CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Nov 15th
A course for scriptwriters in all media – TV, film, radio, theatre – designed to help you generate exciting ideas and characters, and give your creativity a boost with a day of fun, stimulating writing exercises. Run by TV drama script editor, producer and script consultant PHILIP SHELLEY with guest speaker writer CAT JONES.
Over the summer I spent a hugely enjoyable 4+ weeks in the SW of the USA, centred around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although it was very much a holiday, some of what I did touched on film, TV and screenwriting.
One of the highlights of my trip was the Albuquerque Trolley Co’s almost 4 hour BREAKING BAD location bus tour around Albuquerque. More than just a tour of the show’s locations, this was a celebration of the brilliance of the show, reminding me just what a great series it was. The tour is run by two young guys who are dyed-in-the-wool BB aficionados. The depth of their knowledge about the show was scary. Travelling between each of the locations they showed clips of the show from the locations we were visiting, and going into in-depth trivia, with a load of fascinating facts about the show.
(NB There are quite a few spoilers in here so beware if you haven’t watched the series and still intend to. And if you haven’t I would really urge you to – you have many hours of viewing pleasure in store…)
Did you know for instance that the 7 episode Series 1 was originally intended to be 8 episodes? But 1 episode was lost to a Hollywood writers strike; and that the original intention was that Jesse was to die in this notional S1 Ep8; and that drugs boss Tuco was to become Walt’s partner-in-crime in series 2? But the actor who played Tuco was working simultaneously on a New York City-based show, finding the commute between ABQ and NYC too difficult, and asked to leave. The producers re-thought their decision, and, realising the story chemistry (excuse the pun) that had developed between Walt and Jesse. So Jesse was reprieved, and the rest is history…
There was also a lot of interesting stuff about how storylines had been adapted late in the day to address location availability (eg the Jesse / Jane duplex location / story in series 2 arose out of the unavailability of Jesse’s house from series 1).
And there was a lot of discussion of the many playful visual references / motifs that pepper the whole series – eg the continued visual motif of the teddy bear in series 2. It doesn’t just recur in the opening sequence (and the end of the last episode) but apparently the teddy bear can be spotted in unlikely scenes throughout series 2.
This is a fascinating article about what it calls all the show’s ‘Easter eggs’ ie treats for devoted followers in the visual, self-referential clues and parallels.
And here’s an excellent interview with BB writer \ producer Peter Gould that reveals a lot about the processes involved in the creation of the show –
This is instructive about how so much of the creation of any series is predicated on logistics – there were so many wonderful accidents in the creation of characters and story. And the same is true of any show once you’re riding the runaway train of production. What is great about BB is the brilliance of their judgement with so many of the story decisions they made.
All 34 passengers on the tour bus were put on the spot and asked to name their favourite character and scene from the series and there were a series of Breaking Bad trivia questions for prizes, Once you’d answered a question correctly, you could no longer take part. I’m ashamed to say that, despite having watched every one of the show’s 46 episodes, I was one of the very last people to answer a question correctly! The level of knowledge on the tour bus was formidable. The tour is a weekly gathering of BB geeks from around the US and beyond. My moment of triumph was correctly answering this question:-
‘On which show, ten years before BB, did Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston originally meet?’ (1)
Here are a few more of the questions :-
‘When Jesse signed the lease for the apartment next to Jane, what name did he use?’ (2)
‘What is Saul Goodman’s real name (the character not the actor)?’ (3)
‘Who is the first person Walt tells that he has cancer?’ (4)
‘Who is the first person Walt kills in S1?’ (5)
Answers at the end. No cheating!
There was also a lot of talk about the BB spin-off series BETTER CALL SAUL. This is in fact a prequel to BB, and some of the other BB characters (as well as Saul) will reappear in the series (eg Mike). The first 10 part series was just finishing shooting in and around Albuquerque when I was there, and is due to air in the US in Feb 2015, and a 2nd 13 part series has already been commissioned. So we’re already guaranteed at least 23 episodes of this next Vince Gilligan / Peter Gould series. On the tour bus they showed a few promo clips of the series and it looks great – very funny. Definitely a show to look out for in the New Year.
The tour has made me want to revisit BREAKING BAD, perhaps watch the whole series again. It does seem to be a show that its makers designed to reward repeated viewing, with all the ‘Easter Eggs’ they planted through the series.
I particularly feel this because this week I finished watching series 2 of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Series 2 gets better and better as it progresses. I thought episode 10 in particular was a wonderful example of drama series TV at its very best. There are so many wonderful characters, so many great story strands that are brilliantly inter-woven. I have to say I’m feeling a little bereft having now finished both OITNB and HOUSE OF CARDS. Any suggestions for inspirational series that I might have missed and should be catching up on?
I’m delighted to say that I’ve been re-commissioned to run the CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE again for 2015. It was great to hear how happy C4 are with series episodes that previous course alumni have written on their forthcoming series (BANANA, INDIAN SUMMERS) and also, earlier in the summer, to watch the excellent, harrowing MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND on BBC3, written by 2012 course graduate Regina Moriarty – a show that was deservedly very well received.
I also want to say a huge thank you to all of you who sent me their answers to my 20 QUESTIONS FOR SCREENWRITERS from my last newsletter in July. I have received many excellent responses which I will be sharing with you over the coming weeks and months – so THANK YOU VERY MUCH. If you’d still like to send me your responses, please do. Here are the questions again:-
1 WHERE DO YOU WRITE ?
2 WHEN DO YOU WRITE?
3 WHAT SORT OF STORIES EXCITE YOU?
4 WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF BUILDING A GREAT CHARACTER?
5, 6 2 WRITERS WHO HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
7, 8 2 TV SHOWS THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
9, 10 2 FILMS THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
11 1 THEATRE SHOW THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
12 DO YOU OUTLINE BEFORE YOU START WRITING?
13 1 PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SCREENWRITERS JUST STARTING OUT
14 WHAT SHOULD THE FILM \ TV INDUSTRY BE DOING FOR SCREENWRITERS THAT IT ISN’T?
15 WAS THERE A SPECIFIC MOMENT THAT MADE YOU START WRITING AND IF SO WHAT WAS IT?
16 WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN THEN THAT YOU KNOW NOW?
17 WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT SCREENWRITING?
18 WHAT IS THE MOST ENJOYABLE THING ABOUT SCREENWRITING?
19 WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF (AS A WRITER) FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
20 AND FINALLY – ONE SURPRISING (NON-WRITING RELATED!) FACT ABOUT YOU.
Please email your responses to me – Philip.firstname.lastname@example.org AND THANK YOU!
BREAKING BAD QUIZ ANSWERS
- The X Files
- Jesse Jackson
- Jimmy McGill
Until next week,
All the best
Sept 5th 2014