SCRIPT MENTORING

Posted by admin  /   December 10, 2018  /   Posted in TV Drama script editing  /   No Comments

SCRIPT MENTORINGhttp://script-consultant.co.uk/script-mentoring/

 

Hi There,

This week I’m delighted to announce that I’m re-launching and expanding my SCRIPT MENTORING service through my script-consultant.co.uk website (link above).

Apologies to those of you have been enquiring about this part of my script feedback service in the last few weeks and apologies that I have been stalling you!

Before I launched this initiative I wanted to be clear about exactly what it is I am offering. AND in expanding the service, I am delighted to say that three outstanding industry professionals have agreed to be part of this new initiative – with the prospect of more additions in the next few months – so that we can work with more writers (see below for details).

SO – here is an outline of what this SCRIPT MENTORING service will be about –

Why ‘SCRIPT MENTORING’? Having a long-term relationship (rather than just getting one-off feedback on single scripts) will allow for a closer working partnership and will enable you as writer to get continuous feedback on one or more projects and help you to hone your scripts so that they are ready to go out to the industry.

The relationship will allow for a combination of written feedback and face-to-face meetings. It will also combine feedback on specific projects (whether pitches, outlines, scripts) with professional / career advice, according to your need, and as the working relationship evolves.

I hope working on a longer-term basis with someone who you trust and get to know (and who is speaking from a position of real industry knowledge, experience and expertise) will mean that we can go deeper into your projects and be more helpful, constructive and creative in the way we work with you.

Mentoring relationships will last 6 months – 12 months.

The mentorships will comprise of 7 hours of meetings + 10 hours reading and written feedback from your mentor.

In general, meetings should follow on ASAP after you receive written feedback.

All meetings are to be held in agreed public venues in central London – unless otherwise agreed between writer & mentor.

If mutually convenient, Skype meetings are also possible – but face-to-face meetings are preferable. (We are very happy to work with writers who don’t live in London and are happy to work via Skype, phone and email). And while we think face-to-face meetings are always preferable, logistics and cost of travel are up to you).

The exact make-up of the mentoring relationship will be discussed at the initial meeting and as part of the developing writer / mentor relationship (eg whether you work on already existing scripts or start on a brand-new project).

At the end of the mentorship, we hope to be able to connect you (if so desired) to development executives, producers and literary agents – but this cannot be guaranteed and is dependent on your mentor’s assessment of your project/s at the end of the mentoring period. This will be assessed on a project-by-project basis. We cannot give you a guarantee at the start of the process that we will be able to help you promote and market a project.

COST – £1900. (payment details on the website page)

The maximum period for the mentorships is 1 year. This will only be extended if, at any stage, the mentor takes more than three weeks to get feedback to you. The aim will always be to get feedback to you within 3 weeks, hopefully quicker.

SCRIPT MENTORSHIP places are limited. Interested writers need to submit a sample script and writing CV to apply for a mentorship to philip.shelley@script-consultant.co.uk. We will let you know either way within 3 weeks of receipt of application email, CV & script. Covering emails should explain why you want to take up one of the mentorships and what you want to gain from it. (NB We won’t charge for assessing your application). You don’t need to be an experienced screenwriter to be accepted onto the script mentoring – we aim to work with both new and more experienced writers. But we will assess your level of ability – we want to work with writers who we feel we can help.

Please state in your application which mentor you would like to work with.

I will be working as a script mentor but I am delighted that KITTY PERCY, JAMIE HEWITT and JOE WILLIAMS will also be mentoring writers. Here is a brief introduction to all 3 (there is a more in-depth biog of each of them on the website) –

KITTY PERCY

I first met Kitty when she was on the 2015 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course. She wrote a brilliant script to get onto the course, a brilliant script on the course and has continued in that vein ever since. Without a doubt one of the most talented – and generous – emerging screenwriters in the UK at the moment.

JOE WILLIAMS

I also met Joe though the C4 screenwriting course. He worked as development co-ordinator in the Channel 4 drama department and was a shadow script editor on 4screenwriting 2015 (and – I’m delighted to say – will be one of the 4 script editors on the 2019 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course). He has since gone onto become head of development at Vox Pictures. For Vox/BBC he script-edited the first series of smash-hit series, KEEPING FAITH and is currently working on KF series 2.

JAMIE HEWITT

Jamie is someone else I met through the Channel 4 screenwriting course – as a script reader, shadow script editor and then as script editor, Jamie has been involved in the 4screenwriting course for several years and always seems to help the writers he works with to maximise their talents. As well as all his work on the Channel 4 course, Jamie has worked on some of the most intense, productive UK TV shows – DOCTORS, HOLBY (BBC), STRIKE BACK (Left Bank/ Sky).

Jamie and Joe have both worked with many new (as well as experienced) writers and (IMO) are two of the most talented, thoughtful script editors working in the UK today.

I have also been talking to other writers and script editors and we will be adding further names to the script-consultant SCRIPT MENTORING in 2019.

All the details – in more depth – are now on my website –

http://script-consultant.co.uk/script-mentoring/

 

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Please can I point you in the direction of screenwriter CHRIS LANG’s new website – https://www.chrislang.co.uk/

Chris is the Real Deal – successful writer of very many UK TV dramas including the perennially excellent UNFORGOTTEN. Chris’s website is a mine of useful information but the ‘Scripts’ section is particularly good. As well as the scripts, there are quite a few treatments and outlines – I think the UNFORGOTTEN series 3 outline is particularly good – a really good example of how to write these incredibly difficult documents. (Thank you Deborah Lewis for bringing this to my attention!)

And – a discussion between screenwriter HOSSEIN AMINI and screen/stage writer CONOR MCPHERSON – which is fascinating about the craft of dramatic story-telling. (Thank you Nigel Pilkington!)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001b88

 

And here’s a link to an excellent article on the Bruntwood Prize website by 4screenwriting alumna SOPHIE WOOLLEY thank you Sophie!

https://www.writeaplay.co.uk/what-are-the-stories-we-should-tell-on-our-stages-sophie-woolley/?fbclid=IwAR3ZUIrI_JKxeObFfATwC1A3Q8Y6Vi_KrU-_4iuZk-p3lSWLSWjzXJHTs0c

 

 

This is the last of my newsletters before Christmas. The next newsletter will be on Friday Jan 11th 2019, when I am excited to be telling you about my plans for series 2 of my TRIBUTE dramatic monologues podcast series.

I hope you have a great Christmas & New Year. I wish you the very best for all of your writing endeavours in 2019.

And I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of you for reading these fortnightly newsletters. And a particularly big thank you to all of you who, either by email or in person, have given me positive feedback about the newsletters. It’s very much appreciated and a great motivating factor for me to continue to write them. Thank you!

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

Dec 14th 2018

 

 

 

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019 : SCRIPT READER FEEDBACK

Posted by admin  /   November 25, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019 : SCRIPT READER FEEDBACK

 

 

Hi There,

This week I’m indebted to my very excellent team of readers for the 2019 CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE for sharing their thoughts and responses about what has been an intense reading process that we’ve all just undergone in finalising the shortlist of 34 writers for interview.

I’m hugely impressed by my readers’ insights – I think their observations are highly perceptive and will be of great value to screenwriters.

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Every reader reads 100+ scripts. Each script is only guaranteed a 20-page read. With 100+ scripts, finite hours in the day, and a dwindling lifeforce, a reader is only going to read beyond page 20 if a script has engaged them. There are several tips one could offer here. But I am going to focus on one: have a meaningful premise and then plot it in such a way that its dramatic question keeps evolving.

For example, let’s say my series is a romcom about two characters called, I dunno, “Ray” and “Philip”. As the writer, I have also decided two things: 1) By Episode 6, I want my randomly named characters to consummate their relationship; 2) At the start of Episode 1, they don’t know each other.

Many scripts submitted this year would write Episode 1 as a bunch of incidents and verbal exchanges in which characters are introduced and by the end of which Ray and Philip are aware of each other’s existence. What does this mean? It means the story for the whole episode is “Ray meets Philip”. Hardly a dynamic, dramatic or gripping premise – really, just one beat stretched over dozens of pages.

So, I need to break down the journey to Raylip’s consummation into interesting or meaningful staging posts. Perhaps a more useful story for Episode 1 is “Philip realises there is something special about Ray”. Well, it gives us something to play with. However, many of the scripts submitted this year would plot this story as: 1) Ray meets Philip; 2) They have a long conversation; 3) As Ray walks away, Philip realises there is something special about him. Again – hardly dynamic, dramatic or gripping.

Although the story of the episode (Philip realises there is something special about Ray) is one piece of the series arc (Ray and Philip Get It On), how that episode’s story is plotted can to an extent be self-contained and deploy all of the usual story-telling tools (e.g. inciting incident, turning point, complication, resolution, etc.) so that its beats take place in a plot that develops, has movement, and maybe surprise. Consequently, Episode 1 keeps you turning the page and is a satisfying narrative experience whilst also establishing the characters, tone, style, and premise of the overall series.

To illustrate: Philip turns up to the first Script Reading meeting late, apologising for the Nutella* fingerprints on his notes, he was throwing out an old jar that was past its best-before date; nervous before his master, sweet-tooth’d Ray can’t believe anyone would let a jar go out-of-date; Philip jokingly suggests Ray would drink a jar down in one go, Ray scoffs that of course he can, Philip thinks he’s lying, an argument escalates and Philip challenges Ray to prove it next week or else get thrown out of the Script Reading Members Club; despite counsel from fellow readers, Ray goes into training but can never manage a whole tub; meanwhile, Philip attends a Channel 4 H&S course and begins to regret his actions; Ray realises he will fail and be thrown out of the script reading circle, he weeps as he reads his last few scripts; at the next meeting, defiant Ray disgorges a tub of Nutella into his mouth, but dehydrates quickly and begins to struggle, H&S trained Philip springs into action and tips the undried tears from the scripts into Ray’s throat for lubrication; Ray thanks Philip, his status as script reader safe for now and… as Ray walks away, Philip realises there is something special about him.

Obviously, this is nonsense and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. But the point is: 1) You can plot a story a million different ways, but many of the submissions don’t plot they simply parse out a premise; 2) A pilot episode needs to introduce characters, its world and series questions, but a good way to do this is through the prism of a self-contained narrative serving a broader arc; 3) With the plot settled on, you can organise your script along a series of evolving questions that help propel the reader forward (e.g., will Philip get to the meeting on time? Will nervous Ray make an idiot of himself at the meeting? Will Ray get kicked out of the Script Reading Club? Can Philip stop Ray from doing something foolish? Will Ray die eating a jar of Nutella?) – thus maximising your chances of a reader reading beyond page 20.

*N.B. Yes, I am eating Nutella as I write this.

Ray McBride

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How to write a winning script in 5 cliches

1) Write what you know

This doesn’t mean that if you run a bakery in Brighton, you can only write Brighton based bakery dramas. It means everyone knows something— grief, loss, shame— in a way that nobody else does, and that something-only-you-know is the magic ingredient to any script. The best scripts I read were the ones that were the most honest about this something, whether the setting was post-apocalypse England or a hospital or an office. If it’s real to you, it’s real to me, and if it’s real to me I’m going to care.

2) Get in late, leave early

Every line on the page is precious space, don’t waste it. If the point of the scene is that Annie is pregnant, I don’t need to see Annie going to the pharmacy, getting the test, finding a toilet, waiting for it to be free… just show me the test. Get in, get out, keep moving. A slow pace is the first thing to stop me reading on in a script.

3) Tell your story in the simplest way possible 

There’s a fine line between complex and complicated. There seems to be an urge for new writers to prove themselves by adding time jumps, multiple character threads and dream sequences, but this doesn’t actually prove you can write. Good stories generally know how they want to be told, and good writing is learning how to tap into that. If a story needs a flashback, it will tell you so.

4) First impressions count

Frankly, when I open a badly formatted script, I mark it down in my head. Good formatting not only makes the reading easier, but gives me a sense of the writer’s professionalism and commitment to their craft. Not everyone can afford Final Draft, but free alternatives like Celtx are easy to use and come out beautifully.

Good formatting also means giving me a maximum of five lines of action description per paragraph, labelling your time jumps, and proof reading to make sure you’ve put all the right character names in the dialogue. These kinds of mistakes slow down my reading of the script, and even if the story is good it’ll be hard to shake the negative first impression.

5) Trust your reader, have confidence

Cut your adverbs. Cut any line that starts with ‘he/she feels’. Cut any recapping of the plot so far, or reminding of the stakes. Don’t tell me what’s happening in the story, tell me your story. If it’s strong enough, I’ll get it, and I’ll like it all the more for trusting me to get it

Lily Shahmoon

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Think really hard about who your characters are and why your reader or audience will want to spend time with them. Will they have seen a character of this description (eg, a disillusioned millennial stuck living with their parents, a lonely middle aged male detective) before, and if so, how is this version different? Perhaps they’re in a completely unfamiliar setting, or genre? The key is to be distinct without feeling contrived: if you’re having to work too hard to distinguish your character from their cinematic predecessors, it might be a sign that you need to choose someone else as a focus for your story.

Don’t neglect plot. Compelling characters and good dialogue alone won’t keep us hooked – or, crucially, suggest an aptitude for writing TV, which demands scope. And don’t let the plot fizzle out, either: structure your writing carefully to ensure that the characters’ circumstances need to keep evolving right until the end.

Finally: the submissions that stood out were those that left the strongest emotional impact. This doesn’t need to mean high drama, either: some of the most touching moments were in the quietest scripts. What those scripts shared, however, was a degree of focus in the writing that allowed us to become completely absorbed by the story and characters. Without this, it’s impossible to let your critical faculties relax enough to be really moved.

Nancy Napper Canter

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Conversation vs. Dialogue:

Lots of dialogue fell into the trap of just being conversational. Of course you want your dialogue to give the illusion of two (or more) people talking naturally but it has to do more for your story than just that, because dialogue in drama (and comedy) is not just people talking. There was a trend in the scripts I read for lots of ‘banter’ (for want of a better word) between characters. The problem with a lot of this type was that there was a sense of fun in these scenes for the writer writing it but it wasn’t adding anything to the scene or the overall story. If you’re a fan of this style then go back to a TV show or film you admire that does it and analyse how it’s done within the context of the scene as a whole. Don’t take into account just the dialogue but all the elements of the scene in how this works.

For the purpose of making a point about dialogue, and this is a really basic example; think of a conversation between two people about a cup of tea and how they like it, which probably at face value isn’t going to be interesting or dramatic, but it could be depending on the characters, the situation, and your voice as a writer.

For example; A wife comes home to her husband and he hides his mistress under the bed and the unsuspecting spouse begins a conversation about if he wants a cup of tea, now there is dramatic impetus to what otherwise would be a mundane conversation. Then what if perhaps the unsuspecting spouse actually knows about the mistress under the bed but still starts this conversation, there are so many elements to play with. The situation informs how the characters act and speak, they’ve got motives, and you’ve got the opportunity for subtext, tension, and therefore; drama.

Or for comedy you only have to think about how well something like The Royle Family tackled seemingly mundane life and conversations and turned them into comedy gold – mainly through absolute clarity of character and their relationships and interactions with each other.

What’s it about?

The less successful scripts I read were unclear what they were about. When we write our reports for Philip we are asked to write a simple Logline or synopsis of what we’d read and there were quite a few occasions where this was difficult because there was a lack of clarity and purpose to the beginning of the scripts. Even if you’re dealing with a complex or surprising plot the premise, generally, should be clear in the opening pages. As a reader (and/or viewer) we want to know what we’re signing up for.

What’s the point?

As a side note to that there were quite a lot of scripts inspired by the politics of our time. If you’re tackling an issue you really need to be clear what your message is and if your plot is really the best vehicle to explore that issue. There were some writers that tackled issues such as #metoo and #timesup, and racism, and sexism, but although their intentions were sincere they missed the mark in actually communicating what I think they were trying to say. If you’re going to tackle anything like this you really have to be clear on what your message is and interrogate how you tell that as a dramatic story.

Plot

I’d say one of the main weaknesses in the unsuccessful scripts was plot. There could be a great premise and characters but the plot itself wasn’t engaging or told in an interesting or surprising way. Most writers could have afforded to push themselves harder in finding the best plot to tell their story in a more original way.

And from someone far more prolific and worth listening to than me….

A really useful and concise piece of advice on writing is David Mamet’s memo to the writers of The Unit. Read it, it’s really useful, and be honest with yourself about your own writing and where it could improve and if you’re doing these things.   https://gideonsway.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/david-mamets-letter-to-the-writers-of-the-unit/

Paul Williams

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I will keep this brief, as the wise words of the other readers have covered much of our experience. The main thing to say is essentially:

Create characters that you care deeply for, and the reader will care too. This will root them in your plot, ensuring you make the right decisions for their story.

Slightly off topic but important, one pattern that it would be great not to see repeated:

Please treat your female characters with the same respect as you do male characters. If I have to read another character description along the lines of ‘she’s 40 but looks good for her age’, I may scratch my eyes out.

It was a pleasure reading so many inventive, moving scripts – please keep writing!

Amy Chappelhow

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Thank you so much to Ray, Lily, Nancy, Paul and Amy for taking the trouble to share their insights – and for the brilliant work they have done as readers for the 2019 C4 screenwriting course. And thank you to all you writers who have had the courage and commitment to your craft for submitting your scripts and giving us the privilege of enjoying your stories.

The next newsletter will be on Friday Dec 14th – in which I will let you know about a new SCRIPT MENTORING initiative I’m starting through my website.

Until then

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

November 30th 2018

 

 

WRITER FEEDBACK

Posted by admin  /   November 15, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on WRITER FEEDBACK

 

Hi There,

This week – a report back from one of  my recent script mentees, Ann Hawker, on her experiences at The Writer’s Lab 2018 Sponsored by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman –

‘In September this year I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in The Writer’s Lab, a scheme sponsored by Meryl Steep and Nicole Kidman and hosted by Women in Film and TV in New York.

Twelve women writers and writer/directors over the age of 40 were selected from the United States, the UK, Canada and Ireland to take part in a four day intensive workshop with mentoring provided by producers, writers and script doctors from both Hollywood and New York.

The twelve of us writers met in the middle of a New York thunderstorm at Penn Station to make the four hour train journey “Up State” to the breathtaking Lake George. The retreat was held in a nineteenth century summer house built on the lake. If we weren’t already feeling inspired by our company and our mentors the surroundings alone would have been enough!

My fellow participants were an amazing group of women who combined a huge amount of writing and life experience. Most were in some way already linked with the world of drama or film. There were several actresses, documentarians, a camera operator, a lighting electrician as well as several feature film writer/directors.

We had all applied with a specific script and had been lucky enough to have been selected from a thousand applicants. (A thank you to Phil Shelley, who helped with my script!) Over the four days we received intensive one to one feedback from producers and writers on our individual scripts, as well as participating in more general group sessions.

So what did I learn? The producers and writers approached their notes differently, but both came back to the same thing; the importance of character. In my sessions with my writer mentor I found myself going deep into the back story of my characters and interrogating every last piece of their motivation. Meanwhile my producer looked at my script with an eye to casting and attracting talent. She emphasised how much top talent are drawn to fully rounded and motivated characters.

All the mentors emphasised the need for an authorial voice which comes through writing from the heart. It is this which can help create a unique script and ultimately one which might get made. It was striking how many of the selected scripts had strong personal connections with the writers.

My script, which dealt with my experience of Alzheimer’s in my family, touched a real chord with the producer I was working with, whose father was suffering from dementia. So in my case, writing from personal experience led to a strong professional bond, which hopefully will continue!

Since I was in America it was hardly surprising there was a big emphasis on pitching. Don’t go into a general meeting in the US without a carefully honed and well rehearsed pitch! No off the cuff ramblings allowed. A top pitching tip was to always start with your own personal interest in the story, why you chose to write the script and importantly why only you can write it.

Some of the producers recommended creating a look book for your project. A collection of visual reference points and inspirations which can go a long way to capturing the tone of your project. This was probably more relevant for the writer/directors, but it could be a useful exercise for writers as well.

The advice was sometimes surprisingly detailed. There were tips on how to dress for those important producer meetings… (no surprises here, not your slouch pants and a baggy jumper). Would that topic ever come up in a room full of men writers? I doubt it. I suppose this points to some of the extra hoops older women writers feel they have to jump through.

The overall message was clear. As writers we need not only an impressive and unique script, but we need to be able to sell it to producers and commissioners with professionalism and self belief. What was encouraging was that there’s also no doubt that we writers are our own best ambassadors.

We are the people who have the passion for our scripts, we know how we want them to hit emotionally, we have researched and lived what we have written in our pages and there are many commissioners, producers and executives out there eager to hear that experience.’

Thank you very much Ann.

…AND a response to something I wrote a few weeks ago about meetings, ideas, pitching etc- and about finding the best way forward for you as individual writers –

‘This is the area I feel I really suffer from. I am not a natural at fleshing out bags of ideas. I do not have a secret drawer. I learn my ideas/characters by writing them out in scripts – by giving them monologues and scenes. This makes my process lengthy and haphazard and that just doesn’t swing in this telly climate sometimes. I feel I constantly let people down.

I was never really prepared for how to go into telly meetings, and despite having now met tons of lovely script editors, producers and developers I really don’t think I’ve yet to find my groove.

I have developed a spread of stuff – sometimes really me – but more often than not – not me at all. And it’s been a horrid journey of material that falls apart in your fingers and causes hours of wasted time for everyone.

I feel it’s so important what you have said about the idea being exceptional and YOURS. I think there’s a bit of a false idea that you should have a million projects in with a million indies – but actually if you’re like me, you have to fall in love with an idea – and I find it very hard to fall in love that often – it’s just who I am. Yes, it makes it rather nerve wracking – the whole question of ‘what are you up to’ but I suppose you just have to hold that nerve and know that when you do have an idea that takes over, you will finally be able to answer that question with more than just ‘oh some stuff’.

The best time I’ve had this year and a reminder that whilst I might not come up with reams of material by myself – when surrounded by peers I am on FIRE! I just really love a writers room to be honest – think it chimes with what you said about being playful and under time pressure.’

 

NEW FREE EVENT | On 4 Dec @shootingpeoples host their final SHORT CUTS event of 2018. They will be joined by one of the UK’s most prolific and accomplished producers, the Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning, Stephen Woolley (Carol, On Chesil Beach, Interview with the Vampire) for an in-depth Q&A. It’s also their end of year Christmas party, so expect a few extra treats to boot. Get your FREE ticket before they go http://bit.ly/SPCDEC4.

 

The next newsletter will be in two weeks’ time on Friday November 30th – in which I (and my script readers) will reflect on the (very positive!) experience of working our way through the 2800 scripts that were submitted for the 2019 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course.

Until then

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

November 16th 2018

 

AUTUMN DRAMA SCRIPT HIGHLIGHTS

Posted by admin  /   October 30, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on AUTUMN DRAMA SCRIPT HIGHLIGHTS

 

Hi There,

This week a look back at some of my drama highlights from this Autumn so far –

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2018

SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (adapted from one of his own short stories). Lead actor Bill Nighy was interviewed afterwards and talked about how director Kar Hunter sold the job to him – told him 3 things about the shooting process – 1. No close-ups. 2. No improvisation. 3. No shots of anyone getting in and out of cars, going in and out of houses.

I think we can all learn from no.3. There aren’t many times where these sorts of shots are anything other than dead screen-time. A good reminder that every shot, every moment, has to count. If you’re writing scenes in which characters get in and out of cars, walk in and out of houses, brush their teeth, shower, have breakfast, dial a phone number, buy something in a shop…I could go on – think very carefully about whether you need these moments. Do they tell us something vital about the characters? Do they have story meaning? Do they advance or change the story? If not, cut them out.

Screenwriting is so much about the way you cut between the different scenes, as much about what you leave out as what you include. The great virtue of screenwriting and the way you can cut between scenes is that you can leave out the boring bits and include only the interesting bits.

Screenwriting is about telling the story in the way you move between the scenes. In this way script editors and writers need to think like film editors.

HAPPY NEW YEAR COLIN BURSTEAD

Writer / director Ben Wheatley introduced the film with a self-deprecating references to Mike Leigh. ‘I’ve done my NUTS IN MAY with SIGHTSEEERS, and this is my ABIGAIL’S PARTY.’ (It may also have been something to do with the fact that Mike Leigh was in the baudience.)

This made me think about the nature of creativity. None of us start with a completely blank page. What we experience and what we watch and read can’t help but influence and inspire us. It was really interesting to be reminded of how Ben Wheatley has picked up the baton from Mike Leigh – how we all need role models, how generation passes on the creative spark to generation. However much HNYCB is inspired by ABIGAIL’S PARTY, it’s still absolutely its own thing and an expression of Ben Wheatley’s artistic sensibilities. It’s a brilliant depiction of family. I was going to say ‘dysfunctional family’ but what family isn’t dysfunctional in some way? And the brilliant observations in this film feel emotionally universal. There are so many great performances and it’s very funny.

It’s also deceptively narratively tight. It’s essentially a study of family who get together for a New Year celebration but there are a load of narrative clues and hooks that make it compelling as a piece of story-telling as well as a study of family and relationships. The ultimate message seemed to be – however difficult we find our families, we all, ultimately, need them.

Both SAN & HNYCB had strong narrative threads of ‘The Prodigal Son.’ Bible stories are a great source of universal story templates.

THE FRONT RUNNER / FAHRENHEIT 11-9

I saw these two political films straight after each other and the comparisons / contrasts were interesting. TFR is about 1988 democrat presidential Gary Hart and his campaign to become president being destroyed by a sex scandal. The film’s thesis seems to be that Hart was one of the first victims of tabloid excesses – the film dramatises Hart’s furious response to questions about his marriage and private life. On the one hand the film seems to be saying Hart was a noble man who was victimised by the press but on the other hand it’s also saying that he was a bit a sleaze-bag, who had extra-marital affairs & one-night stands with several women and brought defeat on himself (although it’s very much the first idea that dominates). While the film is objectively excellent – the acting, direction and writing are of the highest standard, ultimately I felt that this film was trying to have its cake and eat it; and that it didn’t really know what it was saying. I think it’s trying to be interestingly complex but for me, this is a classic example of a lot of time, money, talent and effort being expanded on a deeply flawed idea – and it will amaze me if this film is successful (although it’s very much worth seeing).

FAHRENHEIT 11-9 on the other hand is Michael Moore’s best film for some time (although IMO all of his films are pretty damn good – the world needs more campaigning, committed film journalists like Michael Moore). The film tries to hit a lot of targets and it could be said that it’s a bit scatter-gun in its approach – but it is undeniably powerful. It has a real emotional kick and is terrifying and inspiring in equal measure. The film covers so many completely extraordinary stories. It’s films like this that make me despair of the less good, small ideas that I get pitched. When so many terrible, jaw-dropping things are happening in the world, so many things that need to be exposed and discussed, do we really need a comedy drama about a family-run café and its owners attempt to keep it running? (NB This is MY terrible idea – NOT an idea that I’ve been pitched – but just there to show you what a low stakes drama idea looks like to me!).

And it’s not just Trump who gets both barrels from Moore – there is also some really interesting flak for Obama and the democrats.

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY – National Theatre

This is what I call a good idea – an epic 3 ½ hour play, performed by 3 actors, about the history of Lehman Brothers – from the arrival of the three brothers in the USA from Bavaria in the 1840’s to their role in the financial crash of 2008 (and the company’s liquidation) – in effect a history of US (and World) capitalism seen through the prism of a single family and their business. And the play lived up to the promise of its compelling idea – the writing is razor-sharp – never less than fascinating, often humorous and at times really powerful. Above all it feels epic – and important. The script is enhanced by the brilliant direction and performances. All three actors are outstanding, the musical accompaniment almost throughout by single piano works wonderfully and the design is also excellent – really classy, well-judged, unshowy direction by Sam Mendes. I could never claim to be the most patient audience member but I was gripped throughout the 3 ½ hours; I was even a bit surprised and disappointed when the play ended – and at that length, that’s the greatest compliment I can give it.

STORIES by Nina Raine – National Theatre, Dorfman

Beautifully-observed writing about a subject that is emotionally universal and felt all the more so because this account of it also felt so specific and personal. The story of a 39 year old woman who is determined to have a baby. As a follow-up to the wonderful CONSENT, STORIES marks Nina Raine out as one of the foremost dramatic writers in the UK at the moment.

C4 SCRIPT-READING

It’s been a very enjoyable (ongoing), thought-provoking process discussing the scripts with my team of 7 script readers. I talk a lot about the huge importance of characters with whom we can relate but one of the things that keeps coming up in many of the scripts I’ve responded to is a big, clear story hook. When you start reading a script, as a reader you need something to hold onto, something to anchor you in the story. In some of the best scripts the title points the way, but there’s also a really clear and compelling narrative idea that is evident often from the very start of the script.

It’s also been great shifting between long days of concentrated reading broken up by the occasional theatre matinee and bouts of LFF films (it’s a tough life but someone’s got to do it) and using some of the brilliant plays and films I’ve seen as a touchstone for the standard of scripts I should be looking for in the 4screenwriting submissions. And it’s been really exciting to read so many scripts that absolutely live up to the standards of shows like STORIES and HAPPY NEW YEAR COLIN BURSTEAD. It feels like a very exciting privilege to be on the front-line of discovering some of the new dramatic writing talent in the UK.

The next newsletter will be on Friday November 16th.

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

November 2nd 2018

 

STORY IDEAS & PITCHING Part 2

Posted by admin  /   October 19, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on STORY IDEAS & PITCHING Part 2

Hi There,

Following on from my newsletter two weeks ago about story ideas and pitching, here are some more related thoughts –

MEETINGS

Once you’ve written 2 or 3 outstanding spec scripts and people in the industry are starting to take notice of you, you will get a lot of meetings and you need to be ready to take advantage of what these meetings offer.

If a producer / script editor / development executive gets in touch and offers to meet up for a cup of tea and a chat, for a ‘general’ meeting – this is NOT just about a cup of tea and a chat. No script editor is going to want to meet up with you unless they genuinely like your writing and are keen to work with you. This initial meeting will be to sound you out – to make sure you and they are roughly on the same wave-length, that you come across as professional and conscientious but, most importantly, they want to know what ideas you might like to write about, and to see if there’s any common ground between your interests and theirs. So don’t rock up waiting to be impressed. You need to have done your homework, researched the person you’re meeting and the company they work for (and even the companies this script editor used to work for) and have constructive, engaged opinions about the shows made by the company you’re going to see – this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be glowingly positive about every show they’ve ever made.

For a script editor / producer these meetings aren’t casual social events to pass the time. If they want to meet you, they have already made a significant commitment to you as a writer – and you need to make the most of these opportunities. Us Brits like to downplay things and you have to be adept at reading the sub-text of what is said.

 

GENERATING STORY IDEAS

Above all, you need to go into these meetings armed with ideas that you’re passionate about writing. The industry is hungry for your good ideas and if they are good, companies will commit to them and you will have to be continually creating and generating brilliant new ideas. As professional TV dramatists this is almost as important a part of your work as actually writing the scripts. It’s these new ideas that are going to get you new script-writing work.

Go for ideas that don’t just interest you but impact on you emotionally. Those are the stories we’re all looking for – stories that address what bothers, excites, scares, terrifies, infuriates, overjoys you. What excites and enthuses you? What are your secret passions? What / who do you love (or hate? And why?) Stories that evoke an emotional response. Stories that challenge the status quo. It’s not enough that your story is intellectually a good idea. It has to have emotional resonance.

Think about – why your story needs to be told now. Even (particularly) if it’s a period story. What does your story tell us about the world we live in today?

Don’t think that because an idea came to you easily that you should be suspicious of it. OR conversely if you have struggled working on an idea for years that that confers status on it. The opposite is more often true – the best ideas come quickly and easily.

You will feel / know when your pitch / idea is good. And it will be easy to pitch. And anyway it’s not about the delivery of the pitch, it’s about the quality of the idea.

But you have to put yourself in the right place (mentally and physically) to be open to these ideas. Look outward more than inward.

 

MAKING THE MOST OF THE OPPORTUNITIES

Sometimes the switch between no success or recognition at all in the TV drama world – and fighting off the meetings and offers – changes very quickly. The industry is quite small and producers and script editors are constantly swapping notes on who’s good. If you get onto one scheme like 4screenwriting you may suddenly find you get all sorts of other offers. You need to make sure you’re ready to take advantage of these opportunities when they do come along. And if you’re putting yourself out there and working hard at writing scripts, generating ideas and meeting people, and nothing is coming of it, then you need to be able to stand back and revaluate why things aren’t happening for you and work out what you need to do differently. Because there is an industry of people actively, hungrily looking for new writers, and if you’re working at it but not breaking through there will be a good reason for it – but perhaps one that the potential employers are too polite / cowardly to tell you. At the same time, you need to be sure that you are receptive to constructive feedback about how you can improve your chances of success.

 

WORKING RELATIONSHIPS

At a certain tipping point when you have got to know quite a few people in the industry and know who you want to work with and who you don’t, these people will start coming to you with their ideas. Sometimes it’s smart as a writer to be receptive to ideas that companies are bringing to you – this is an advantageous position to start from – when the company is trying to persuade you of the virtue of their ideas rather than the other way round. The company / script editor will already have an emotional / vested interest in the idea and you will be leaping on board momentum that has already been built up in-house without having to initially persuade them of the virtue of your idea. And hopefully the ideas that companies bring to you will already be informed by their knowledge of what is likely to get commissioned at that particular moment.

 

PITCH DOCUMENTS

These documents are very hard to write. They’re a completely different skill to writing a script but they’re really important and as screenwriters you need to embrace the challenge of writing them.

What these documents aren’t about is a detailed chronology of plot detail – we just want the absolute story essentials. Resist getting bogged down in plot when pitching – pitching is about the wider overview, not detailed plot chronology.

They are about expressing the uniqueness of your idea. What is utterly distinctive and exciting about your idea? Why does it need to be made – now? What is the emotional hook of your idea? Why are you not only the best writer for this project but the only writer who could write it? What is the compelling dramatic premise / narrative hook of your idea? Who are the vivid compelling characters at the heart of your story? What are the detailed visual images / tableaus / moments that articulate your idea?

These are the sorts of questions your document needs to address – and the document needs to address them in the shortest form possible. No reader wants an initial written pitch for a project to be 20 pages. Ideally they’d like it to be one page. But if you feel that you need 2-3 pages to do real justice to the idea, then that’s fine. But you should write this document with real economy. There should be no repetition.

The document needs to convey not just your passion / excitement but also the tone / stylistic approach. If you’re pitching a comedy, your written pitch needs to be funny. If you’re pitching a thriller, it needs to be thrilling.

And the way you write it needs to convey how excited you are about the idea. But like the best scripts, all of this needs to be sub-textual. There is nothing more off-putting in these pitch documents than empty promises – assurances that the script will be funny, heart-breaking, thrilling, without any evidence of this in the document. These documents need to deliver not tease. At the same time, these documents aren’t meant to be a complete package – they’re just supposed to pique interest and initiate a conversation and questions about the idea.

As with your scripts, get feedback on your pitches, try them out on people, work on them and redraft them before you submit them professionally. Treat them with the focus and dedication you would a script.

Identify the essence of what is exciting and unique about your idea and keep this at the heart of your pitch. The clarity of the idea is key.

The next newsletter will be on Friday Nov 2nd,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

October 19th 2018

 

PITCHING / IDEAS

Posted by admin  /   October 05, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on PITCHING / IDEAS

Hi There,

I’ve had a hugely enjoyable week with three days of courses – on Tuesday my STORY, IDEAS AND CHARACTER ‘masterclass’ at the Indie Training Fund (who this week merged with Creative Skillset to become ‘SCREENSKILLS’ in case you’re interested); and then on Wednesday and Thursday 2 sessions with the BBC writersroom 2018 Drama Room intake (15 writers selected from their annual Drama script submissions for 6 month mentoring and script development).

On both of these courses, I asked the writers to find an idea from 2 pages of newspapers and create the best feature film or TV show pitch they could get from their particular pages. The results were astonishing – and I’ve had a very enjoyable time listening to some very exciting, imaginative pitches for a lot of shows that I would very much like to see on our screens.

I want to say a massive thank you to all the writers involved for their whole-hearted, committed approach to these exercises – they put in a lot of effort (and had the courage to pitch their ideas in rooms full of about 20 people).

I’ve used this and similar exercises many times on courses and they nearly always produce brilliant stories and pitches. It seems to me that the more parameters, the more limitations, the less time you give, the better the ideas that come out of the exercise.

But the ideas I’ve been listening to over the last three days, created through ‘artificial’ games and exercises, are also better than nearly all of the ideas that I’ve been pitched in proper writer meetings over the last year. I say this a little reluctantly. As you may have gathered I try quite hard to be positive in these newsletters. But if there’s one area of screenwriting that I’d say writers need to think more about, it’s this area – creating ideas that are likely to be picked up by producers. (This is both true of writers when they initially pitch their ideas at the start of the Channel 4 course and in development meetings I’ve had outside of the Channel 4 course).

And this is true both of verbal pitches but perhaps even more so of written pitches and outlines which seem to be fiendishly hard to get right.

So here are some related thoughts  –

This should go without saying but I’m going to say it anyway! Particularly if you’re a new writer with no TV track record (but actually this applies all writers of any level of experience) the ideas you pitch don’t just have to be good – they have to be exceptional. No self-respecting indie is going to commission you to write even an outline for £500 unless they are genuinely excited by the idea and think that it has a hope of cutting through and being attractive to the decision-makers, the commissioning executives.

There is no allowance for the fact that you’re a newer writer. Whoever you are, you are directly competing with Jed Mercurio and Sally Wainwright. Your ideas don’t just have to be as good as their ideas (who’s going to pick your similar idea over writers with track records like theirs?) it has to be considerably better.

So the ideas you pitch have to be outstanding and exceptional. And when you pitch them you have to believe this. And if they’re not outstanding and exceptional because you haven’t fully thought them through yet, but you’re just trying them out in meetings in their early development phase, then you shouldn’t be pitching them.

Instead you should try them out on your friends, loved ones or more particularly those who you trust to give you constructive but, above all, brutally honest feedback. (You’ll find teenage children are very useful in this respect).

It’s a great time for newer writers to be pitching new ideas because there are quite a few precedents at the moment of shows from brand new writers being picked up and even made (by both traditional broadcasters and SVOD’s). But they’re only being picked up because they are outstandingly good ideas – and because the writer has gone into a meeting with an indie and managed to persuade a script editor, then an executive producer, then a commissioning editor (and probably several other people besides) of the uniqueness and excellence of their idea.

Not only that – but you also need to persuade those who hold the purse-strings that YOU are the best writer for this story – indeed that you are the ONLY writer who could tell the story you want to tell.

Listening to so many great ideas this week has really made me think about what a good TV drama idea is, what it looks and sounds like.

There were a couple of ideas that were pitched to me yesterday that were epic – stories that were spread over several years in a life and over different continents – about struggle, hardship and ultimate redemption. Be ambitious in the ideas you pitch. Don’t limit yourself and your ideas. Go for scale, ambition and the EPIC! Go for BIG ideas.

Titles. In another exercise I get writers to come up with completely random titles and then create stories from the titles. Two of the titles that generated cracking stories – THE WINTER IS COMING and SEVEN WAYS HOME. Strong, imaginative titles like this can spark strong, imaginative stories.

(So many good ideas have come up this week through (frankly) quite silly games and exercises. But I think the silliness is really important. Creativity is so much easier in a playful environment. It should be FUN, it shouldn’t be sitting staring at a computer screen until your brain bleeds.)

The devil is in the detail. Stories and characters come alive through telling detail – particularly visual detail. Memorable visual images and moments between characters can stand out (rather than more generalised descriptions of character qualities).

Following on from this was a discussion of the mundane aspects of our lives that contain insightful, defining characteristics – what we eat, what we buy at the supermarket; what we wear; what newspapers we read; our mode of transport; social media profile and activity. If you can imagine all of this for your character, you have gone a long way to creating an utterly unique, clearly-defined person. So often it’s these authentic, idiosyncratic details that bring characters to life.

I’m going to carry on these thoughts about ideas, pitching and how you generate new stories and invent new characters in 2 weeks time…

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019

The final script total for the 2019 course was (gulp) a whopping 2800 which myself and my small team of readers have now begun to read and discuss. If you entered – thank you very much. It will be a good few weeks before we have any news but we really appreciate the level of interest in the course and are delighted that so many people submitted scripts. I’ve already read several cracking scripts and I can see the choice of the final 12 is going to be ridiculously difficult. But it’s a really exciting process discovering so many talented new dramatic writers, reading so many wonderful stories.

A message from excellent 4screenwriting alumna DREW MARKE –

****FEMALE WRITERS WANTED****

A Call to Arms for our scribing sisters!

The 14th of December this year will mark 100 years since the first woman in the UK cast a vote. The first time a woman had a say in who would make the decisions that affected her. It would take another ten years for all women to be granted that right, but still, it was a momentous occasion worth celebrating, don’t you agree? Earlier this year we formed a female creative collective to develop a piece of work to commemorate this centenary, and as a response to #MeToo and the Time’s Up movement. On the 14th of December 2018, at Above the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square we will be celebrating this groundbreaking event with an evening of pieces, produced, directed, written, and performed by women.

We are still looking for some additional writing for our show and we would love submissions of monologues, duologues, songs, or spoken word which hold up a mirror to contemporary female experience, or are inspired by or based on the achievements of extraordinary women, or the gagged, mute, invisible and hidden; those who have been airbrushed from history. With that said we would really like a selection of pieces which not only examine oppression but are celebratory, that are bold and unapologetic or posit an alternative way of being; an opportunity to re-write the narrative. Each piece should be no longer than 10 minutes. At this stage in proceedings, what we can offer with regards to remuneration in that the profits from the show will be equally divided amongst those taking part.

It is our intention for this to be the inaugural event to launch an ongoing, collaborative group of creators who get together on a monthly basis to discuss issues and stories, current and historical, that matter to women, and will inspire and inform our future work as individuals and as a collective. We want to keep the conversation alive, and to make our contribution towards the issue of gender equality as well as give opportunity to women in our industry who are still woefully underrepresented. As Emmeline Pankhurst said, ‘You have to make more noise than anybody else…you have to be there all time’!

Applications are open immediately, and will be closing on October 21st at 16:00, please email them to: femaleedit@gmail.com

Thanks,

Drew

Breaking Into UK Film And TV Drama: A comprehensive guide to finding work in UK Film and TV Drama by Matt Gallagher

Finally this week I’d like to recommend a book. One of the excellent delegates on my ITF course this week was Matt Gallagher. He told me nothing about this book but I happened to come across it, had not heard of it before and, having flicked through it, I think it’s a really excellent guide to many areas of the TV and film industries in the UK.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breaking-Into-Film-Drama-comprehensive/dp/1523676000/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538730820&sr=1-3&keywords=Matt+Gallagher

The next newsletter will be on Friday October 19th

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

October 5th 2019

 

 

 

AUTUMN DRAMA HIGHLIGHTS

Posted by admin  /   September 21, 2018  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on AUTUMN DRAMA HIGHLIGHTS

I will be running my STORY, CHARACTER & IDEAS masterclass at the Indie Training Fund in London on Tuesday Oct 2nd – places still available.

http://indietrainingfund.com/courses/narrative/?event=15616

 

 

Hi There,

The scripts have been pouring in for the 2019 CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE since we opened for entries two weeks ago today (we’re already past the 1000 mark with another week to go). My team of readers (and me) are lined up and raring to go – it’s an exciting prospect.

It’s that time of year where we’re hit by a wave of fresh creativity – so much new drama on TV, the London Film Festival coming up very soon and lots of exciting new theatre writing.

Last week for three days I returned to one of my favourite places, Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, to take in the 2019 HIGH TIDE THEATRE FESTIVAL. And what a treat it was. The standard has always been high – but this year was by some way the best ever. (I bumped into festival director, Steven Atkinson, and we discussed similarities in taste – how so many 4screenwriting writers have also been High Tide writers – Anders Lustgarten, Nessah Muthy, Luke Norris, Milly Thomas, Theresa Ikoko, Vinay Patel – to name but a few.)

And this year was no exception. Two of the best shows I saw were by 4screenwriting alumni – SONGLINES, a lovely, warm, beautifully-written and acted two-hander about an awkward teenage relationship, with music provided by 2/4 of Tallulah Brown’s own band, Trills. The musicians were on stage throughout, and it was amusing to see the playwright on stage watching the actors interpret her own lines. Her expression was impressively inscrutable – but she must have been bursting with pride inside.

And A SUPER HAPPY STORY ABOUT FEELING SUPER BAD – a cabaret musical about depression by Jon Brittain. This was another superlative script brilliantly performed – hugely inventive, funny, moving and very thought-provoking. The show is being toured round the UK until early November by Hull theatre group Silent Uproar.

In fact this was the 2nd play in 2 days I’d seen (by a 4screenwriting alumni) about a female in her 20’s with depression, the other being Milly Thomas’s intensely excellent DUST, still playing at Trafalgar Studios in London (alongside another 4screenwriting alumni Arinze Kene’s equally brilliant, ground-breaking MISTY). DUST and SUPER HAPPY… dealt with similar subject matter in completely different ways – both had a strong streak of humour running through them, and both were highly impressive scripts, superbly performed.

Other highlights from High Tide –

– Danusia Samal’s one woman (+2 musicians) show about her experiences busking on the London Underground for ten years – like SONGLINES and SUPER HAPPY, more ‘gig theatre’ – and another example of what a rich genre this has become.

– WOKE by Apphia Campbell & Meredith Yarbrough, performed by Appiah Campbell. Another hugely powerful one woman show (again with music – Apphia has a wonderful singing voice) about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and how a young female black student gets caught up in the subsequent (continued) police brutality. It’s great when theatre this good can make an impact in a setting so massively culturally different to the place where the story’s set. It was moving to see the standing ovation that the almost exclusively white, middle-aged audience gave to this impassioned piece of theatre about the #blacklivesmatter movement. This was theatre to educate and inspire at its best.

– SPARKS written and performed by Jessica Butcher & Anoushka Lucas – more gig theatre. A narrative monologue with reflections about relationships, urban life and much, much more in both words and music. Again, this was beautifully performed and written.

– SKIN A CAT by Isley Lynn. A vibrant, very funny and poignant three-hander about relationships and female sexuality. Another cracking script. (I also went to a reading of Isley Lynn’s new play THE SWELL – which was heartfelt and intriguing.)

– MOUTHPIECE. A reading of a new play by Scottish writer Kieran Hurley. I went to this at 10.00 on Saturday morning in an unprepossessing church hall with an audience in single figures. It was read as a 1 hour 45 minute 2-hander without a break – and I was absolutely spellbound by it. It’s coming to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in December – don’t miss it!

Including DUST on Wednesday night, I went to see 10 new plays over 3+ days – I have to say I’m pretty impressed by my own stamina! – but the experience was a joy. I came away from Suffolk on Saturday inspired and creatively energised.

The good news for YOU is that the HIGH TIDE FESTIVAL is carrying on for another week, with some of these shows, and many others, at Walthamstow until Sept 30th. If you have the time, do yourself a favour and get yourself over to East London.

There’s also been a glut of new Autumn TV drama to get your teeth into – the ratings phenomenon that is BODYGUARD which, although it has some great set-piece action sequences and narrative twists and turns, I have to say I have mixed feelings about; WANDERLUST, which I’m enjoying a lot – the quality and intelligence of Nick Payne’s writing shines through (another former High Tide writer), and it’s refreshing and encouraging to see BBC1 schedule such a low-concept, character-driven, writer-led drama series in a 9pm weekday slot; the Channel 4 ON THE EDGE series is definitely worth catching up with (including a script by 4screenwriting alumna Janice Okoh).

Highlights from the summer include series 3 of UNFORGOTTEN – in many ways an utterly conventional police procedural – but Chris Lang really knows how to tease out a story – and this for me is an example of genre TV drama at its very best – it really elevates the genre, with the confidence and freshness of its storytelling.

But my TV drama favourite of the last few weeks has undoubtedly been the new Sky Atlantic series, SUCCESSION. A US-set show, with exclusively American characters, it’s fascinating to me that this is written by a largely British team of writers. Lead writer is the excellent Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, Babylon, Black Mirror etc). (If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter you may remember the short piece I included a few months ago by outstanding novelist DAVID ARMSTONG – Jesse’s father). Other UK writers on the team include Anna Jordan, Lucy Prebble, Georgia Pritchett, Tony Roche and Jon Brown. For me, this is up there with the best US shows of recent years. Structurally this is quite a conventional family business saga – about a Murdoch-like family and their massive media empire – and what happens when the Rupert Murdoch-like patriarch’s illness causes a family and business meltdown. What is great about this series are the characterisations. The characters are a wonderfully damaged, dysfunctional, objectively unsympathetic bunch – but they’re all utterly compelling. The series is gripping and dramatic – but what clinches it for me is the wonderful vein of humour – so much of it is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a great example of what can be achieved by a writers room set-up – and encouraging that this particular writers room is mainly populated by UK writers!

If SUCCESSION is anything to go by, more UK indies should be creating their drama series in this way.

The next newsletter will be on Friday Oct 5th,

Best wishes

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

Sept 21st 2018

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019

Posted by admin  /   September 07, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019

Hi There,

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019

I’m pleased to announce that I will be running this course again in 2019 and that entries opened TODAY at 9am!

We will be open for entries for 3 weeks – until 5pm on Friday September 28.

All the details and information you need, and the entry form, can be found on my website –

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019

I have already received quite a few emails from writers with questions about course entries. I have a policy of not replying unless it’s about something absolutely vital that isn’t covered by the FAQs section on the web page (and because I’ve been updating this information for the last 8 years, there aren’t many questions that aren’t covered).

The question I have been asked most so far is – can I include my series bible / treatment / outline or other background information with my script. The answer to this is – NO. We only need to see the script. The script and CV should speak for themselves.

Every year I am inundated with questions via email and social media – and I would far rather spend my time reading your scripts than entering into time-consuming email correspondence. Unless you think there’s a glaring omission in the information on the webpage, please use your initiative.

Can I also suggest that you read some of the past years’ writers’ testimonials and watch this short film –

…that was made about the 2017 course. They will tell you quite a lot about the way the course works and will help inform your entry.

Can I also ask that, if possible, you don’t leave your entry until the last moment. Generally we receive over half our entries on the last day, and a lot of those in the last hour! There have been many panics over scripts submitted at the last moment. We will stick to the advertised closing time with no exceptions! So do yourselves a favour and avoid unnecessary stress by entering earlier in the 3 week window.

What are we looking for?

We are looking for 12 talented, distinctive dramatic (or comic) writers who don’t already have a TV broadcast or feature film writing credit (A short film credit, a produced radio play or stage play are permitted). We try to get as broad and diverse a mix of writers as possible – in terms of gender, age, regionality, ethnicity, disability and – most importantly – in voice.

We are looking for writers who are distinctive, exciting, challenging and entertaining. We are looking for writers with a sensibility that fits the profile of Channel 4 (and E4) drama, and who have a broad knowledge and appreciation of UK TV drama in general and Channel 4 drama in particular. We are looking for collaborators – for people who relish the opportunity to work with script editors and are excited about entering the intensely competitive world of TV drama. And we are looking for writers who are excited about telling their stories on screen – who are fascinated and excited by the craft of screenwriting.

We also try to get a range of different levels of experience in the writers we select. We will always have some writers who already have agents and are already beginning to make their mark and build a reputation in the business, often writers, for instance, who have already written some successful fringe theatre plays – but we will always try to balance this by having some writers who are brand new, who don’t have agents and are completely unknown to the industry. And we are always, for instance, keen to work with writers who don’t live in London, who have a specific regional / national voice to their writing. Essentially we want as many fresh, unexpected and distinctive writing perspectives as possible.

In advance, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who enters. It’s always enormously exciting (and a little daunting) receiving so many scripts (last year we received 2040) and incredibly hard to choose 12 writers from such a huge number of scripts. I work with a team of script readers (from whom we choose our 4 course shadow script editors – there is also a script editor training element to the course). I give all the readers as much information as possible in terms of what we are looking for (see above!) and while we try to be as objective as possible, there is inevitably a degree of subjective taste (and disagreement!) in the scripts we all respond to. If you don’t gain a place on the 2019 course, you should accept it as philosophically as you can – unfortunately, even for the most successful writers, rejection and disappointment are a big part of the business – and the successful writers are the ones who can retain their self-belief and keep bouncing back from disappointment. You should also console yourself with the fact that every year some of the writers we select for the course have applied for several years and only get selected at their 3rd or 4th year of entry. From the 2018 course, for example, this was true of Emily White, Abi Hynes, Matilda Ibini and Chandni Lakhani.

Information about an upcoming FREE screenwriting event –

On 2 Oct at Rich Mix (London), Shooting People will be hosting their free SHORT CUTS October Event and are very excited to be joined by the award-winning actor, writer and director, Alice Lowe. Best known for her 2016 directorial debut Prevenge and as the co-star and co-writer of Sightseers, Alice has also appeared in some of the best British comedy features of the past few years. Her new feature Timestalker is due to film next year. Book your FREE ticket here [link: bit.ly/SCR4EB].

AND I will be running my STORY CHARACTER & IDEAS Masterclass at the indie training fund in London on Oct 2nd. This is a course designed for writers and anyone who works in the creative industries that will hopefully work to inspire and energise your creative instincts and make you think about how story works, what makes for memorable and resonant characters, what constitutes an exciting story idea, where good story ideas come from and what makes for a successful pitch.
The day is usually a lot of fun and I can honestly say it always seems to generate a load of exciting and distinctive story ideas.

http://indietrainingfund.com/courses/narrative/?event=15616

The next newsletter will be on Friday Sept 21st

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

Sept 7th 2018

WRITERS’ RETREAT FRANCE Sept 16-22

Posted by admin  /   June 29, 2018  /   Posted in screenwriting & script-editing courses  /   Comments Off on WRITERS’ RETREAT FRANCE Sept 16-22

Hi There,

 

WRITERS’ RETREAT France Sept 16 – 22 2018

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been asked to run a WRITERS’ RETREAT in France at the home of writer Katy Walker. (Katy wrote the excellent TRIBUTE PODCAST ‘Valediction Forbidding Mourning’ http://tributepodcasts.co.uk/podcasts/valediction-forbidding-mourning-katy-walker/ and has just graduated with a distinction from the MA Dramatic Writing at Central St Martins / University of the Arts London).

https://www.scriva.org/

As you’ll see from the photos in the above link, it’s a lovely house in a beautiful, peaceful part of rural France. The idea of the writers’ retreat is that over 5 days (from Monday to Friday) there will be classes / feedback sessions in the morning, and a chance to concentrate on your writing in the afternoons.

A select group of 8 writers will get the chance to either work on an idea they’re already developing or (ideally) settle on a brand new project and begin to develop it over the week of the course.

Working one-to-one with writers is for me the most satisfying part of my work so I was delighted when Katy asked me to run this course.

We particularly want to concentrate on helping you to develop / write a project that really shows off your unique abilities as a writer to their very best – ideas that tap into your unique voice as a writer, idea that really bring out the best in you as a writer.

This week away from it all – in beautiful surroundings with some lovely food (Katy is an excellent cook and grows a lot of her own fruit and veg) is designed to really give your writing the time and focus it deserves, with my encouragement and support.

Please contact Katy by email (via the above link) if you have any questions about this writers’ retreat.

 

MA DRAMATIC WRITING SHOWCASE London July 5 + 6

…and speaking of Katy’s graduation, here is information about the MA graduates showcase. I taught these graduating students in their first year, and there is some real talent amongst them, so I would very much recommend the show. An added attraction is the theatre’s location inside the wonderful Granary Building in re-generated Kings Cross – it really has become one of the places to visit in London (although it’s still not that well-known).

DRAMA CENTRE LONDON

MA DRAMATIC WRITING SHOWCASE

Thursday 5 July 7pm

Friday 6 July 3pm

Many thanks to those of you who have already arranged tickets. This is a reminder invitation for those who might now have a free window next week. 

You are warmly invited to the MA Dramatic Writing Showcase, a fantastic programme of short rehearsed readings from the work of this year’s MA Dramatic Writing graduates, performed by Drama Centre London students. Featuring extracts from plays, radio plays and screen plays, this is a chance to celebrate the work of one of the UK’s leading new writing courses and meet writers.

RSVP: drama.performance.events@csm.arts.ac.uk

 We look forward to seeing you there!

 The Drama Centre London team’

 MA DRAMATIC WRITING SHOWCASE 2018

Thursday 5 July 7pm

Friday 6 July 3pm

2 ½ hours including interval. Refreshments will be served.

Directions: Studio Theatre, Platform Theatre, Handyside Street N1C 4AA

 Drama Centre London is part of the Drama and Performance Programme at Central Saint Martins

Website:         arts.ac.uk/csm/drama-centre-london/ 

Facebook:      /dramacentrelondon 

Twitter:           @dramacentreldn   

Instagram:      @dramacentrelondon

 

SCRIPT EDITING ESSENTIALS COURSE, Indie Training Fund, London, July 19th

I am running this one-day course at the ITF in Euston on Thursday July 19th.

http://indietrainingfund.com/courses/script-editing-essentials/?event=14248

The course is suitable for anyone who’s interested in script-editing, script reading and working with dramatic writers.

 

HIGH TIDE THEATRE FESTIVAL

….and while you’re planning for writing events for this summer and beyond, can I recommend the High Tide theatre festival in Aldeburgh Sept 11-16 – at which you can always catch some really exciting new writing in a lovely part of the world.

https://www.hightide.org.uk/aldeburgh-festival-2018?spektrix_bounce=true

 

BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2018

This is another brilliant event – a great opportunity to see so many new, exciting films, many of them with Q&A’s with the key creatives. This year’s LFF runs from Oct 10-21.

JELLYFISH by Ben Weatherill, Bush Theatre June 29th – July 21st

If you enjoyed Ben’s excellent blog (in my newsletter May 3rd http://script-consultant.co.uk/2018/05/03/script-development-ben-weatherill/ ) you won’t want to miss his new stage play – on at the Bush Theatre. I predict with confidence that it will be a real treat.

https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/jellyfish/

 

NB This is my last newsletter until FRIDAY SEPT 7th. I hope you all have a relaxing – but creative! – summer and I look forward to talking to you again with batteries re-charged in September,

 

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

June 29th 2018

 

SCRIPT CONSULTANCY + CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE

Posted by admin  /   June 15, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on SCRIPT CONSULTANCY + CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE

 

Hi There,

SCRIPT CONSULTANCY

I’ve been running my script consultancy for quite a few years now and have always thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s particularly exciting to see a project develop and improve over several drafts, especially when I then feel able to recommend that script to suitable industry people. But there comes a point when the batteries need refreshing and I’ve decided to give myself a couple of months proper break over the course of this summer. I have a very full list of scripts to feed-back on up until the end of this month and then I’ve promised myself a script-free July and August. You are still very welcome to send me your projects in the meantime to secure your place in the script queue – but on the understanding that I won’t get to them until after Sept 1st.

And my final NEWSLETTER before Sept 7th will be in two weeks time on June 29th.

CHANNEL 4 COURSE 2018

The Channel 4 course is over for another year. Please come back to the newsletter at the start of September for more news about the 2019 course and for details of when the entry period will be open.

Last weekend saw the 12 writers and their script editors come together at Channel 4 with the results of their labours from the preceding 5 months. 12 hugely exciting scripts. On the Saturday a day of readings of a section of each script by some brilliant actors to give the writers the chance to hear their words come to life off the page; and on the Sunday 4 eminent guest script editors came to give their feedback to the writers. On both days the response to the scripts was deservedly and overwhelmingly positive.

I couldn’t feel more confident that these 12 writers are going to make a big splash in the industry, which has led me to think about what it is about these particular writers that will make them successful (and in quite a few cases they are already well on the way) and what lessons can be learnt from them.

First, they all have something powerful and particular to say. All of their scripts feel distinctive and unique. The stories they are telling feel personal to them, they all feel like they have a strong personal agenda, and from reading each of the scripts you get a strong sense of the writer’s voice and identity. Consequently the scripts feel challenging, like they’re pushing back boundaries rather than being constrained by them.

And as people and writers there is a collective and individual confidence to these writers. In general they have strong opinions about what they like and don’t like, and there is a steely but also playful determination about them. I also think (if it’s possible to generalise about 12 such different writers) that there is a quiet well of humanity at the heart of their writing. It’s exciting to see such a talented group of writers launching themselves into an industry that is hungry for new voices.

—————————————-

On 5 July at Rich Mix (London), Shooting People will be hosting their free SHORT CUTS Summer Event and are very excited to be joined by the award-winning writer, director and actor, Desiree Akhavan. Desiree will explore her journey from making hit web series The Slope to critically acclaimed features Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival this year. This event also marks the next round of SHORT CUTS, a career development competition that gives filmmakers the chance to win £1k in film funding, industry mentorship, filmmaking equipment and prize packages. Register for your FREE ticket.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/short-cuts-summer-event-with-desiree-akhavan-tickets-46182302510

—————————————

RECENT TV DRAMA HIGHLIGHTS

What A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL teaches us about DRAMA IDEAS – this is a story that has been in the public domain for a long time. An absolutely extraordinary story that has so much to say about this country, the establishment, prejudice, intolerance, ignorance and political hypocrisy – a story that was out there, waiting to be told. It took writer / journalist John Preston to shine a light on it before the BBC commissioned the Russell T Davies version. And the first showing of the 1979 documentary about the case was also fascinating.

The 4 part serial was a delight in many ways – in particular for the flair and humour of RTD’s writing.

When you watch this, a big question is – why has nobody told this absolutely mind-blowing true story before? It feels like a story that demands to be told; and even though it happened in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, it stills feels so relevant to today. But there are SO MANY of these sorts of stories out there in the public domain, begging to be told. True stories that absolutely captured the public imagination and that are ripe for dramatization and further exploration. As writers you should be seeking out stories like this.

PATRICK MELROSE.

This 5-part adaptation of the novels of Edward St Aubyn by David Nicholls has, IMO, been one of the best bits of drama on UK TV for some time. It has great production values – the direction and acting are superb – and the writing is wonderful. These are dark, difficult stories but I thought all 5+ hours were completely compelling. Here’s a very interesting video interview with David Nicholls about the process of adapting the novels –

http://www.goldderby.com/article/2018/david-nicholls-patrick-melrose-writer-interview-benedict-cumberbatch-news-375924680/

And here’s a very good review / appreciation of ep 3 (although probably advisable not to read this until you’ve watched the episode!)

https://readysteadycut.com/2018/05/27/patrick-melrose-episode-3/

—————————————————–

TIM ATACK / BRUNTWOOD PRIZE

And finally this week, an excellent article by 4screenwriting alumnus TIM ATACK about his writing, about his winning of the 2017 Bruntwood Prize, and about ‘being an emotional artist, about thinking of emotion as a kind of driving logic when making stuff.’ This is a cracking piece of writing about writing. And Tim’s success is hugely deserved. His writing is original in the extreme and very brilliant. And he’s wonderfully modest with it.

https://www.writeaplay.co.uk/tim-x-atack-development-diary/

The next newsletter – and the last one before Friday Sept 7th – will be on June 29th.

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

June 15th 2018