading this article only after you’ve read the book)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education-and-careers/0/dark-side-of-boarding-school/

A Bit Of A Stretch by Chris Atkins

True account of the experiences of film-maker Chris Atkins, sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for the fraudulent tax avoidance scheme that he was encouraged to use by a dodgy accountant to fund one of his (BAFTA-nominated) films. The book covers the experience of his time in HMP Wandsworth. The book is by turns moving, shocking and very funny. Above all, it’s a powerful indictment of the dangerous and destructive chaos that is the English prison system. The book has apparently been optioned by a TV production company. If this project doesn’t get picked up double-quick by a broadcaster, I will be amazed – it’s wonderfully well-suited to dramatization and a story that needs as wide an airing as possible. It also has weird parallels for us in this age of enforced lockdown! Speaking of which…

Station Eleven – by Emily St John Mandel

You may think it’s not the best book to read right now in that it’s about a pandemic that kills 99.9% of the world’s population but in the same way as the current coronavirus is making us all reconsider so much about our lives and things we have taken for granted for so long, so does this book. The quality of the writing and the storytelling grabbed me from the first few pages. One of my favourite books of the last few years. While there are many bleak images and moments in the book, at the same time, there’s also something beautiful, profound and ultimately uplifting about it.

TV / FILM

I’ve been watching a lot of comedy as an antidote to the misery of the news. Here are some of the highlights. If you haven’t seen them, some of these may well give you a much-needed smile or two –

BREEDERS written by Simon Blackwell. (Sky, Now TV)

About the experience of coping with life, work, family and everything else when you have young kids. Refreshingly sweary and foul-mouthed – and to my mind a really well-observed, honest account of the messy reality of trying (and failing) to multi-task. I have found a lot of this laugh-out-loud-funny.

THE TRIP TO GREECE (Sky, Now TV)

Another in the very productive Michael Winterbottom / Steve Coogan creative relationship. (When you get the chance I also highly recommend their feature film GREED which I saw at the 2019 LFF). Like the previous ‘Trip’s this is stunning to look at; and the weird reality / fiction crossover of having Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalised versions of themselves is really interesting and successful. A lot of it is really funny (particularly Brydon’s impersonations and the prickly, competitive relationship between the characters) and by the end the series becomes unexpectedly moving.

IN MY SKIN – written by Kayleigh Llewellyn, directed by Lucy Forbes.

All 5 episodes now on BBC iplayer, this is a superb 5 x 30’ comedy drama series. Lucy Forbes also directed THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD series 2 and came into talk to the writers on this year’s C4 screenwriting course, which alerted me to this series. The writing, direction and performances are outstanding – highly recommended. This was released onto BBC iplayer on March 29th and my household had consumed it all by March 30th. It’s so great when brilliant new voices like Kayleigh Llewellyn deservedly get their shows made – this really stands out from the crowd. I can’t wait for series 2!

https://amp.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2020/mar/29/kayleigh-llewellyn-in-my-skin-interview-bipolar-disorder-mum

WORK – the last couple of weeks have made me really value and appreciate the work I do. Reading and analysing scripts feels like a wonderful privilege and escape at the moment. But it’s also made me value the other parts of my work that I’m missing – the company and camaraderie of so many writers, script editors etc.

(By the way my script consultancy is very much open for business. If you’d like feedback on a script, please get in touch.)

ANIMALS – Having two dogs and a cat has been a great boon in the last couple of weeks. Having two dogs who need regular walks gives you perspective on what’s happening and makes you value their constancy and the positives they bring to your life.

MUSIC, FAMILY, NATURE and the COUNTRYSIDE are other things that have had enhanced value recently. (I’m particularly loving new album La Vita Nuova by Maria McKee).

EXERCISE – having a bicycle ride or run as part of the day is really helping my morale.

TWITTER – (and social media in general) is a bit of a double-edged sword at the moment. Some of it is worrying and depressing. But I’m finding certain people / tweets can really add to a positive mental state at the moment. Her are a few twitter accounts that might bring a smile to your face –

@brian_bilston Brian Bilson’s wonderfully humane, funny, extremely clever poems are great.

@baddiel David Baddiel speaks a lot of sense, often very funnily.

@realbobmortimer – his ‘train guy’ creation is comedy genius.

@MrMichaelSpicer – a twitter phenomenon for good reason.

I hope some of the above brightens your days a little if you didn’t already know about them. It would be great if you’d like to respond and make some recommendations of your own that I could share in the next newsletter.

2 RANDOM SCREENWRITING OBSERVATIONS

1 I think sometimes over-adherence to structural ‘rules’ can screw you up as a writer. Above all, you need to trust your innate storytelling instinct – we all have one; rather than trying to tick off structural points on the map – inciting incident, mid-point, end of act 2 etc. Above all, the best stories are surprising. Concentration on structural rules can often do more harm than good.

2 At this time, I’m finding I don’t have much engagement with ideas unless they’re two things – escapist and funny OR more particularly if they’re ideas underpinned by passion and conviction, ideas that are driven by a writer’s fire for the idea. At the moment I’m turned off by ideas that feel cynical and ‘commercial’. (The truth is, I’m always turned off by these sorts of ideas but now even more strongly). What we are all looking for in writing is honesty and that writer’s own truths – even if they’re not our truths. A particular world view / attitude. I’m not interested in what they think might be commissioned – schedule filler.

The next newsletter will be on Friday April 17th.

Keep well and creative,

All the very best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

April 3rd 2020

NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES + COURSE REVIEW

Posted by admin  /   March 17, 2020  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES + COURSE REVIEW

Hi There,

I hope very much that you’re keeping safe and well and, above all, managing to remain calm, upbeat and anxiety-free in these very troubled times. I won’t go into detail about my feelings about how the situation is being ‘managed’ by the UK authorities because I am writing this on Monday and I’m sure anything I write now will seem like very old news by Friday.

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FRANCE SCREENWRITING COURSE / RETREAT Sept 16-21 – Update

6/10 places on this course / retreat have now been taken. http://script-consultant.co.uk/france-screenwriting-course-retreat/

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Review of my three recent courses

I have now come to the end of an intense but hugely enjoyable period over Feb / March in which I ran three courses (glad I didn’t schedule them for March / April!). I wanted to write about the experience of running these courses.

1 DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING

The second time I have run this course and once again I really enjoyed it and it seemed to go down well with the 42 writers who came along for the day. It’s different from my other courses in that there isn’t an upper limit of 20 delegates and it’s less interactive. Having said that, both times I have run it, the whole day has felt more like a dynamic dialogue between myself, my two guest speakers and the writers than like a series of lectures. There was a really good energy in the room; and the course felt like a celebration and appreciation of what is exciting and great about screenwriting rather than just a basic introduction. Inevitably, talking about what a screenplay looks like on the page, going through all the elements that go into making up a script also leads into what constitutes good screenwriting. And I use lots of examples – both with clips and in pages from screenplays – of screenwriting at its very best.

The day is long – I arrived to set up the room at 9am and didn’t leave the pub until nearly 10pm – but a lot of fun. I’m particularly indebted to my industry friends who came along to the pub to have their brains picked by the course writers and were incredibly generous with their advice. I had lots of feedback from the course writers about swapped emails and industry people offering to put writers in touch with other people in the industry who might be able to help them. The pub networking event reminds me of how many nice, supportive people there are in this industry, of how this business is so reliant on personal contacts and recommendations and of how important it is to find a way of enjoying the social side of the business. (This pub networking event also inspired one of the scripts on my ‘writing a short film course’ – a comedy about industry networking-induced anxiety!).

From a selfish point of view, it’s great for me to catch up with these industry guests and hear what’s happening with them. At the end of the evening after all the course writers had gone home, I was left in the pub with a writer and script editor from different years of the Channel 4 screenwriting course, who had originally met when working together on the writer’s feature film script at an indie to whom I’d introduced them both at different times – that’s the way this industry works.

We had two two guest speakers – first, director Tim Fywell, whom I’ve known since he directed my wife in a play on the London fringe (30 years ago?). Our paths crossed again when we both worked at Granada (me as script editor on MEDICS, him as director on one of the very best CRACKER stories) and then when he was directing and I was script-editing WAKING THE DEAD at the BBC. Tim talked about the scripts on the last two eps of series 1 of HAPPY VALLEY which he directed. Having Tim speak about this show gave me (and the course writers) the motivation to watch / re-watch HAPPY VALLEY series one. And the universal response was – what a treat. This really is one of the very best examples of drama series writing in the last ten years. It stands up to repeated viewing because the writing has such fire, passion and craft brilliance. It’s a masterclass in story and character. A lot of the course writers had also read the scripts – an equally rewarding experience. I really think these two series of HV will stand out for decades to come as the pinnacle of TV screenwriting in what is such a rich age of TV drama.

Our 2nd guest speaker was ARCHIE MADDOCKS. Archie was on the 2018 Channel 4 screenwriting course and is a force of nature. He talked about his work and how he combines dramatic writing (he is also a playwright with a play on at the Park Theatre in London in May) with a lot of work in stand-up comedy. He came in to talk late on the Saturday afternoon and from there was due to drive to Darlington for a stand-up gig at 10pm and had promised someone a lift back from there to London after the gig. Alongside the three script deadlines he had for the coming week! Archie talked about all his current development projects – about how he manages a large slate of different ideas, about how thinking / planning time is just as important as writing time; and how he makes best use of his time; for instance he told me that he has a dictation app on his phone so that he can actually speak / write as he’s driving! What was most valuable about Archie for the less experienced writers on the course was when Archie talked about the ideas he’s pursuing and why these are the stores he wants to tell. Archie speaks so entertainingly and with such passion about the ideas he’s working on. He was the perfect example of one of the things I’d been talking about in the morning – how it’s not enough to be a brilliant writer with brilliant ideas – how it’s also important that you can articulate to other people who you are as a writer, why you want to tell the stories you want to tell, and how you have to convince / persuade employers that these are stories that need to be told and will find an audience.

For me, the whole day is incredibly mentally stimulating. By the end of the day my mind is racing with all the new, interesting, energising people I have met. I go home very happy that I do the job I do.

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WRITING A SHORT FILM COURSE

A response from a lot of the courses I’ve run is writers wanting to do a course that generates a script. This is a course for only 12 people. The first three hour session contained a short discussion of what makes the best short films followed by the 12 writers articulating the ideas they were interested in writing (each of the writers came with 2 or 3 ideas). The evening was inspiring – so many great ideas pitched with such clarity and enthusiasm – and I think the energy and generosity of spirit in the room from the writers to help each other and make constructive suggestions, really added to the process. On my way home on the tube I noted down each of the writers’ ideas – and it was a very exciting list of stories that I can’t wait to see come to fruition in the next couple of weeks of intense work!

Many of the writers said they wanted to do this course to force them into finishing their scripts, to give them the structure and framework to compel them to follow through on ideas in note and bullet form.

WEEK 2 – a packed three hour session in which the 12 writers got feedback on their outlines from myself and 2 other writers (I split the 12 writers into 4 groups of 3). So exciting to see the ideas from last week begin to take shape. There was so much to fit into this session – but the level of energy and invention was a delight.

This course made me realise how important outlines are. Week 1 was one page pitches, week 2 was scene by scene outlines. Even in the first week, from the one page pitch I could get a pretty clear idea of whether an idea was going to work. There were certain ideas that were extremely exciting as one page pitches – and remained exciting throughout the process. It’s very rare for a really exciting 1 page pitch not to become an exciting script.

WEEK 3 – this session was spent discussing the writers’ scripts. The diversity and overall quality of the scripts was exceptional. So many brilliant, original ideas so well executed. I look forward to seeing how these scripts develop further and I hope that the writers will find a way to get these films made.

Above all, this course felt really satisfying in the way it enabled (or forced!) writers to go from initial idea to completed first draft script within 14 days. I’m hugely impressed by and grateful to the 12 writers for their energy and commitment to this process – particularly because the results were so outstanding.

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CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS COURSE

This course took place the day before the final day of the ‘Writing A Short Film’ course and was another reminder of how artificial exercises and, most importantly, looking at the world outside of yourself rather than staring at your computer screen, can generate such great results. A few other takeaways from the day –

Having a great title is important; counter-intuitively it can also be a great place from which to start generating ideas. Here are a few of the memorable titles created on the day that generated really strong story ideas –

THE COST OF DYING – generated a 30’ comedy drama series about a funeral parlour.

JOANIE GOES WILD; LAST WOMAN STANDING; PICASSO’S MUSE; TALKING WITHOUT MOVING YOUR LIPS – it seems to me all of these titles (thought up out of nothing within 30 seconds) are instantly interesting and attention-grabbing. And more great ideas came from these and other titles.

Collaboration is key – working with other people in an unpressured, supportive environment can be incredibly creatively fertile.

The harder it has been to create an idea doesn’t equate to its quality. Conversely, in my experience, some of the strongest story and character ideas are the ones that come to you instantly and easily.

Detail is key. Beautifully-observed, visual, character detail is so effective in bringing characters alive off the page.

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Finally this week, JOHN YORKE has asked me to include this announcement about the next intake of the excellent and prestigious BBC WRITERS ACADEMY

BBC STUDIOS WRITERS’ ACADEMY 2020

Do you want a career writing TV Drama? The BBC Studios Writers’ Academy gives emerging writers the opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names in the industry, to develop their skills on the BBC’s flagship shows (EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City, Doctors, and River City), and work with some of the UK’s best television drama production companies.

For the first time, the Writers’ Academy will be open to applications from all writers, including those that have neither a professional credit, nor an agent. We’re looking for writers from any level of experience, who are passionate about television, bursting with ideas and a love of popular drama.

Eight writers will be given a year’s paid training, with guaranteed broadcast commissions on the BBC’s flagship shows as well as the chance to develop an original project with an independent production company. This is an opportunity to work not just on Continuing Drama series, but also with the makers of series like The End of The F***ing World, Gentleman Jack, Les Misérables, McMafia, Brexit: The Uncivil War, Curfew, and many more.

The Writers’ Academy is led by scriptwriting expert John Yorke, and over the year you will receive training and lectures from a range of leading industry practitioners. You’ll learn all about television production alongside mentoring from some of the best writers in the business. The 2019 Writers’ Academy featured guest lectures from Russell T. Davies, Jed Mercurio, Laurie Nunn, Jimmy McGovern, Anna Symon and Matt Charman, to name just a few.

Previous graduates of the Writers’ Academy have gone on to write over two thousand hours of TV.  Their work includes everything from The Man In The High Castle, Killing Eve, Pure, and Father Brown, to My Mad Fat Diary, Doctor Who, Grantchester, Shakespeare and Hathaway, Red Rock, The Victim and Deadwater Fell.

Applications open on 30th March 2020 and must be submitted by 19th April at 12 noon.

You’ll need to send in a original drama script in any medium, apart from short films, novels, poems, or short stories. You’ll also need to submit a story idea concerning a regular character on one of the Continuing Drama shows.

The course begins in September 2020.

Applications are via the BBC Writersroom E-Submissions System only.  More information and full details of how to apply can be found here:  https://www.bbcstudios.com/writersacademy/

The next newsletter will be on Friday April 3rd,

All the very best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

March 20th 2020

ONE PAGES PITCHES + FRANCE SCREENWRITING RETREAT

Posted by admin  /   March 04, 2020  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on ONE PAGES PITCHES + FRANCE SCREENWRITING RETREAT

Hi There,

I’m very pleased to announce that in September I will be running a 5 day  SCREENWRITING COURSE / RETREAT in a beautiful, rural part of South Western France, near Limoges. All the details are on my website. This does feel like a slightly counter-intuitive time to be announcing a new venture abroad (!) but there is a clear cancellation policy, which I hope covers all the bases. It will be a great opportunity to get a lot of writing done in a beautiful setting with 9 other writers to share your experiences and me there to run a one hour session on different aspects of screenwriting at the start of each day and to be on hand throughout the week to give you all the help you might need with the project you’re working on in a completely unpressured environment.

There’s quite a lot of information here to take on board – so please email me if you have any further questions about this writing retreat.

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ONE PAGE PITCHES

I have included two of the pitches I received with specific feedback; and then some general conclusions in response to all of the very many (50+) one page pitches you sent in – thank you so much and I’m sorry I can’t share specific responses to more but it would take me many weeks of this newsletter to do so! It was a real education for me to read so many one page pitches.

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duplicity.  4 x 60


Kat’s a police officer; 15 years under her belt. There’s nothing she hasn’t seen…full time job, full on trauma.  It all dances in front of her eyes, liquid red.  Every. Single. Day.  Back home, she’s got three kids under 10; four sometimes, if DAVE’s being a dick.  And 88-year-old MAUREEN next door, calling in every day waving her boils and rashes under Kat’s nose. Kat knows she’s a pressure cooker…waiting.



Her partner on the crew, ADAM, keeps her just this side of sane. He’s in charge of the playlist on their way to shouts, his dark humour finding its way into music choices; Ozzy Osbourne’s Blood Bath in Paradise on a loop last week.  Kat leans on Adam, he’s the first one she sees after dealing with the stress at home; screaming kids, scratching Maureen, stroppy Dave.  



One night, they’re called on a shout to a posh part of town. Blues and twos on, jumping red lights, they screech up the gravel drive to a huge house of glass and steel, all the lights on.  Inside, they find terrorised dinner guests and a trashed kitchen but no serious injuries other than a deep head wound to a woman, unrecognisable from the blood streaming in rivers down her face. A fight breaks out between some of the guests, it’s chaos.   



When things are calmer, the woman’s gone.  Not in the house, the garden, anywhere. Disappeared.  The other guests are saying nothing.  Kat and Adam are thrown into a full-scale missing persons investigation.  A few days later, with the woman still missing, Kat’s called in by her boss.  Tricky one this, Kats, he says, the scenes of crime boys picked up blood samples from the kitchen.  From the woman with the head wound.  All of us coppers are on the DNA database so we can be eliminated from enquiries, you know that.  But this is the weird bit – the woman’s a full DNA match to you.  You weren’t injured, it’s her blood.  Didn’t know you had an identical twin. No, says Kat, neither did I.

Finding the missing woman consumes Kat, who discovers the twins were separated at birth, brought up by different families in different parts of town.  Forced to live on her wits and her ability to manipulate men, Kat’s twin Rebekah was sucked into a dark underworld of criminality and she’s at the dinner party as a high-class sex worker infiltrating the house to uncover evidence of a conspiracy to traffic children by her boss and the homeowner, Jake.  In her search for the truth, Kat unearths dark secrets about her past which threaten to ruin her future.  Kat has to decide if she can help Rebekah or if she has to walk away to save both of them.

Rachel Evans

@ January 2020

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I very much enjoyed this. So why did this work for me? Quite simply, I think it’s a cracking story idea which is very well-written. There’s a clarity, economy and confidence to the writing. The style of the writing conveys the tone – there’s a strong vein of humour (‘back home, she’s got three kids under 10; four sometimes, if Dave’s being a dick.’) running through what is otherwise quite a hard-hitting dramatic storyline; and for me this vein of humour and humanity elevates it as a pitch.

I also really like the fact that it has the confidence to not even fill a full page (this is in fact about ¾ of a page in 12 point).

It’s clearly laid out with a lot of gaps within the text – a lot of white on the page.

Although this pitch isn’t specific about place (and generally I think the better pitches ARE specific about location and character), this does nonetheless feel rooted in a recognisable, relatable reality – Kat’s frustrations with her family, her bond with fellow office Adam. There are some engaging, telling specifics – eg Ozzy Osbourne’s Blood Bath In Paradise which, even if you don’t know the song, brings (again) a sense of humour and humanity to the characters and story.

It’s impossible in a document of this length to answer all the narrative questions you set up – but this pitch does a nice job of introducing the narrative hooks and questions that the series will pursue – and piquing this reader’s interest.

The structure of the document works well – the writer sets up the characters and setting before hitting us with an attention-grabbing, clever, high-concept plot twist. I was intrigued by this plot twist because I was already invested in the lead character.

Normally, I’m all for starting your one page pitch with an introduction that includes aspects like – genre, logline, the uniqueness of your idea in one or two sentences, your agenda  as a writer for writing this story (what you as a writer bring to this story that make this utterly distinctive and compelling) BEFORE getting into any detail of the plot. DUPLCITY doesn’t do this – it’s straight into plot but works nevertheless because of the clarity of the characters and story proposition.

It tells us – title, format (4 x 60’), writer’s name, contact details (which I removed).

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OTHER THOUGHTS / CONCLUSIONS

SO – here are a few conclusions / thoughts that I came to after reading the 50 or so outlines submitted.

Always a good idea to send your documents as PDF’s.

Include title, writer’s name and contact details – SO MANY didn’t!

Font size – no smaller than 12 point. This isn’t an exercise to see how much text you can cram into one page BUT one page pitch means ONE PAGE – stick to the brief (a few of those submitted ran into a 2nd page). There were a few documents that were written in fonts smaller than 12point and had massively long paragraphs – it’s not a good idea to demoralise the reader before they have even started reading. Your one page pitches need to look uncluttered and have plenty of white spaces.

Layout / paragraphs / formatting – as above, print your page off and think about how it looks. Is it welcoming, well laid-out and professional-looking?

As someone who reads A LOT of non-script documents, I also have strong views about FONTS. Without going over the top with a font that is absurdly showy – make sure that your font is clear and interesting to look at. 12 point Calibri, for instance, just looks a bit….boring. (I realise this is highly subjective! But think about what font you use to make the script as engaging and easy to read as possible).

I can’t over-emphasise the importance of CLARITY in the writing. In particular, narrative clarity – making it easy for the reader to understand the story. There were quite a few that may have been good stories – but if I’m struggling to make sense of the story half a page in, my attention wanders. Also clarity and fluency of writing. Too many of the pitches included sentences that my brain tripped over – sentences that felt awkward and lacked fluency.

References to other shows can be very useful if they feel specific and illustrative. I’m working on a project at the moment on the C4 course which the writer has described as ‘Fargo meets Local Hero meets Happy Valley’ which really helps me visualise what he’s trying to achieve. Sometimes though, these sorts of references become a bit of a hostage to fortune. If you’re referencing a brilliant show, there has to be an equivalent touch of brilliance and originality in your pitch.

Don’t get bogged down in extended chronology of plot – a pitch is about the essence of the idea; it shouldn’t be a detailed synopsis. And don’t get booged down in explaining the rules of your story world.

Work tirelessly to make sure your logline is absolutely gripping and distinctive.

But character is even more important than plot. Why should we care about the character at the centre of your story? What is the human / emotional connection between your characters and the audience?

You need to make us understand WHY you want to tell the story you’re pitching.

Be specific not general. Be visual rather than conceptual.

Visual details / specifics. So often, what you remember / take away from the best 1 page pitches – is a telling, memorable visual image – that expresses the lead character or story. (Actually these visual specifics is one element that isn’t so evident in DUPLICITY – although details like ‘they screech up the gravel drive…’ to denote the posher part of town are great).

Avoid empty promises. Don’t tell me, ‘This is going to be a side-splitting comedy…with the narrative tension of Jaws,’ – instead give me the specifics that illustrate this. ie If you’re pitching a comedy, the one page pitch needs to be funny – don’t just tell us the script is going to be funny. And similarly drama pitches need to be inherently dramatic.

It’s great to get a sense of the writer’s conviction and passion for the story they’re telling, their emotional investment in their own characters and story. In DUPLICITY I get the writer’s emotional investment in lead character Kat from the first paragraph.

I would suggest as a general rule that you don’t write separate character biography lists within a one page pitch (quite a few did this.) You shouldn’t have room to do this – instead the tone and context of your story should do the job of introducing and illuminating your characters (as the first paragraph of DUPLICITY does). Reading lists of characters with one or two sentences biogs is often information overload; it’s hard to then see how all of these characters will fit into the story; so these biogs are often hard to read.

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Here is a 2nd one pitch (for a short film) that worked for me –

After a Breakup, an App to Help Breathe, Then Run – OLIVIA GAGAN

“When was the last time you breathed properly?” the therapist asked me.

His name was Allan. Thirty minutes into my first visit, I was still waiting for him to reach the part where he would help me get over the end of my relationship.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.

“Easy, open breathing. Big lungfuls of air.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I breathe all the time.” I tried steering the conversation to myself. “I just think I need to work out what happened – ”

“I’m not interested in what happened,” he said. “I’m interested in the last time you breathed normally. You’re a young, healthy woman. But your paperwork tells me you’re struggling at work, haven’t eaten a full meal in weeks and can’t sleep. You need to fix that.”

How do you cure heartbreak?

This is a true story, about my own experience getting over my first major relationship. I originally wrote it as a newspaper article for The New York Times’ Modern Love section, and it was published in December 2016. I’d like the challenge of re-writing an existing story in a short film medium.

I turned up at a counsellor’s office, chest-deep in sadness, hoping an expert would teach me how to get over my heartbreak. Or, even better, how to get my ex back. But I wasn’t allowed to talk about understanding a lost love at all. Instead, Allan asked me to download an app which would teach me how to breathe properly.

I thought this was a waste of precious therapy time. He insisted being able to breathe is important.

Over a series of weeks, however, I used the app. Learning to breathe mainly made me a) frustrated b) cry a lot in public places and c) pick arguments with Allan.

Then a miracle happened – my ex came back. On a freezing cold night on Regent Street, he told me that he missed me, that he wanted us to start all over again. But a curious thing happened over the weeks I was learning to breathe: I started getting new voices in my head. Bolder ones. Including one that told me to run as fast as I could from him. So I did.

This is an anti-love story. In the end, the girl does not get the guy. She doesn’t even learn how to cure a broken heart. But she does learn to breathe – and to choose herself over somebody else. It is a story featuring very modern methods of searching for happiness – apps, therapy, mindfulness – but ultimately, it’s about something we have always struggled with: learning to live with yourself.’

———————————–

This is a very particular, largely autobiographical story pitch. It reads like a story that is utterly specific to this writer. I’m engaged by its conviction, passion and the sense that it has something important to say but within a recognisable narrative structure – ‘This is an anti-love story.’ I’m pulled into the story but also persuaded that there is a really strong synergy between writer and subject matter – this writer is the best writer to tell this particular story.

It’s well laid out and formatted (although I’m not a fan of Calibri!). The short paragraphs and use of italics and bold text help make this a clear, easy read.

There is a clear narrative shape to it. I particularly liked the way the story moves (surprisingly but inevitably) towards the girl’s encounter with her ex. There is a clear emotional character journey over the course of the film.

Quite simply, the quality and clarity of the writing of this pitch (and the linked newspaper article) stand out in their excellence.

———————————————-

The next newsletter will be on Friday March 20th.

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@Philip Shelley1

March 6th 2020

ONE PAGE PITCHES + SCREENWRITING RETREAT

Posted by admin  /   March 04, 2020  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on ONE PAGE PITCHES + SCREENWRITING RETREAT

Hi There,

I’m very pleased to announce that in September I will be running a 5 day  SCREENWRITING COURSE / RETREAT in a beautiful, rural part of South Western France, near Limoges. All the details are on my website. This does feel like a slightly counter-intuitive time to be announcing a new venture abroad (!) but there is a clear cancellation policy, which I hope covers all the bases. It will be a great opportunity to get a lot of writing done in a beautiful setting with 9 other writers to share your experiences and me there to run a one hour session on different aspects of screenwriting at the start of each day and to be on hand throughout the week to give you all the help you might need with the project you’re working on in a completely unpressured environment.

There’s quite a lot of information here to take on board – so please email me if you have any further questions about this writing retreat.

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ONE PAGE PITCHES

I have included two of the pitches I received with specific feedback; and then some general conclusions in response to all of the very many (50+) one page pitches you sent in – thank you so much and I’m sorry I can’t share specific responses to more but it would take me many weeks of this newsletter to do so! It was a real education for me to read so many one page pitches.

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duplicity.  4 x 60


Kat’s a police officer; 15 years under her belt. There’s nothing she hasn’t seen…full time job, full on trauma.  It all dances in front of her eyes, liquid red.  Every. Single. Day.  Back home, she’s got three kids under 10; four sometimes, if DAVE’s being a dick.  And 88-year-old MAUREEN next door, calling in every day waving her boils and rashes under Kat’s nose. Kat knows she’s a pressure cooker…waiting.



Her partner on the crew, ADAM, keeps her just this side of sane. He’s in charge of the playlist on their way to shouts, his dark humour finding its way into music choices; Ozzy Osbourne’s Blood Bath in Paradise on a loop last week.  Kat leans on Adam, he’s the first one she sees after dealing with the stress at home; screaming kids, scratching Maureen, stroppy Dave.  



One night, they’re called on a shout to a posh part of town. Blues and twos on, jumping red lights, they screech up the gravel drive to a huge house of glass and steel, all the lights on.  Inside, they find terrorised dinner guests and a trashed kitchen but no serious injuries other than a deep head wound to a woman, unrecognisable from the blood streaming in rivers down her face. A fight breaks out between some of the guests, it’s chaos.   



When things are calmer, the woman’s gone.  Not in the house, the garden, anywhere. Disappeared.  The other guests are saying nothing.  Kat and Adam are thrown into a full-scale missing persons investigation.  A few days later, with the woman still missing, Kat’s called in by her boss.  Tricky one this, Kats, he says, the scenes of crime boys picked up blood samples from the kitchen.  From the woman with the head wound.  All of us coppers are on the DNA database so we can be eliminated from enquiries, you know that.  But this is the weird bit – the woman’s a full DNA match to you.  You weren’t injured, it’s her blood.  Didn’t know you had an identical twin. No, says Kat, neither did I.

Finding the missing woman consumes Kat, who discovers the twins were separated at birth, brought up by different families in different parts of town.  Forced to live on her wits and her ability to manipulate men, Kat’s twin Rebekah was sucked into a dark underworld of criminality and she’s at the dinner party as a high-class sex worker infiltrating the house to uncover evidence of a conspiracy to traffic children by her boss and the homeowner, Jake.  In her search for the truth, Kat unearths dark secrets about her past which threaten to ruin her future.  Kat has to decide if she can help Rebekah or if she has to walk away to save both of them.

Rachel Evans

@ January 2020

—————————————-

I very much enjoyed this. So why did this work for me? Quite simply, I think it’s a cracking story idea which is very well-written. There’s a clarity, economy and confidence to the writing. The style of the writing conveys the tone – there’s a strong vein of humour (‘back home, she’s got three kids under 10; four sometimes, if Dave’s being a dick.’) running through what is otherwise quite a hard-hitting dramatic storyline; and for me this vein of humour and humanity elevates it as a pitch.

I also really like the fact that it has the confidence to not even fill a full page (this is in fact about ¾ of a page in 12 point).

It’s clearly laid out with a lot of gaps within the text – a lot of white on the page.

Although this pitch isn’t specific about place (and generally I think the better pitches ARE specific about location and character), this does nonetheless feel rooted in a recognisable, relatable reality – Kat’s frustrations with her family, her bond with fellow office Adam. There are some engaging, telling specifics – eg Ozzy Osbourne’s Blood Bath In Paradise which, even if you don’t know the song, brings (again) a sense of humour and humanity to the characters and story.

It’s impossible in a document of this length to answer all the narrative questions you set up – but this pitch does a nice job of introducing the narrative hooks and questions that the series will pursue – and piquing this reader’s interest.

The structure of the document works well – the writer sets up the characters and setting before hitting us with an attention-grabbing, clever, high-concept plot twist. I was intrigued by this plot twist because I was already invested in the lead character.

Normally, I’m all for starting your one page pitch with an introduction that includes aspects like – genre, logline, the uniqueness of your idea in one or two sentences, your agenda  as a writer for writing this story (what you as a writer bring to this story that make this utterly distinctive and compelling) BEFORE getting into any detail of the plot. DUPLCITY doesn’t do this – it’s straight into plot but works nevertheless because of the clarity of the characters and story proposition.

It tells us – title, format (4 x 60’), writer’s name, contact details (which I removed).

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OTHER THOUGHTS / CONCLUSIONS

SO – here are a few conclusions / thoughts that I came to after reading the 50 or so outlines submitted.

Always a good idea to send your documents as PDF’s.

Include title, writer’s name and contact details – SO MANY didn’t!

Font size – no smaller than 12 point. This isn’t an exercise to see how much text you can cram into one page BUT one page pitch means ONE PAGE – stick to the brief (a few of those submitted ran into a 2nd page). There were a few documents that were written in fonts smaller than 12point and had massively long paragraphs – it’s not a good idea to demoralise the reader before they have even started reading. Your one page pitches need to look uncluttered and have plenty of white spaces.

Layout / paragraphs / formatting – as above, print your page off and think about how it looks. Is it welcoming, well laid-out and professional-looking?

As someone who reads A LOT of non-script documents, I also have strong views about FONTS. Without going over the top with a font that is absurdly showy – make sure that your font is clear and interesting to look at. 12 point Calibri, for instance, just looks a bit….boring. (I realise this is highly subjective! But think about what font you use to make the script as engaging and easy to read as possible).

I can’t over-emphasise the importance of CLARITY in the writing. In particular, narrative clarity – making it easy for the reader to understand the story. There were quite a few that may have been good stories – but if I’m struggling to make sense of the story half a page in, my attention wanders. Also clarity and fluency of writing. Too many of the pitches included sentences that my brain tripped over – sentences that felt awkward and lacked fluency.

References to other shows can be very useful if they feel specific and illustrative. I’m working on a project at the moment on the C4 course which the writer has described as ‘Fargo meets Local Hero meets Happy Valley’ which really helps me visualise what he’s trying to achieve. Sometimes though, these sorts of references become a bit of a hostage to fortune. If you’re referencing a brilliant show, there has to be an equivalent touch of brilliance and originality in your pitch.

Don’t get bogged down in extended chronology of plot – a pitch is about the essence of the idea; it shouldn’t be a detailed synopsis. And don’t get booged down in explaining the rules of your story world.

Work tirelessly to make sure your logline is absolutely gripping and distinctive.

But character is even more important than plot. Why should we care about the character at the centre of your story? What is the human / emotional connection between your characters and the audience?

You need to make us understand WHY you want to tell the story you’re pitching.

Be specific not general. Be visual rather than conceptual.

Visual details / specifics. So often, what you remember / take away from the best 1 page pitches – is a telling, memorable visual image – that expresses the lead character or story. (Actually these visual specifics is one element that isn’t so evident in DUPLICITY – although details like ‘they screech up the gravel drive…’ to denote the posher part of town are great).

Avoid empty promises. Don’t tell me, ‘This is going to be a side-splitting comedy…with the narrative tension of Jaws,’ – instead give me the specifics that illustrate this. ie If you’re pitching a comedy, the one page pitch needs to be funny – don’t just tell us the script is going to be funny. And similarly drama pitches need to be inherently dramatic.

It’s great to get a sense of the writer’s conviction and passion for the story they’re telling, their emotional investment in their own characters and story. In DUPLICITY I get the writer’s emotional investment in lead character Kat from the first paragraph.

I would suggest as a general rule that you don’t write separate character biography lists within a one page pitch (quite a few did this.) You shouldn’t have room to do this – instead the tone and context of your story should do the job of introducing and illuminating your characters (as the first paragraph of DUPLICITY does). Reading lists of characters with one or two sentences biogs is often information overload; it’s hard to then see how all of these characters will fit into the story; so these biogs are often hard to read.

—————————————-

Here is a 2nd one pitch (for a short film) that worked for me –

After a Breakup, an App to Help Breathe, Then Run – OLIVIA GAGAN

“When was the last time you breathed properly?” the therapist asked me.

His name was Allan. Thirty minutes into my first visit, I was still waiting for him to reach the part where he would help me get over the end of my relationship.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.

“Easy, open breathing. Big lungfuls of air.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I breathe all the time.” I tried steering the conversation to myself. “I just think I need to work out what happened – ”

“I’m not interested in what happened,” he said. “I’m interested in the last time you breathed normally. You’re a young, healthy woman. But your paperwork tells me you’re struggling at work, haven’t eaten a full meal in weeks and can’t sleep. You need to fix that.”

How do you cure heartbreak?

This is a true story, about my own experience getting over my first major relationship. I originally wrote it as a newspaper article for The New York Times’ Modern Love section, and it was published in December 2016. I’d like the challenge of re-writing an existing story in a short film medium.

I turned up at a counsellor’s office, chest-deep in sadness, hoping an expert would teach me how to get over my heartbreak. Or, even better, how to get my ex back. But I wasn’t allowed to talk about understanding a lost love at all. Instead, Allan asked me to download an app which would teach me how to breathe properly.

I thought this was a waste of precious therapy time. He insisted being able to breathe is important.

Over a series of weeks, however, I used the app. Learning to breathe mainly made me a) frustrated b) cry a lot in public places and c) pick arguments with Allan.

Then a miracle happened – my ex came back. On a freezing cold night on Regent Street, he told me that he missed me, that he wanted us to start all over again. But a curious thing happened over the weeks I was learning to breathe: I started getting new voices in my head. Bolder ones. Including one that told me to run as fast as I could from him. So I did.

This is an anti-love story. In the end, the girl does not get the guy. She doesn’t even learn how to cure a broken heart. But she does learn to breathe – and to choose herself over somebody else. It is a story featuring very modern methods of searching for happiness – apps, therapy, mindfulness – but ultimately, it’s about something we have always struggled with: learning to live with yourself.’

———————————–

This is a very particular, largely autobiographical story pitch. It reads like a story that is utterly specific to this writer. I’m engaged by its conviction, passion and the sense that it has something important to say but within a recognisable narrative structure – ‘This is an anti-love story.’ I’m pulled into the story but also persuaded that there is a really strong synergy between writer and subject matter – this writer is the best writer to tell this particular story.

It’s well laid out and formatted. The short paragraphs and use of italics and bold text help make this a clear, easy read.

There is a clear narrative shape to it. I particularly liked the way the story moves (surprisingly but inevitably) towards the girl’s encounter with her ex. There is a clear emotional character journey over the course of the film.

Quite simply, the quality and clarity of the writing of this pitch (and the linked newspaper article) stand out in their excellence.

———————————————-

The next newsletter will be on Friday March 20th.

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@Philip Shelley1

March 6th 2020

BEST FILMS OF 2019 – Joe Williams

Posted by admin  /   February 18, 2020  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on BEST FILMS OF 2019 – Joe Williams

Hi There,

This week, huge thanks to ace script editor JOE WILLIAMS for this encyclopedic look back at 2019’s best films – a real celebration of the best feature film screenwriting of last year – 

Firstly, thanks Philip for yet again letting me write about my favourite films of 2019! Despite constant talk of whether TV has superseded film (an argument easy to make given the likes of CHERNOBYL, FLEABAG, and SUCCESSION – all told with a bold and authorial vision), 2019 proved to be a bumper year for cinema with the year boosting a strong and eclectic mix of titles. I also visited the cinema more times than any other year in my life, clocking up over fifty big-screen trips, thanks to now living ten-minutes away from x2 cinemas. Here are a few of my favourites…

Top of my list is Quentin Tarantino’s epic ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, a film that seems both venerated and vilified (I know Philip despised it!) in near-equal measure. For me, this is Tarantino’s most accomplished film since PULP FICTION – lovingly crafted, audacious, and authored. It’s almost an ‘immersive experience’, with the LA of 1969 feeling like a fully-fledged world to get lost in. There are sequences that serve no narrative purpose and exist simply to let Tarantino wallow in the world he so clearly loves. I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who says it’s indulgent, it is, yet it’s indulgence on a scale we rarely see on a $100m+ film (and a commercial success to boot) and pulled off in a way that commands attention and radiates confidence. Yet, it displays a kind-of maturity that we’ve not seen in QT before, from the elegiac build-up to its final act to the leathery and world-weary performances of Leonardo Di Caprio and especially Brad Pitt at its centre…two dinosaurs who win battles but are aware the cultural war against them is about to be lost. I saw it twice in the cinema (both times in 35mm) – the first time I’ve done this for a film in many years – and found it even more compelling second time round, like an album whose charms keep giving with familiarity. I can’t wait to see it again.

Running a very close second is Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY, which had a brief cinema release in November before moving onto Netflix. It’s a both a simple and complex tale of a marriage unravelling, brought vividly to life by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johanssen – both of whom benefit from a beautifully written script in which every character is sketched with care and nuance. It runs the gauntlet of emotions and I found myself howling with laughter and holding back tears in the blink of an eye. To those of us who have long-followed Baumbach since his hilarious and poignant post-college debut, KICKING AND SCREAMING, MARRIAGE STORY feels like an accumulation of everything he has done over the past twenty years and a vindication of his talent.

Despite its occasionally punishing running-time, Netflix’s other and nosier awards contender, Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN, by and large delivered on its much-hyped promise. Once you lose the notion that the film will be a rollercoaster ride like GOODFELLAS or CASINO it’s a compelling slow-burner – very much the work of a great filmmaker in the twilight of his career looking back on what has come before, as reflected by its ‘greatest hits’-style cast. While on the topic of Netflix, I’ll also tip my hat to DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, a wonderful reminder of how terrific Eddie Murphy was and still has the ability to be.

Other American films that caught my attention this year: Bo Burnham’s charming EIGHTH GRADE; Jonah Hill’s low-key and pleasantly-nostalgic MID-90S; the indulgent, yet at times dangerously compelling DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE; the sci-fi epic AD ASTRA which, despite its clunky voiceover and episodic plot, hits home thanks to its emotional core and (another) great performance from Pitt; and the much-reviled psychedelic mystery UNDER THE SILVER LAKE, which was disliked by most critics yet won me over with its LONG GOODBYE-style execution and Andrew Garfield’s most assured performance to date. On the more genre end of the scale, I also enjoyed: Ari Aster’s neo folk horror, MIDSOMMAR; Jordan Peele’s creepy/hilarious US; and Alexandre Aja’s no-frills killer crocodile popcorn ride, CRAWL. Blockbuster-wise, AVENGERS: ENDGAME somehow managed to bring about resolution to its multiple cinematic arcs in a way that felt coherent and even quite moving at times. And while I didn’t love JOKER as much as many seemed to, it still carried a dangerous and relevant aura, helped by Phoenix’s commanding performance.

While clearly there is a very long way to go towards any kind of gender balance, 2019 also was a record year for films by female directors, something also sadly not reflected in this year’s award ceremonies. While it has its detractors, Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN to me was a literary adaptation told with cinematic flair, passionate performances, and a personal vision; it felt timely and relevant but never in a way that felt on-the-nose. It’s also the strongest of the x4 adaptations of the book I’ve seen. BOOKSMART – to me, the best and funniest comedy of the year – also marked Olivia Wilde as a breakout director and breathed new life into the high-school comedy genre. THE FAREWELL was a low-key and charming family drama boasting a finely-tuned and characterful screenplay from writer/director Lulu Wang. Joanna Hogg’s SOUVENIR also clicked for me in a way her other films never quite did, thanks to its heartfelt autobiographical story and true-to-life performances from Honor Swinton-Byrne and Tom Burke at its centre.

2019 also produced its fair share of quality British films across a variety of genres. These included: the deliriously enjoyable ROCKETMAN, by far the most entertaining in the recent crop of music biopics; THE FAVOURITE, justifiably lauded for Colman’s Oscar-winning performance, as well as its biting script; the unsettling, timely and highly original BAIT, showcasing Mark Jenkin as a breakthrough (and now BAFTA-winning) talent; WILD ROSE, in which Tom Harper’s direction, Nicole Taylor’s script, and Jessie Buckley’s performance collide with terrific results; Simon Amstell’s hilarious and cringe-inducing sophomore film BENJAMIN; the heartfelt and hilarious film adaptation of Kieran Hurley’s Scottish rave play BEATS; Peter Strickland’s darkly delicious IN FABRIC; and Ken Loach’s SORRY WE MISSED YOU, whose tale of zero-hours drivers is so compelling and urgent that it single-handedly made me return a pair of trainers that a courier wrongly delivered to me (so, mission accomplished, Ken).

Away from the Anglosphere, I was enormously impressed by Lee Chang-dong’s BURNING. Adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story, it’s a true showcase in suspense, acting, and narrative ambiguity. Also terrific was Alejandro Landes’ MONOS, a nightmarish LORD OF THE FLIES meets APOCALYPSE NOW nightmare in the jungle told with cinematic flair and storytelling skill. PAIN & GLORY was also a minor-key, yet delightful reunion between Pedro Almodovar and a justly Oscar-nominated Antonio Banderas.

Documentary-wise, FOR SAMA deserved all the praise it got; it’s a gut-wrenching in-the-trenches look at the direst of circumstances, yet is shot through with warmth and humanity through its co-director and ‘subject’, Waad al-Kateab. I was fortunate to catch APOLLO 11 on the big screen and though I’ve seen a fair few moon landing documentaries, never before has it been portrayed with such sheer wonder and impressiveness. DIEGO MARADONA also proved a fitting conclusion to Asif Kapadia’s ‘trilogy’ over troubled young talents. Lastly, a documentary that unexpectedly knocked me sideways was MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENSE, a touching portrait of the doomed INXS singer, that cut through the tabloid noise and revealed him to be a tortured and much-misunderstood figure.

However, in spite of all these terrific films, some of my most joyous, revelatory, and surprising cinematic experiences this year has been revisiting old classics on the big screen. No matter how many times you may have seen one of your favourite films at home, there’s really no comparison to seeing it projected – free of any distractions, particularly these days where there are distractions aplenty at home. It’s the true test of a film that reveals its greatest strengths and hidden failures. I saw around twenty ‘older’ films in the cinema this year and these included…

THE THIRD MAN – which remains after 75-years a daringly prescient study of long-distance murder and tortured friendship.

THE APARTMENT – a truly wonderful film that feels timelier than ever through its depiction of corporate sleaze and abuse of power in the workplace.

MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO – Studio Ghibli’s simple, yet enchanting and iconic early classic, which despite its age and minimal plot still bewitched a sold-out showing occupied mostly by parents and children.

THE LONG GOODBYE – one of the most stylish, moody, slickest, and original adaptations of all time. Often imitated, never bettered.

APOCALYPSE NOW – which I saw in its so-called ‘final cut’ at the BFI IMAX; an awe-inspiring experience, even if the 1979 original remains the definitive version of Coppola’s haunting masterpiece.

A series of Stanley Kubrick films during the BFI’s retrospective in the spring. Most of these simply reconfirmed their masterpiece status to me (2001, DR STRANGELOVE, and BARRY LYNDON, for me, his finest work). Others – THE SHINING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – feel strangely dated and tonally misjudged. Yet the true revelation for me was EYES WIDE SHUT, a film I’d dismissed for years yet now feels like one of the master’s most vital and most daring works.

But the greatest cinema trip by far I had this year was revisiting JAWS on the big screen. Like ALIEN (which I also saw in the cinema), its remarkably restrained horror set-pieces were amplified to the max but what really stood out was the inter-character dynamics with the three leads during the extended dual with the shark – a masterclass of writing, directing and acting if there ever was one. All three leads brilliantly sketched as characters and snarling at each other in increasingly desperate circumstances. Despite having seen the film dozens of times before, I was so excited when I left the cinema, it took me two hours to get to sleep that night. It’s experiences like these that remind me why I love the form so much and show that new pleasures are still possible from revisiting older classics, as much as new treats.  

The next newsletter will be on Friday March 6th.


All the best


Phil


PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.ukwww.tributepodcasts.co.uk


@PhilipShelley1


February 21st 2020

DREAMS & STORIES

Posted by admin  /   February 04, 2020  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on DREAMS & STORIES

COURSE UPDATE – WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT COURSE – SOLD OUT. CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS, March 8th – still a few places left. http://script-consultant.co.uk/training/

Hi There,

DREAMS + STORY

Are dreams part of your creative process? I remember dreams quite often and like to think about my dreams. It’s frustrating how they have that elusive quality. They seem so clear and fresh in your mind but then the moment you’re out of bed and into your day they fade from your grasp.

I love the way dreams so often play not just like scenes from films but like sequences, how there is a logic to the cutting between these scenes but how this logic is warped and unexpected. I do think dreams can play a part in your creative process, can give you story and an insight into what is going on in your psyche, your subconscious mind – even (particularly?) if it’s something that your conscious mind is resisting. I’m desperately scribbling this down on my Phone Notes before it disappears.

This is how the conversation normally goes of a morning –

Me: I had a weird dream. Can I tell you about it?

Wife: No! You can’t. Your dreams are the most boring thing.

Me: Oh go on I need to tell you.

Wife: No!

Me: I’m going to tell you anyway…

In this scenario dear reader I’m afraid you play the role of my wife.

The dream I remembered as I woke just now – it was a few scenes but only two I currently remember with any clarity. The basis of the dream was that I had got into a prestigious university- a sort of romanticised, idealised version of Oxbridge. The first image I recall is if three students finding their new university rooms but the doors to their rooms are in some sort of beautiful field / forest in a weird rural idyll. I’m not an active participant in this scene but I’m listening to these new students who – in an entirely believable and engaging way – are talking about how they as new English students are looking forward to when they will be successful novelists.

In the next part of my dream I am now starting at this or some other prestigious university and have a smug feeling knowing that I know more about what I am doing than the other new students. I talk to people who’re going to floor 5 but I know with confidence and certainty that I am going to floor 4. I have found my name etched into a silver sign on the list of room occupants (what a brilliant visual detail – carved confirmation of my rightful place in this superior society!) (Wow as I’m writing / recalling this it’s telling me so much about my deep-seated lack of self-worth! Ha!) I find the door to my room on a rather beautiful, characterful, spiral staircase and turn round to meet the father of one of my 4screenwriting script readers from a couple of years ago (this is a real person to whom I have been introduced but don’t know and whom I have subsequently passed in the street, seen in various situations and avoided because I’m sure he doesn’t know / remember who I am. This man also happens to be one of my favourite contemporary novelists). In my dream he is effusive in his friendliness, knows exactly who I am, is delighted to see me. I realise that the fact I know his daughter who is moving into the room on the same spiral staircase and therefore starting at the university at the same time as me puts me in a strong social position and I continue to feel smug and happy that I have a place in this Superior Educational Establishment.

So that’s about it with my memory of the dream.

At this point my wife will respond: ‘Is that it? Christ that is so f***ing boring. Please DO NOT TELL ME YOUR DREAMS.’

I imagine you now may be feeling something similar.

My justification, what this dream evokes for me, what it tells me about story and about myself –

Although I try not to be, I am a snob. (Interesting internal character conflict?)

In the dream I feel like I am 18/19 ie student age and that I am the contemporary of my script reader (the reality is that she is 35 years younger than me). In my dreams I am nearly always a far younger version of myself (Is this a normal dream in older people? – an expression of our desperate desire to hold back time?).

But the main thing this dream makes me think about and its main application to story – is the importance of First Days in one’s life, of how some of my sharpest memories are of my first days in new places, new stages in life.

At 17 I sat the Oxford entrance exam, was interviewed but didn’t get in. I don’t remember much about this process but do remember the moment I didn’t get in and sharing that moment with my mother (for some reason I opened the letter at the National Theatre – English Institutions have loomed large in my life).

Oxford University has been a factor in my life and maybe trying and failing to get in has caused me subconsciously to romanticise it. Several of my friends / contemporaries from school, my sister went there and my son went there (and didn’t have a particularly happy time. For quite a while I think I had a bit of an anti-Oxbridge bias (hard to sustain when my son went there although the fact he didn’t think much of the place was strangely reassuring!).

The drive to my first boarding school in Broadstairs, Kent – my earliest memory of a First Day. My self-contained focus in looking at and appreciating the scene flying by from the car window, knowing the outside, ‘free’ world was to be denied me for the next 12 weeks (an unimaginably long period of time to a 7 year old). Another vivid memory is returning there many years later to find the playing fields of which I had so many positive memories, an anonymous Barrett housing estate).

I don’t remember the journey but I remember first moments at public school at age 13. The strangeness of it, of my anxiety- but most of all I remember being introduced to and shown round by house prefect Lionel de Rothschild. I remember (although this is something that crystallised as I considered it later) my parents being so taken and impressed by the fact we were being shown round by a member of one of the best-known Jewish financier families (my mother was also from a Jewish family with history). This was a detail that must have gone right over my head at the time but has taken on meaning since.

After failing to get into Oxford and by a circuitous route I arrived at what was then Ivy House, Middlesex Polytechnic to study drama. My very first encounter was sitting at a table in the canteen with Clive Ward and my future wife. I remembered little about the conversation but Cindy (my wife) told me I told them about my summer working at camp in America. She said it made an impression (although not that much of an impression- she didn’t show much interest in me for the next few months – not until we were on a TIE tour together right at the end of term) and my most vivid memory then is of my forcibly and presumptuously introducing myself to her father – which seemed very important to me because I had become so besotted with his daughter. It’s funny to think back to that moment. He is now dead but was one of the most important people in my life, part of so many wonderful memories.

I remember another moment in my first term when I was in a car with a few fellow first year students. Laura Cooney told me there was someone in the first year who fancied me. I hoped very much this was Cindy but she eventually told me who it was and suffice to say I was disappointed. I have a lot of positive memories about Laura Cooney, she was a huge personality. She died only a year after leaving college, hit by a bus in a road accident.

The takeaways – so many of the memories that imprint themselves on your brain are those first encounters when we are emotionally vulnerable and receptive.

It’s also about the different roads we take or don’t take. A tragically short road for Laura Cooney. If I’d got into Oxford I would never have met Cindy (we’ve been married 40 years), would not have had the 4 children we have. My mother mentioned / talked about me not getting into Oxford once (I can’t remember the context) and said ‘But then you wouldn’t have met Cindy which is unthinkable.’

‘Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you’

Paul Simon, Bookends Theme.

PS My wife’s response to this piece of writing – ‘The dream isn’t any good, as usual.’

PPS My wife has just reminded me that my mother used to say to me that it was unlucky to recount your dreams before breakfast (her subtler strategy for getting me to shut the f**k up about my dreams).

PPS Thank you for indulging me.

The next newsletter will be on Friday Feb 21st,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

Feb 7th 2020

ONE PAGE PITCHES – A CHALLENGE

Posted by admin  /   January 22, 2020  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on ONE PAGE PITCHES – A CHALLENGE

Hi There,

ONE PAGE PITCHES

These are among the most difficult documents to get right and one of the aspects of screenwriting that writers seem to agonise over most but they are also really important – very often the way to start a conversation with potential employers. I have read a huge amount of these documents over the years – but still struggle to find definitive examples to give to writers on my courses, which shows how difficult they are to get ‘right’.

SO I am setting you a challenge / request. I think it might be helpful and instructive if I gave feedback on a / some one-page pitches within this newsletter in the future. Are YOU willing to share your one-page pitch documents with me and the readership of this newsletter? The upside of this will be that you get my FREE – and I can guarantee constructive – feedback on your pitch. I hope some of you may be up for this – I think it could be a valuable learning experience for us all! If so, please email me your one page pitch/es to consider – thank you!

MORE SCRIPT READER FEEDBACK

A big thank you to another of my script readers on 4Screenwriting 2020, Ollie Grieve, for this impassioned and perceptive feedback on the scripts he read –

‘Just to really feel emotion: jealousy; devotion

And really feel the part… If [they] only had a heart.

  • The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz

This, or something like it, was how I felt after barrelling through 200 scripts in little over a month for 4Screenwriting. Don’t get me wrong: there were a number of scripts that were enjoyable, of which all demonstrated imagination, many humour, and some irrepressible pacing – often in splendid combination.

But the ones that really made me sit up in delight? They were those that had all these things, and had something else too – something that everything requires to truly give it life: a heart. This heart would emotionally entrap me, and make me fall just a little bit in love with the characters and their world. It allowed me to truly lose myself in the story and at its end, find myself craving more. 

The lack of heart amongst this year’s entries seemed attributable to two factors that share a common origin. The first was the pronounced tendency for people to choose to write narratives they clearly felt were within the C4 wheelhouse – perhaps in preference to those they themselves were naturally drawn to. Think dystopia, odd sexual shenanigans (a.k.a Fleabag-adjacent), gender-bending, coming-of-age and so forth. It would be true to say in this case that they did not have especially strong feelings about their subject matter. Big mistake.

One of the first rules of writing drama is – or should be – to tackle subjects that you really care about, and have a great interest in. Doing so will guarantee that your work – your words, your characters, the whole design of your piece – will be imbued with feeling. Passion shows and is infectious, to the point that it can even – sometimes! – carry a story that in other respects is a bit messy. (Pose, I’m looking at you.) Use it, harness it – have the courage of your convictions and convince everyone else too!

Tied to this of course is our second factor: tone. A bit of quick word association with the categories mentioned above provides, for example: edgy, quirky, thought-provoking, controversial. These are not words that allow much room for sentimentality – which in any case is a quality often looked down upon. Foolishly, in my opinion: it’s true to say that a little goes a long way, but equally, that dash can lend a story much needed emotional depth and keep your audience caring. She may not always be quintessential C4, but there’s a reason for Shonda’s success.

So please, embrace the heart. Think of a moment, for example, where someone had made you care so much about the characters you were watching that what happened to them left you inconsolable. For me, it’s things like the parting of Rose and the Doctor at the end of Series 2 of Doctor Who. That’s the feeling you’re trying to recreate in your audience. Channel it into your script. You don’t want a single perfect tear rolling down their cheek, à la Olivia Coleman’s Queen. You’re aiming for full on bawling, red-faced and snotty. 

Manage that, and your show will, with all its heart, have incontrovertibly moved its audience. And manage that, and, well, the world’s your oyster.

OLLIE GRIEVE

COURSE UPDATE

I DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING Feb 8th 2020

Places are selling well for this course but I have booked a LARGE room so there are still spaces if you’re interested.

Guest speaker TIM FYWELL will be talking about the scripts for episodes 5 & 6 of HAPPY VALLEY, series one, which he directed – this should be a fascinating insight into some of the very best UK TV drama screenwriting by SALLY WAINWRIGHT.  

Screenwriter ARCHIE MADDOCKS will talk about his career as a screenwriter and the craft of telling stories for the screen.

Straight after the course there will be a networking event exclusively for the course delegates. At this event will be guests from the industry, there to answer any questions you have about screenwriting and work opportunities in the industry. The guests will include – BBC Holby City script editor, BBC Drama commissioning executive, BBC Films development executive, BBC Casualty writer; script editors from – Mammoth Screen, Leopard Drama, Three Tables TV, Silverprint Pictures, New Pictures, Silver Reel; an agent’s assistant from The Agency, and two other screenwriter alumni from the Channel 4 screenwriting course (one of whom has just written 7 eps of DOCTORS). I will send the course delegates a full list of names & companies in the course handouts a week before the course so that they can research / think about how who they would like to meet / talk to. But as well, this networking event should be a great opportunity for the writers on the course to meet and share experiences with each other.

CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS March 8th.

There are now only six places left on this course. All the details here

WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT. Feb 24th, March 2nd, March 9th

There are now only 2 places left on this course.

RESPONSE TO MY ‘BEST DRAMA’ LIST OF 2019

Thank you very much for your responses to my list from a fortnight ago –

‘Undone (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8101850/ ) by the Bojack Horseman team was amazing considering both its completely different genre/format and its central character and a deaf and psychotic woman who tries to bring her father back to life, who is in hindsight probably the antagonist, which considering he’s dead, is extremely clever. Plus the rotoscope format was fresh, better than I’d seen it done before and allowed a natural shift into the dreamlike/time travel segments. 

In terms of comic book adaptations: Watchmen, Legion and Preacher were all excellent and had satisfying conclusions. A skill not always seen elsewhere e.g. Sherlock, Dracula. I’d say Watchmen matched the complexity of the original book and had one of the nastiest villains I’ve ever seen. I’d also recommend Mr Robot, another show that finished well and during the episodes that revealed the ultimate secret, Shakespearean in their portrayal.’

‘Of your choices, Chernobyl and Russian Doll were highlights for me too. And your point about that character disjuncture in the Prince Andrew interview is a very good one — it’s a perfect, skin-crawling example.

I must say I struggle to get into the more discomforting series. I know it’s rich coming from someone who’s made most of his career peddling horror, but I find shows like TEOTFW and Euphoria depressing, unsettling and anxiety-provoking and at this particular anxious time, they mess with my mind in an unwelcome way.  Ladhood also brought nightmares about what awaits my children, even though it’s supposed to be funny. So when it comes to comedy, as a consumer, I’m preferring the lighter things, where people are humane and kind and optimistic, like The Young Offenders and Derry Girls. Ghosts was funny light relief too.

I have tried Fleabag several times, but can’t. It feels smug and nasty, like an exclusive in-joke I just don’t get. I loved Killing Eve, though, so it’s probably just those particular characters I don’t get along with.

I wanted to like Marriage Story, but I felt removed. The main characters were going to be okay, whatever happened, and there weren’t really any stakes. And I found some of the scenes overlong and stagey. Which married couple argues with such clarity, taking neat turns? I know when I argue with my wife, I can barely stutter out what point I’m trying to make, and have lost faith in my argument before I’ve even got into it. The best part for me were the wonderful lawyer cameos (acting as a family-values advert against divorce). Again, I’m glad those lucky creatives can afford all that, but it didn’t grab my emotions. I’ll be interested to hear why you liked it. Maybe I’m missing some formal subtext.

Some other highlights from last year for me were

Giri/Haji — I liked the cross-cultural feel, the styistic interludes which they prodded at perhaps a little too tentatively. It felt both like a BBC series and something broader. It blended interestingly with Spiral S7 and The Wailing which I watched at the same time. I had a good internationalist couple of weeks then, something that’s a priority for me in these political times.

Guilt was focussed and funny and tense and compelling.

Catch-22 was stylish and unusual and very entertaining.

This year, as I start on a new novel, I’m thinking about that stylistic flair that you highlight — a sort of innate-feeling confidence. I’m going to try to write with that sort of confidence rather than desperately making it sound like something else I think might be successful.’

‘Regarding your list, I agreed with all of your choices, and would suggest ‘Giri/Haji’ which I thought was outstanding and also the Netflix show ‘Unbelievable’, especially in light of what has just happened in Cyprus.’

The next newsletter will be on Friday Feb 7th

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

January 24th 2020

COURSE UPDATE + BEST DRAMA 2019

Posted by admin  /   January 09, 2020  /   Posted in screenwriting & script-editing courses, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on COURSE UPDATE + BEST DRAMA 2019

Hi There,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing / productive break and are creatively fired up for 2020.

COURSE UPDATE

There are still places available on my 3 courses for Feb & March (although only 4 places left on the WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT course).

Plans for the 1 DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING course have been ongoing since my December newsletter – and we now have development executives / script editors from BBC/Holby City, Silverprint Pictures, Leopard Drama, Mammoth Screen, Two Tables TV, Silver Reel, a junior literary agent from The Agency and two experienced BBC continuing series writers all confirmed for the networking event (5.15 – 8.30pm) – all there to give you invaluable screenwriting industry & craft advice in an informal setting.

The course itself (10-5) has two brilliant guest speakers in TIM FYWELL and ARCHIE MADDOCKS. Tim is one of the UK’s leading TV and film directors, with credits on great shows like HAPPY VALLEY and CRACKER. He has worked with many of the best screenwriters in the UK over the last 20 years and in his session he will break down / analyse one of his favourite scripts.

ARCHIE MADDOCKS will talk about his experiences as a screenwriter, with tips about both career and the craft of dramatic story-telling. Archie has a double life as a stand-up as well as a dramatic writer and he is always great value. Even if I say so myself, this course is ridiculously good value at only £95!

You can find all the details – including testimonials from the first time I ran it in May last year – about this course (and the CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS and WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT courses) on my website.

BEST DRAMA OF 2019

A little late – but here’s my very unscientific and subjective look back at the scripts I enjoyed most (in no particular order) in 2019 –

TV

EUPHORIA written (and directed) by SAM LEVINSON – the series as a whole was outstanding. But the ep 8 finale is a masterclass in how to structure film narrative – brilliantly multi-layered, visual, stylised story-telling that uses its style to great emotional effect. Story-telling that has huge flair, is sometimes very hard to watch – but it’s incredibly honest, challenging and provocative  and feels like it really has something important to say about what it means to be young today (a show my 17 year old daughter forced me to watch and I’m glad she did!).

SUCCESSION series 2. Not much to add to what has already been said about this except that the ability of the show to make us care about so many objectively appalling human beings is some feat. A wonderful combination of the highly dramatic and brilliantly comic, with so many memorable, perfectly judged set-piece moments. It’s also really exciting that an HBO/US-set show has been largely created by a team of British writers – hats off to Jesse Armstrong, Lucy Prebble, Anna Jordan, Tony Roche, Georgia Pritchett, Jon Brown, Alice Birch et al – a wonderful demonstration of the creative power of the writers room.

BACK TO LIFE written by DAISY HAGGARD & LAURA SOLON – the sort of show that we do really well in the UK (other outstanding examples from 2019 – THIS WAY UP, DON’T FORGET THE DRIVER, MUM) – small-scale, reflective, humane, distinctive comedy drama of real edge and character). Back To Life was my favourite in this genre in 2019. Charming, funny and poignant with a clear, inherently dramatic narrative premise (and script-edited by 4screenwriting script reader Amy Chappellhow!).

THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD S2 written by (4screenwriting alumna) CHARLIE COVELL. I actually enjoyed this even more than S1. Released from the original source material, this became an even more distinctively Charlie Covell show. Funny, unpredictable, edgy, with an undercurrent of violence but also humanity – the story-telling (both writing and direction) had a real flair – the sort of flair that we associate with US shows like EUPHORIA and very rarely find in UK shows.

THE VIRTUES written by SHANE MEADOWS and JACK THORNE. One of the most intense, agonising shows I’ve ever seen on TV. Some absolutely brilliantly-realised scenes and sequences (for example Joseph’s bender in ep 1). Shane Meadows is a wonderful writer and director – and I thought this was his best ever show.

CHERNOBYL written by CRAIG MAZIN. Like nothing you’ve ever seen on TV before. Powerful, disturbing story-telling – and a story that needed to be told. And apparently there’s a fascinating podcast about the series too. (Craig Mazin also co-hosts with John August the wonderful SCRIPTNOTES podcast).

GENTLEMAN JACK by SALLY WAINWRIGHT. Apparently not to everyone’s taste but I thought this was period story-telling that had a really modern, energized sensibility and at the heart of the show the characterisation of Ann Lister was memorably complicated and larger-than-life.

FLEABAG S2 by PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE. Another series (like TEOTFW) that was even more successfully realised in its 2nd series than its first. From the wonderful restaurant sequence in ep 1 to the will they / won’t they Fleabag / Hot Priest relationship, this was utterly distinctive, memorable and very, very funny.

RUSSIAN DOLL. Written and created  by NATASHA LYONNE, AMY POEHLER & LESLYE HEADLAND, this was another wonderfully original and distinctive piece of story-telling. Bonkers but compelling.

ITV Drama  (mainly in the person of JEFF POPE) have specialised recently in some brilliant factual drama / crime serials – shows like A CONFESSION that was a brilliant star vehicle for two outstanding actors – Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton; and MANHUNT –  another great starring vehicle, this time for Martin Clunes, with a  brilliant script by ED WHITMORE.

FINDING NEVERLAND – the DAN REED-directed Michael Jackson / abuse documentary. To me, the evidence seemed compelling. But whatever way you look at it, this was brilliantly structured and realised, compelling story-telling.

PRINCE ANDREW NEWSNIGHT INTERVIEW – The most fascinating character study of the year. An extraordinary example of the massive gap between a character’s self-image and how they actually come across. Genuinely jaw-dropping to see someone misjudge a situation so spectacularly in the public eye. A deeply flawed character – without any of the redeeming humanity you’d normally look for in ficton!

THEATRE

ANNA X by JOSEPH CHARLTON at the Vaults festival. Excellent dramatization / re-imagination of a true story.

MOUTHPIECE by KIERAN HURLEY at the Soho Theatre. About the intense, strange and ultimately destructive relationship between a writer and her subject. Wonderful writing of characters – but also a hugely perceptive study of the power of story itself.

A VERY EXPENSIVE POISON by LUCY PREBBLE (See SUCCESSION). A playful, imaginative, stylised, entertaining – and disturbing – examination of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

SMALL WORLD – adapted for the stage by HELEN EDMUNDSON from the novel by ANDREA LEVY. Epic story-telling that built in intensity and emotional impact over its always-compelling three hours.

FILM

BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON written and directed  by PAUL DOWNS COLAIZZO – in its way very generic – but a lovely combination of the generic and utterly specific. A brilliant example of story-telling through the prism of a wounded character battling her demons. Ultimately life-affirming and very touching. This film reminded me how some of the best stories are so simple when told through the emotional prism of the central character. Often the best story is about a character’s relationship with themselves.

WILD ROSE – another film like B.R.A.M. – that I missed in the cinema but caught up with on Amazon – and another film that in its way is generic and familiar – but again there is enough of a twist on the genre, a really strong specificity to setting and lead character; and the use of country music adds a dimension to it. A slow burn that by the end had a strong emotional grip. NICOLE TAYLOR’s range from THREE GIRLS to this is highly impressive.

MARRIAGE STORY written and directed by NOAH BAUMBACH – which I have mentioned before and will be returning to, as I think it’s a screenplay that rewards repeated viewing – there’s so much in the screenplay to inspire and learn from.

CLEMENCY, written and directed by CHINONYE CHUKWU. One of the standouts from the London Film Festival. A harrowing exploration of the death penalty from the POV of a female prison governor.

ONE DAY CRICKET WORLD CUP FINAL – the most brilliantly-constructed, compelling dramatic story-telling of the year. No writer could have pre-planned or imagined any sporting event to be this tense, unexpected and exciting.

—————————————

SO – what do you think? What shows have I unaccountably left out? What shows should I have included? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The next newsletter will be on Friday Jan 24th. Until then,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

Jan 10th 2020

NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES FOR 2020

Posted by admin  /   December 12, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES FOR 2020

Hi There,

NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES FOR 2020

Just in time for Christmas I’m very happy to tell you about three courses I will be running in the first few months of the New Year.

ONE DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING London Saturday Feb 8th

This will be the 2nd time I have run this course and the first version in May of this year went very well (there are testimonials on the right-hand column of the course page).

This is designed for people looking to dip a toe into the world of screenwriting but it is also suitable for more experienced screenwriters for whom it will hopefully be refreshing, reenergising and re-inspiring.

We will analyse and celebrate the best screenwriting as well as looking at the nuts and bolts of how to write a screenplay – and how to tell a story most powerfully in this medium.

We will be screening and discussing a number of clips from films and TV shows.

We will have two guest speakers – eminent TV and film director TIM FYWELL will focus on a film / TV show of his choosing – analysing the screenplay and the process of translating script to screen, focusing on particular scenes and sequences.

He will also talk about some of the brilliant films and shows he has worked on and talk about working with writers. Tim is the ultimate writer’s director and has worked with some of the top screenwriting talent in the UK over the last 25 years. He will talk about the work and processes of some of these writers – to name a few – Sally Wainwright, Abi Morgan, Jimmy McGovern, Paul Abbott, and most recently Julian Fellowes.

The 2nd guest speaker is screenwriter, playwright and stand-up comedian ARCHIE MADDOCKS. Archie was one of the writers on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2018 and his screenwriting career has since gone from strength to strength. He has written an episode in the new, soon-to-be-released Sky Atlantic series, INTERGALACTIC; and has TV projects in development with Warp Film & TV, Wall To Wall, Working Title TV and Tiger Aspect among others. He is also a successful playwright – with a new play on at the Park Theatre in June 2020. Archie will talk about his working process as a screenwriter and give insights into storytelling on screen and how to build a career as a screenwriter.

Both the guests and myself will give the course delegates the chance to ask questions as part of each session.

The course will run from 10-5 and will be followed by a more informal NETWORKING EVENING in a nearby pub (where we will book a private room dedicated to the event). We will invite a number of industry guests to this event – experienced screenwriters and script editors / development executives from production companies – all of whom will be there to meet you and answer any questions you may have about screenwriting (whether it’s about craft or career).

At the May 2019 event we had 4 writers, all very successful 4screenwriting alumni and development executives from companies such as BBC Studios, Tiger Aspect, Firebird Pictures, Little Dot Studios, Bryncoed Productions, Shiny Button Productions, BBC Films, Neal Street Productions etc.

Once you’re booked on the course, we will send you a list of the industry people attending the drinks evening about a week in advance so that you can research them and plan who you’d like to talk to.

This informal networking event also gives you the invaluable opportunity to talk to your fellow writers (the other course delegates) and share information and experiences. Writers often find that this is the most valuable part of the course – building up your network of screenwriting allies. Writing is a solitary business – and we all need as much peer support as possible to help sustain a career.

The cost of this one-day two-part course is £95 – which is remarkably good value!

CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPT WRITERS 1 DAY COURSE Sunday March 8th 2019

A more interactive one day course focusing exclusively on the creative aspects of dramatic writing.

This is a course I have now run several times (I also run a version of it semi-regularly for SCREENSKILLS). I always have a really enjoyable time running it and the course has received some very nice feedback from the writers who’ve done it. (See the testimonials on the website course page).

This is a course designed for dramatic writers and story-tellers in any genre – TV, Film, Theatre, Radio – even novelists (and of any level of experience – from beginner to veteran).

The purpose of the course is to give your writing that spark of energy, inspiration and creativity that we all need to rediscover from time to time.

It’s a highly inter-active day, designed to be intensive but fun, getting you as writers to think on your feet, and to tap into your instincts more than your intellect.

Here are some of the elements the day will contain:-

•    Story ideas – looking into the big ideas that will form the basis of a really strong logline/central narrative idea to your work.
•    Character – exercises that will engender the creation of unique and memorable characters, characters who will drive your stories.
•    Idea-generating techniques – we will explore in depth the sort of techniques you need to develop, the techniques that you need to be using endlessly as professional writers to kick-start new projects and to awaken your creative instincts.
•    Other Media – we will be looking at how you can use other media and unlikely areas of everyday life to access and consider universal story ideas.
•    Writing exercises – we will be doing instant writing exercises to unlock your creativity.
•    Inspirational Guest speaker ANDERS LUSTGARTEN – will talk about how he generates his ideas, and where his dramatic inspiration comes from.

ANDERS is a brilliant playwright and screenwriter (I worked with him on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2012) who is also a committed political activist. Anders will talk about where his inspirations as a writer come from.

Anders has talked on this course before, and there is so much to learn from him in terms of how to energise, and put the necessary passion into, your writing.

This is a one-day course in Central London at what I think (again) is an extremely reasonable £95. AND places are limited to the FIRST 20 APPLICANTS.

The course is designed to give everyone on it a real chance to explore their creativity, so I have to limit numbers to 20.

You can find all the details at

WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT

A brand-new course that I have created in response to some of the delegates from my recent two-day screenwriting courses who have asked for a course that specifically focuses on the writing of a script. This is a course that will run over three consecutive Monday evenings in February and March 2020 (Feb 24, March 2, March 9) from 6-9pm.

I will ask delegates to come to the course with three ideas for a short film and you will come away from the course 2+ weeks later with a completed short film script.

The course will be fairly demanding in terms of writing work – so if you’re interested, I suggest you go into the course fully committed to finding the time not only to attend but to put in a fair few writing hours in between the sessions. There will also be some reading work involved. I will ask each writer to read two of the other course writers’ outline and script – and come to the sessions prepared to give constructive feedback to the two other writers in their mini-group within the larger group of 12 writers. I will oversee all of the feedback sessions and give my own feedback on every stage of every project.

Over the last few years I think short film scripts have become an ever-more valuable part of a screenwriter’s portfolio. The best short film scripts can have real impact and alert producers to writing talent – and whet industry appetites so that potential employers want to then read further work by you.

For instance, with the recent 4screenwriting interview shortlist, a few of the writers had also written short films – and as a complement to their longer scripts, these added significantly to their credibility as screenwriters.

An obvious thing to say – but they’re also easier to make – and a produced short film is often a great addition to your writing portfolio. Short films are relatively easy to distribute / circulate online and the word-of-mouth a good short film can generate can have a powerful, positive impact on your standing as a screenwriter – this is something I have seen specific examples of and can talk about on the course.

The course is limited to a maximum of 12 delegates and costs £350 – for which you get not only the three x three hour sessions with me and the other 11 writers – but also the full benefit of my script-editing experience and ongoing feedback on your short film outline and script.

NB Full details and booking of all these courses are now on my website. If you have any questions about them, please email me on Philip.shelley@script-consultant.co.uk

In the last few years ALL of my independent courses have sold out – sometimes within a few days. SO if you’re interested, I suggest early booking. I hope these courses may also make for good Christmas presents for the writer in your life!

———————————–

EDINBURGH TV FESTIVAL – NEW VOICE AWARDS 2020

The New Voice Awards celebrate new and emerging screenwriters, directors and presenters.

 The List of Awards are as follows:

Victor Adebodun Debut Director Award
The Debut Director Award is named in honour of the late Victor Adebodun. Victor was an alumnus of the Festival’s Ones to Watch Scheme and presented the 2018 Debut Director Award. Victor was a talented director, creative leader and managing director of Purple Geko, an award-winning production company. This award is for directors who have received their first professional TV credit in 2019. Episodes must have been first transmitted in 2019 on broadcast TV or made available on a major streaming service or web broadcaster available in the UK. Entrants must be credited as the director.

Debut Writer Award
For writers who have received their first professional TV credit in 2019. Episodes must have been first transmitted in 2019 on broadcast TV or made available on a major streaming service or web broadcaster available in the UK. Entrants must be credited as the writer.


Debut Presenter Award
For presenters who have received their first professional TV credit in 2019. Episodes/ segments must have been first transmitted in 2019 on broadcast TV or made available on a major streaming service or web broadcaster available in the UK.


Test Card Pilot Award
Awarded to an individual or team for an un-commissioned, non-TX pilot completed in 2019. Submissions can be scripted or unscripted.


All3Media New Drama Script Award
Awarded to a TV drama script by an unproduced, unrepresented writer.


All3Media New Comedy Script Award
Awarded to a TV comedy script by an unproduced, unrepresented writer.


Stage to Screen Award
Awarded to a stage production with rich potential for TV adaptation.
Submissions must have been performed in the UK on more than four occasions in 2019.


Future Presenter Award
Awarded to an aspiring presenter with strong potential. Entrants should already have some presenting experience e.g a YouTube channel, student or community TV hosting.

Deadline – January 18th 2020

More Details here:

https://www.thetvfestival.com/talent-schemes/newvoiceawards/

This is a very prestigious industry-recognised scheme – and definitely worth entering.

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I will be giving myself a Christmas break from the newsletter – the next newsletter will be on Friday January 10th. I wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year and thank you so much for all the kind feedback you have given me over the last year; and the replies to some of my questions and opinions – I wouldn’t keep writing this newsletter if I didn’t receive so many brilliant responses from you the readers / writers – so thank you very much!

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

December 13th 2019

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE SCRIPT FEEDBACK Part 2

Posted by admin  /   November 27, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE SCRIPT FEEDBACK Part 2

Hi There,

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2020

We have now short-listed and informed the 37 writers for interview and I will be emailing everyone else who applied in the next day or two.

THE BRIT LIST 2019

The 24 scripts on this year’s TV BRIT LIST were announced last week. This is the list of the best unproduced scripts, as voted for by TV production companies. I was delighted that 6 of the 24 scripts were written by alumni of the Channel 4 screenwriting course and that another   script that I helped to develop through my script consultancy also made it onto the list. I was particularly pleased that the script that got BY FAR the most votes – the wonderful FLED by Karen Cogan – was actually written on the 2019 C4 screenwriting course (script-edited by the excellent Rebecca Holdsworth and Lily Shahmoon).

If you’re interested in seeing what sort of stories stand out for drama indies, it’s very instructive to read the pitches / loglines / summaries for the 24 successful scripts –

https://brit-list.co.uk/

…although obviously it’s even more about the realization of these one-line pitches into scripts.

POSITIVE COMMON ELEMENTS IN 4SW SHORTLIST

Two weeks ago, I wrote about some of the things I thought were missing from the scripts submitted for 4screenwriting. This week, some thoughts about the positive qualities that stood out in scripts, often taken directly from the notes I made as I was reading the scripts.

Effective story-telling is a hard element to define – but it is one of the key reasons that some of the scripts stand out – sophisticated, multi-layered, fast-moving, surprising narratives within a story world that feels authentic and distinctive.

Many of these stories use structure playfully and imaginatively, often not telling their story in a linear way but cutting between different timeframes, withholding key story information in ways that maximize the dramatic tension and intrigue in a story.

Many of the best scripts stand out because they feel like they are stories that are unique to that writer – think about telling stories that only you can tell.

The best scripts are clearly about something – and often something that taps into the current social / political climate.

Authenticity and truth in story world, characterisation and emotional connections between characters (this is one of the many things I respond to in Noah Baumbach’s THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES and MARRIAGE STORY – the scripts for both films are masterclasses in screenwriting IMO).

Directly taken from my or the readers’ notes about the scripts we responded to positively –

Feels fresh, original, distinctive. Stylistically inventive and playful – lots of fantasy, pastiche, stylised moments. I warmed to the characters and central relationship.

A story that I can easily pitch, a compelling, emotive, character-driven story that is also about a big, controversial historical conflict and its ripples into the present day. Non-linear structure, cutting artfully between past and present.

A little baffling and cryptic – but at the same time there is such assurance and clarity to the writing that it is strangely compelling. Strong visual story-telling, some powerful moments and images.

Characters immediately come off the page vividly – good dysfunctional, recognisable family set-up. Very good comic dialogue…flair and individuality to the writing.

Great dialogue, interesting, flawed characters and it feels strongly contemporary – finger on the pulse in terms of young metropolitan characters. Inventive, comic subtitles– it’s really about something, feels like it taps into the zeitgeist.

Very well-written and the two characters believable, textured, distinct. Shocking story told with restraint.

It builds in intensity and there is an intelligence to the writing of the characters, dialogue and story. It’s increasingly intriguing and I like its ambition, and that it seems to be about something.

He writes excellent dialogue. The characters and relationship come off the page strongly – this is powerful, subtle, moving. The way it’s written, it’s easy to picture the staging, very good use of music.

Real spirit and distinctiveness to the characters, the story world. Fun, comic family dynamics. Well-observed.

Good clarity to the writing – and it’s clearly about something. Emotive and interesting. It’s very issue-centric – but it’s instructive and an issue that needs airing. There are some really powerful scenes. The story-telling is straightforward. But there’s such power and conviction to it that it doesn’t need stylistic flourishes. One of the scripts that has really had an emotional impact.

It’s raw but feels real and there are some very funny moments. Definitely a distinctive voice. I really connected with the central character.

I liked the premise. It’s bonkers but there’s something excellent about it too. Tasteless, unexpected, some very funny lines. And very much about something – sharp satire

Dark, atmospheric, powerful, convincing. Very good read. Standout.

Nice character dynamics, good dialogue. It has charm

Good comic dialogue – feels authentic and accessible, well-observed even if story is very low stakes (but it’s a comedy and I warm to the characters, smile at the dialogue).

Really excellent, takes you into authentic, unfamiliar story world. Characterisations subtle and engaging. Some really stand out moments and such a strong, individual agenda.

One of the few genuinely funny scripts. A little slight but successful on its own terms and very enjoyable, also visually inventive, lots of smart story telling ideas

Great subject matter, excellent structure / story-telling and good characterisations. At times feels a little rushed – but this is powerful; and above all great story material – important, specific but universal; about the aftermath of a huge conflict and a microcosm of its fallout.

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Here are some very perceptive and insightful responses to the scripts they read from two of this year’s 4screenwriting script readers, Danny Moran and Holly Boyden –

Top tips for guaranteed writing success*

Check your spelling

This is an obvious one but make sure your script doesn’t have any spelling mistakes. This is the writing equivalent of showering before going on a first date. If I read a script with spelling mistakes it instantly makes me lose confidence in the writer. Check it, check it again and get everyone you know to check it.

Make sure it looks right

There are lots of useful websites such as BBC Writersroom that have PDFs of professional scripts, read as many of them as you can. Make sure your script is properly formatted but also study how the seasoned pros lay out their scenes. The vast majority of scripts I read this year used far too much description. If your scene is set in a character’s bedroom you don’t need paragraphs and paragraphs telling the audience the colour of the carpet and the pattern of the wallpaper, just say “Int. Bedroom – Day” and get to the action.

The story should start before your script does

Too many scripts start like this: the main character wakes up, they shower, they make breakfast, they check their phone, they’ve got a message from their mate asking if they fancy a drink later, they send a text back – this is boring, do not do this. Make sure your script is never the unnecessary backstory to the actual story. The audience is smart, throw them into the story and let them catch up.

Action is character – Make sure your protagonist has agency

One of the most common mistakes you see are scripts with passive protagonists who are at the mercy of factors beyond their control. This is very understandable because in well-written stories, particularly comedies, it does feel this way but look closer and the main characters are always driving the plot. Even in a film like I, Daniel Blake which is all about how peoples’ lives are dictated by a flawed system they have no control over, the main character (I forget his name) is never passive, he’s constantly fighting the system – his actions dictate the plot. Audiences engage with active characters, they can only sympathise with passive ones.

Know your tone

Tone is a nebulous thing which is hard to pin down but very evident when it is wrong. This isn’t just a matter of genre. Peep Show and The It Crowd are both comedies, if Moss broke both his legs in an episode you wouldn’t question it if he was completely recovered by the next one. However, if Mark Corrigan broke both his legs it wouldn’t make sense if he wasn’t in physiotherapy for the rest of the series. Tone is about establishing the rules of the world in which the story is set and making sure those rules are consistent throughout your script. A lot of scripts that are solid in theory don’t work because the writer hasn’t successfully set up the tone of the story and as such the audience doesn’t know how they should be processing it.

Write what you know…but also don’t

Draw from your own experiences but don’t be afraid to use your creative license. Mad Men is probably one of the most personal and emotionally honest shows ever made and none of the writing staff were ad men in the 1960s. My point is that, whatever ideas your script is exploring, choose the most interesting world to explore them in. Don’t automatically opt for the one you’re most familiar with.

Be original – write something only you can write

I had at least 50 scripts which were about people in their twenties/early thirties all feeling directionless (hey join the club!). There is nothing wrong with this concept but you have to have a really fresh angle on it to stand out. It’s hard to make an impression with a script which is just an inferior version of a show that already exists. Write the new Fleabag but don’t literally write new Fleabag.

DANNY MORAN

*Success not guaranteed

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There is no such thing as totally original but there is originality and that’s what we’re looking for. Take the medium seriously, think about the form and how it sits with the content. Find the human angle. Get under the fingernails of your characters, go back and question everything and don’t try and build big for the sake of it. You got this.

HOLLY BOYDEN

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Over the weekend of Nov 16-17 I held a 2 day screenwriting course. One of my guest speakers was screenwriter / playwright / stand-up comedian Archie Maddocks (one of the 4screenwriting alumni on this year’s Brit List!). One of the things Archie said that I thought was really interesting and which struck a chord with me was how sometimes a good script is less about the quality of the writing than the story and the way it’s told / structured. Often, it’s a good idea to worry less about the writing, more about the story and how you’re telling it.

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SCRIPT MENTORING

It looks like myself and my fellow script mentors now have the capacity to take on one or two more writers as mentees. All the details about how to apply can be found on my website –

The other three mentors are writer KITTY PERCY and script editors JOE WILLIAMS and JAMIE HEWITT – I am very proud to be working with all three; you can find their biogs on the web page.

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The next newsletter will be on Friday December 13th (which I fear may be a very black Friday – USE YOUR VOTE!).

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

November 29th 2019