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 Despite constant talk of whether TV has superseded film (an argument easy to make given the likes of CHERNOBYL, FLEABAG, and SUCCESSION – all told with a bold and authorial vision), 2019 proved to be a bumper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.

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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!

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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.

——————————————

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

—————————————-

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.

——————————————

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.

—————————————-

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

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE SCRIPTS – A RESPONSE

Posted by admin  /   November 14, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE SCRIPTS – A RESPONSE

Hi There,

This week, a few thoughts about / responses to the scripts I’ve been reading for the last few weeks for the C4 screenwriting course. As ever, it’s been a fascinating, mentally stimulating, exciting and exhausting process. A huge thank you to all of you who have submitted. I appreciate the huge amount of sweat and time that has gone into these scripts and it’s an absolute privilege to be able to read so many new, exciting, original scripts – and frustrating that we are only able to offer 12 places on the 2020 course.

I’m going to write further about this in the coming weeks – in particular about the qualities that stand out in the scripts we short-list for writer interviews. But before that, this week I’m focusing on some broader observations, mainly on some of the pitfalls to avoid – so apologies if this comes across as a little negative – my further thoughts will be more positive!

One of the things that has struck me is just how few of the submitted scripts are based on real stories – especially compared to what is made, and the shows / films I’ve seen in the past few weeks. And not just scripts based on true stories, but scripts directly focusing on specific societal and political issues in contemporary British life. As I spend the last few weeks reading the scripts I also have an eye on the news – eg the committee questioning Mark Zuckerberg, on Brexit in all its lies and underlying political agendas, on the death of 39 people in a lorry container and the circumstances that enable this to happen – and on the anger, frustration, dismay I feel about all these events – over 1m. people congregating in central London to convey their feelings about Brexit, Greta Thunburg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the challenges of the climate emergency and the ever-widening scale of global inequality. Compared to films and plays I’ve enjoyed recently, there are very few scripts that directly address these sorts of contemporary issues and stories. For instance, one of the best stage plays I have seen recently is A VERY EXPENSIVE POISON – about the state-sponsored murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London; and I’m greatly looking forward to the BBC / Dancing Ledge productions 3 part serial, SALISBURY, about the circumstances surrounding the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. It seems to me that these are not only stories that have real ‘public interest’ – but they are also extraordinary and inherently dramatic. Other shows I’ve enjoyed recently that that have been inspired by real events – OFFICIAL SECRETS – or simply just tap into the zeitgeist  – The POLITICIAN, GREED. So many of the submitted stories are about lower-key domestic situations and relationships. However well written, with too many of these I don’t know what they’re ultimately about, why the writer thinks they will be important or resonant for an audience.

One of your aims as new writers should be to tell stories that are going to make a splash, stand out, challenge the status quo and accepted wisdoms and provoke debate and controversy. And now at the start of your career when you’re not writing under commission, when you’re not having to predict broadcaster taste is when you can be doing it. Embrace the freedom of being able to write whatever you want to and aim high. Think big, tell that story that is going to mark you out as brave, different and original. The best stories resonate with contemporary issues, tap into what is important and scary today.

Some other thoughts / observations –

Find a clear, simple, personal, emotional connection to your own work

There aren’t enough scripts that I start reading and think – wow, what a great, fascinating, dramatic idea. Too many of the ideas feel too small.

You have to hook the reader straight into your story ON PAGE 1. Your page one has to be brilliant. The aim of your first page is to make an impact, to grab the attention of the reader. You need to pull us into your story instantly.

The sequence in which people wake up in the morning and we see them go through their waking up / showering / breakfast / leaving the house routine becomes over-familiar when you read a lot of scripts. Think very hard about the dramatic and narrative purpose of these scenes – and whether you are bringing something unique and subversive to them. If you’re not, cut them and come into your story later.

The trope of starting your story with a ‘teaser’ that is dramatic and attention-grabbing but that is plucked from later in the story, then going back to days / hours / weeks before this event – is another very over-familiar trope. It is so for a reason – it can often work very effectively. BUT think long and hard before doing this – and make sure you’re not just doing it to compensate for a lack of drama in the real opening of your story.

Placing stories in a fictional, dystopian future sometimes takes the edge and urgency out of the story. If you want to tell a story about a compelling issue of today – set it in the recognisable present unless you have a really strong story-telling reason for not doing so. Near-future dystopias are another over-familiar story-telling trope; and feel too often like a way to dramatize the problems in the real world that detracts from the friction and immediacy you need.

Structure is about how stories escalate in intensity, about how every single scene advances the story – not enough of the scripts pay attention to these essential elements of story-telling. Story is about change. The story has to keep changing and moving forward – story is dynamic.

Something that is missing from too many scripts – believable warmth & affection between characters – we need this to enable us to empathise / engage with the characters and to help us understand what they have to lose.

The balance between directions and dialogue. Directions need to be written economically and dynamically. They need to convey visual action and movement. Don’t over-burden the reader with unnecessary information – just the information that really serves the story. Huge screeds of direction can be daunting for the reader. Don’t start directions with ‘We see…’ Directions should be active and economical. ‘We see’ is superfluous and weakens the dramatic force of the actions described.

Clarity of story-telling and writing is so important. OWN your story. Hold the reader’s hand through the story. Consider your audience / reader in the way you write / present your story.

Your story needs to be dramatic – ie it needs to have conflict, friction, be tense, intriguing, mysterious, intense, heightened… tackling big, emotive issues head-on

‘Interesting, even ‘fascinating’ are fine – but what we all really want from a story is ‘moving’ and ‘hilarious’. The response that counts is visceral not intellectual. There aren’t enough scripts that confront the emotion of life head-on, not enough scripts that risk sentimentality – and sentiment is part of life, part of story.

There is an emotional clarity and a simplicity to good writing.

What is the logline / one-line pitch of your project? It is vital that you keep thinking about and eventually – know – what this is – and that this single sentence is distinctive, compelling, dramatic and immediately engaging.

Story that shines a light on unfamiliar, unexpected worlds that are new to us stand out, ie aim to make your stories original and distinctive not generic or derivative

The most important decisions are made before you write anything down; and before you start writing the script. The subject matter – what this is about – is all-important.

I hope this is helpful. In a later newsletter I will look at the other side of the coin – the qualities that myself and the script readers found compelling in the short-listed scripts.

We should be getting in touch with those short-listed writers in the next week or so.

The next newsletter will be on Friday November 29th,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

November 15th 2019

SCREENWRITING STRATEGY

Posted by admin  /   October 31, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on SCREENWRITING STRATEGY

Hi There,

This week I’d like to share with you a very excellent thread that I came across on twitter by US screenwriter CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE (The Usual Suspects, Mission Impossible, The Tourist, etc). As I am working my way through the 1454 scripts we received for the 2020 Channel 4 screenwriting course (with the help of 7 script readers), knowing that however good the scripts are, we can only take on 12 writers, this advice seemed particularly relevant. It’s a brilliant piece of writing about how to empower yourself as a screenwriter.

‘I’m receiving a lot of questions from writers asking where to submit scripts or how to sell them. Others ask how to sign an agent, attach directors or producers, etc. You won’t like the answer, but here it is: You’re asking the wrong questions.

I spent seven years – AFTER winning an academy award – asking the same questions. My career stalled (and I still have scripts that no one will make despite subsequent commercial successes). In that time, I never stopped to realize that my own career didn’t start by blindly submitting scripts, nor did the careers of any of my writer friends. This is not to say it can’t happen, but the ODDS of just submitting your script and having it made are extremely slim.

It’s also empowering others to determine whether or not you’ll have a career. And while I would never discourage you from playing the lottery, I would strongly advise you not to make it your sole source of income.

“How do I sell my screenplay” is a question at the heart of the screenwriter’s mindset and is the essence of why writers are treated the way they are. We are trained to think that way. The system depends on our dependency.

The subtext of that question is “where do I go for permission to sign away my dream?” It also asks “what is the shortest route to my career?”

After twenty five years in the craft, I’ve learned the secret to making movies is making movies – starting with little movies no one will ever see. The secret to knowledge is doing and failing – often and painfully – and letting everyone see.

The secret to success is doing what you love, whether or not you’re being paid. The secret to a rewarding career in film (and many other fields) is focusing entirely on execution and not on result.

There are countless valid arguments against everything I have just said. They don’t change the fact that the lottery is a lottery.

One will say “I can’t direct.” There are only three answers: 1. Neither could I. Now I do. 2. Find a friend who can. 3. Keep playing the lottery.

One will say: “This is easy all for you to say. You have an established career.” There are only two replies: 1. This is how my career began. 2. Keep playing the lottery.

One will say: My script is too expensive to make on my own. There is only one reply: If this is your only idea, this may not be the right career for you. In any case, good luck playing the lottery.

Some will say: I can‘t find a friend who will direct and I don’t WANT to direct. I have news for all of you writers who like to say writing is where the process of filmmaking begins: Understanding the process of filmmaking is where real screenwriting begins. Why wait?

Some questions you should be asking: How do I gain experience making films? How do I become an invaluable part of the process? How do I learn to walk before I fly? And the answer is: make a film – alone or with friends – share your work – then do it again.

This guarantees NOTHING. But it’s what I know. And it’s better odds than the lottery. And there’s no waiting for permission. You are, in fact, living the dream. And if you think the dream relies on bigger budgets and a paycheck, brace yourself for profound unhappiness.

Of course, none of this stops you from still playing the lottery. Let’s say you do. And you win. Congratulations. What did winning teach you about your craft? How did you grow? How did it make you invaluable to the process? What foundation for a future did it provide?

What power did winning the lottery give you? Other than the power to play the lottery again?

Some will say: I’ve already made that movie. How do I take the next step? How do I find an agent? How do I get a studio to read my material? You won’t like the answer but here it is:

Do it again. Agents came to me when my friends and I had done all of the above. And they helped me more effectively when I helped them – by giving them something they could sell. And it’s infinitely harder to sell a screenplay than it is to sell one’s proven abilities.

Stop thinking about the business as something to “break into” and starting thinking of yourself as a business to be acquired. Your job is to create, improve and demonstrate your value. Ask yourself if the lottery is the best way to do this.

Your greatest cinematic heroes, whoever they are, all made their own luck. They were also never satisfied, they all suspected their peers had it better and were better, they never felt fulfilled or fully understood. At some point they all failed spectacularly.

And your heroes never, ever fully realized their dream. That is why they kept dreaming. That’s the best it’s ever going to be. And there is no place else to start except at the beginning.

I never set out to be a director. I certainly never set out to be an action director. I never expected to be where I am and EVERY critical choice I made to get here was counter-intuitive. I also still keep playing the lottery. And the lottery has still given me nothing.

This is my truth – learned the hard way. It may not be yours. I was asked and I have answered with what I know. Those of you with arguments and acrimony are wasting valuable time that could be spent on your future.

For those insisting solely on playing the lottery, I wish you all the luck in the world. For those of you ready to make their own luck, I wish you all the success you deserve.’

The second piece of advice I’d like to share with you this week is from another very successful and excellent US screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, taken from his BAFTA speech –

‘They’re selling you something and the world is built on this now…We’re starving, all of us and we’re killing each other and hating each other…because it’s all become marketing and we want to win, we’re lead to believe winning will change all that. But there is no winning. So what’s to be done? Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work, tell someone out there who is lost, who is not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time, it can’t help but be. But more importantly if you’re honest about who you are you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them help and it’s done so for me…give that to the world rather than selling something to the world. Try not to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do.’

And there is much more that is of real value in his speech –

Sharing these two screenwriters’ advice is a response to reading so many scripts in the last few weeks – and focusing my mind on what makes particular writers and their work stand out.

I (and this year’s script readers) will write more about this in the next few weeks.

Finally I want to share with you another excellent piece of writing – Guardian journalist Eva Wiseman’s article about the healing powers of a solo visit to a weekday cinema matinee – which reinforces for me the power and value of story and screenwriting. (Eva herself is a very talented screenwriter who was on the 2016 Channel 4 screenwriting course).

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/20/in-the-darkness-of-a-matinee-cinema-judy-offers-a-glint-of-hope

The next newsletter will be on Friday November 15th

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

November 1st 2019

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2019 HIGHLIGHTS

Posted by admin  /   October 17, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2019 HIGHLIGHTS

Hi There,

Over the last couple of weeks I have been making my annual visit to the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL and have seen many extremely good films.

From a story telling POV it was quite inspiring to reflect on how different the 9 films I saw were in tone and subject matter; and it’s been a real education watching so many good films at the same time as reading so many scripts for the C4 course – seeing so many excellent, inspiring films has been a touchstone for the quality and originality we’re looking for in the 4screenwriting scripts.

On the way out of one of the films, CLEMENCY, I happened to be exiting next to Mike Leigh. Weirdly I’d walked into the TV room at home the evening before to find my wife watching NUTS IN MAY which she’d chanced upon on BBC iplayer. I wasn’t intending to watch but after a minute I was once again hooked and stayed for the rest of the film. Even though I’d seen it when it was first transmitted (a very long time ago!) and a few times since, I was still absolutely engrossed by its brilliantly uncomfortable comedy and by the wonderfully vivid characters played by Roger Sloman and Alison Steadman. It’s barely conceivable that Abigail in Abigail’s Party and Candace-Marie in Nuts In May are played by the same actor – they seem to have an entirely different physicality.

What really brings NUTS IN MAY to life is the colour of the characterisations – and the wonderful dynamics of the relationships.

It felt too much like fate for me not to button-hole Mike Leigh and come on like a slightly crazed fan-boy, tell him that I’d watched NUTS IN MAY the night before and on original TX and loved it just as much both times. ‘Oh that’s an old chestnut’ he said self-deprecatingly and in an effort to rid himself of this odd stranger.

But back to the LFF – CLEMENCY is a really powerful film about the black, female warden of a US prison who has to oversee state executions – and about the personal cost for her. The story is told simply but effectively and the film’s power is undeniable. There are a couple of sequences, seen from the POV of this lead character, that are almost unbearably intense.

GREED, written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, and starring Steve Coogan (leading a brilliant ensemble cast) is big, brash, vulgar and simplistic – and I absolutely loved it. It’s the film that at this particular time, I needed to see – a satirical critique of much that is sick about contemporary capitalist society. It’s thought-provoking, shocking – but also very funny – and has real flair as a piece of film-making and story-telling.

OFFICIAL SECRETS. Based on a true story, this is a detailed, minutely-observed and engrossing story about one woman’s act of conscience – and the ripples it causes (I’m trying to avoid spoilers so please excuse the vagueness!) Suffice to say, it’s an extraordinary story told with real skill and integrity.

One of the common themes of the Q&A’s that followed some of these films (one of the real pluses of seeing films at the LFF) was the difficulty in trying to raise funding for lower / mid-range budget films like GREED, OUR GIRLS, OFFICIAL SECRETS, HOPE GAP, etc. Both William Nicholson (writer/director of HOPE GAP) and OFFICIAL SECRETS producer Ged Doherty stressed how hard it is getting mid-range budget films like this made in the current market.

As Gavin Hood, director of OFFICIAL SECRETS said, ‘Audiences worldwide are going through a massive transformation’.

As an illustration of this – one of my favourite films this year was Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY. The film works brilliantly on the big screen – it feels cinematic but, like Baumbach’s previous and equally excellent film, THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES, MARRIAGE STORY is a Netflix film.

And it seems extraordinary that Martin Scorsese’s already very well-received epic three hour film THE IRISHMAN is also a Netflix film.

One thing that stands out about the good films is the strength of the idea / premise/ story / agenda underlying them. When as a writer you’re thinking about developing new ideas, one of the things you absolutely have to do is really cut through, make a statement with your idea. There are so many producers and writers out there battling for commissions and funding, that the most basic requirement is that you believe passionately in your idea and can articulate that passion. Another of the striking things about the Q&A’s I’ve been to is how long some of these projects have been in development – ‘Our Ladies’ writer / director Michael Caton-Jones had the option on the book for 20 years before finally getting it made. Guardian journalist Martin Bright had been trying to get a film of Catherine Gun’s story (OFFICIAL SECRETS) made for ten years.

Another thing that struck me anew was just how many of the best projects come from another source – a true story, a novel, a newspaper article etc. The brilliant realisation of a true story was there to see in OFFICIAL SECRETS AND Jack Thorne’s THE AERONAUTS.

And other films – like CLEMENCY, GREED, MARRIAGE STORY, HOPE GAP – the latter two both apparently using very particular autobiographical elements – tapped into the zeitgeist or used true stories as an inspiration for their fictionalised versions.

OFFICIAL SECRETS is in many ways a straightforward political thriller. But like all of the best of these films, it has real assurance and consistency of tone. You know exactly where you are with it but it has real tension, momentum and an admirable attention to detail that gives you a real confidence in the story’s integrity (reinforced by what director Gavin Hood said in the Q&A afterwards about the level of research they did).

So many of the best films are under-pinned by a compelling, specific, but universal question that the audience asks of the story eg OFFICAL SECRETS – would I have had the courage to do what Catherine Gun did? A simple compelling dramatic question that is at the heart of your story.

MARRIAGE STORY. Perhaps my favourite of the 9 films I saw. Quite a familiar cinema story – it has many narrative similarities to KRAMER VS KRAMER – but it was nonetheless a delight. I loved the confidence and flair of the story telling, also the way it played with form / genre – from the brilliant extended voiceover montage sequence at the start that pulls you straight into the story – to the two Company / Sondheim songs at the end – when the film suddenly almost becomes a musical. I loved the unexpected detail of the story – the little, weird, surprising  details that made this feel real. I loved the messy lack of resolution to the story. And there were so many wonderful standout scenes – not least the long, climactic argument scene. This was an argument that felt real – painful and hurtful. I loved the emotional use of objects to elevate the story, eg the couples’ written positive statements about each other for their first meeting with a mediator, that popped up at key moments of the story. For my money Noah Baumbach gets better and better as screenwriter / director. MARRIAGE STORY comes to Netflix in December alongside THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES. It’s really worth watching both several times to enjoy the screenwriting craft.

2 DAY SCREENWRITING COURSE October 12-13

Last weekend saw the latest of my semi-regular 2 day London weekend screenwriting courses. These courses are limited to a maximum of 20 writers. It’s a very packed, quite intensive two days – but it’s always a delight for me to meet 20 fired-up, passionate dramatic writers and to hear their wonderful ideas – so many of the ideas they pitched are still reverberating in my brain. The mix of people I have on the courses is mind-boggling – on this particular course we had three lawyers, a female police officer from Newcastle, an actress based in LA, a Scottish historian, a hypnotherapist, a documentary film-maker, a TV drama development executive etc etc – and one of the things I try to engineer / encourage is that the writers spend a lot of time talking to and bouncing ideas off each other. Writing is difficult because it’s so solitary and I hope one of the things these courses do is encourage the writers who come on them to make new writing contacts that last – and to keep encouraging and motivating each other in the years that follow. (There are already plans initiated by the writers on this course to start a new writing group).

I’m now looking forward to the next of these courses in mid-November (already fully booked I’m afraid). And I will be organising more of these courses for early in 2020.

The next newsletter will be on Friday November 1st.

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

October 18th 2019

10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS – KATE TRAILL

Posted by admin  /   October 03, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on 10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS – KATE TRAILL

Hi There,

This week a massive thank you to excellent screenwriter KATE TRAILL for her wonderfully entertaining and insightful answers to my 10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS.

But before that, I would like to thank you for the wonderful and overwhelming response to what Kat Roberts and I wrote in the last newsletter. I have never received so many emails in reply to one of my newsletters and especially so many heartfelt and brilliantly articulated replies. So many in fact that they presented me with something of a dilemma because there was enough in the responses for about 5 newsletters. So what I have done is written them up as a 2nd newsletter for this week for you to read if you’d like at your leisure – I’m always wary of over-burdening you with too much material! But if the subject of boarding schools, private education and the dysfunction and inequalities that it causes in the UK interests you, then there is definitely something for you here!

Former journalist Kate Traill is a Screenwriting MA graduate of LCC and is represented by Julie Press at Kitson Press Associates. She has a Young Adult drama series in development at Bryncoed Productions and is currently developing several TV drama scripts. 

 1. Why do you write?

I write because it quiets the stories in my head, momentarily at least! I write because it’s something I’ve always done – for joy as a child, for money as a journalist and now for hope and passion as a screenwriter (… and money again, I hope – she adds quickly).

I love stories. I love telling stories, I love re-hashing and re-working stories and I love the reactions I get from stories. On the flip side I hate writing crap, which I often do – I always think I can and should and must write better. When I write something really good I can almost taste it. I grew up as the family storyteller and it’s a part of my identity – I write because it’s me.

2. A book you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to tell us about.

Most of the books I love have already been adapted for film or TV, so I’ll choose one from my childhood that I’d love to see re-imagined for the screen (written by me, of course 😉 !)

WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech is the story of a young girl – Salamanca Tree Hiddle (ace name) – making a road trip across America with her grandparents to try and make sense of the disappearance of her depressed, runaway mother. It’s a coming-of-age mystery story that deals with raw, delicate family issues and death, and is incredibly moving.

It was the first book that really captured me as a tween, and I can see it re-imagined as an adapted screenplay for modern day, set in the UK with a struggling, breadline family.

I also fell in love with IF CATS DISAPPEARED FROM THE WORLD by Genki Kawamura. A beautiful, modern-day fairytale/horror about a dying man’s pact with the Devil and what it really means to lose the things we love.

3. The best TV / film (screenplay) of the last year and why.

Fleabag, Fleabag, Fleabag. Forever and ever, amen. If she’s off the table, then I loved DERRY GIRLS – specifically the final episode of Series One and its unexpected tear-jerker of an ending. The language, references and music also chimed with my teenage years (The Cranberries!) so it made you feel like one of the gang. Not as nuanced and cleverly intertwined as Fleabag but re-watch-worthy nonetheless. I also really enjoyed PURE and THE BISEXUAL. Again, little shows with kooky characters that either tapped into universal experiences or laced humanity into the unfamiliar. Film-wise, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME crept into my thoughts for months afterwards. Watching it felt like witnessing something truly special. US streaming TV-wise, HANNA had me gripped from the off.

4, 5. Which (2) writers / scripts inspire you and why?

Not a screenwriter but author DBC Pierre. I fell in love with VERNON GOD LITTLE fifteen years ago and have re-read it countless times. His world-building is phenomenal and his characters – though so extreme and grotesque almost to the point of caricature – feel alive and vital, if tragic. His subsequent novels never quite achieved the level of success of VGL but I still think about LIGHTS OUT IN WONDERLAND every now and again, so it obviously planted something in my brain. Both would make amazing film/limited series adaptations.

The most freeing, beautiful and joyful script that fills me with inspiration and drive to write from the heart is Richard O’Brien’s THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. It’s one of those bizarre, magical and ridiculous concepts that you could never explain to anyone in a pitch or as an idea… it just had to be written in order to exist, without censor or inhibition.

Phoebe-Waller Bridge is just incredible – re-watching FLEABAG S2 you notice that every tragic or comedic beat had already been planted in earlier eps (Clare’s hair, the fox, the Priest’s history with alcohol) – it was all there, quietly quilting itself together and leading up to the inevitable conclusion. Utterly brilliant.

6. What are the best internet resources / podcasts for writers?

I have just received my copy of Stephen Jeffreys’ book so I look forward to reading that. I feel rather lost in giving advice on podcasts and internet resources so I will be mining recommendations from others!

7. What are the best books for screenwriters?

CREATING THE SERIES and its predecessor WRITING THE PILOT by William Rabkin. Both are quite flimsy, and oddly formatted to the point of looking self-published, but boy are they brilliant for getting into the nooks and crannies of what it is you’re trying to create with a project and why. They also reference many fantastic and successful shows and look at how they grabbed their audiences the way they did. Can’t recommend these enough.

RELEASE THE BATS: WRITING YOUR WAY OUT OF IT by DBC Pierre is part biography/part guide to fiction writing (novels but can also apply to screenwriting). It’s kooky and funny and filled with lessons that Pierre has learnt the hard way – honest and inspirational.

8,9. 2 pieces of advice for writers

You are not your first draft! Get it out, get it messy, get it over with.

Go for long walks and runs. By doing something else and something active I find plot solutions, gorgeous dialogue and entire scenes will simply wander into my head, whereas sitting in front of screen sends me blank.

10. When and where do you write?

I type it all out on a laptop either on the sofa or in bed during the day (the shame! Never at the desk I insisted I absolutely must have), but really I write on the go – walking the dog, driving the kids to school, in the bath. Write in your head, then type it out.

Very disappointingly, I’ve discovered without doubt that I cannot write whilst drunk.

The next newsletter will be on Friday October 18th,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Oct 4th 2019