SCRIPT-EDITING / SCRIPT DEVELOPMENT COURSES
Funded by Grand Scheme Media & Creative Skillset, I’m running a series of very affordable 2 day script-editing workshops, with some excellent, experienced guest screenwriters, around the UK between now & July 16th (in Cardiff, Bristol, Salford & Glasgow). More details, & how to book can be found on the TRAINING NEWS page of the Grand Scheme Media website http://grandscheme.tv/
The next one is in BRIGHTON on June 3rd and 4th with guest screenwriter STEPHEN CHURCHETT (Lewis, Miss Marple, Inspector Morse etc etc)
I’ve done a series of courses in the last couple of weeks – the first Two Phils screenwriting course for nearly 2 years this past weekend, sandwiched between 2 x 2 day script editing courses in Belfast and London.
One of the many enjoyable things about these courses is how much I learn from the writers and script editors on the courses; and meeting so many like-minded people from the industry.
Here is a scatter-gun selection of some the things that come to mind from these 6 days of courses –
There are an awful lot of very good writers out there. The bar is set very high – so if you want to work as a professional screenwriter, you have to be absolutely focused on how to achieve your aims. On the 2Phils course, it was really nice that there was a significant minority of familiar faces – and about 8 writers who were familiar to me from their scripts – all of which in their different ways are uniformly strong.
A stand-out spec script (or 3) is the most important part of the armoury of a new screenwriter looking to break into the industry – but it’s also hugely about what you do with that script once you’ve written it, how well you focus on the people you want to be working with, how well you research the industry, how you figure out getting to meet and connect with the people who can potentially employ you, and how you ride the waves of excitement and rejection.
A huge part of screenwriting is in what happens before you write the script –
Generating ideas – on my latest 2 day script-editing course, we did an ideas-generating exercise, in which I give the delegates in pairs 10 minutes and a newspaper to come up with an idea for a feature film – these are a small selection of the ideas that came out of this exercise –
Set in and around a terraced Soho house – about the relationship between a rich, venal businesswoman who owns the house, and the tenants on the various floors of the building (from ground floor up) – a cake shop, tenants in a flat, and a prostitute – a ‘Scrooge’ tale for 2015.
A road movie about someone desperate to get back to the UK to sign on for her jobseeker’s allowance and the older woman she meets and helps to get back to the UK, in the face of a volcanic ash cloud, and various strikes and obstacles;
A black comedy in the vein of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES about a pet serial killer in a wealthy suburban street.
A domineering Indian matriarch trying to match-make (and ultimately find a life partner) for her down-trodden gay son.
And from the weekend 2 Phils course, one of my favourite invented characters was an eccentric German physicist, Maximillian Gruber, who teaches at a London university, having left behind his very different, colourful fairground-owning family – but Max has ambitions to win the estranged family round by designing the world’s ultimate rollercoaster.
The colour and richness of these stories and characters (and my brief sentences do them scant justice) was hugely impressive.
As writers, giving yourselves the space to dream, imagine, isn’t a luxury – it’s an absolutely vital and essential part of your craft. You need to take the time to tap into your sub-conscious, to indulge in flights of fancy.
But you can help yourself to do this by setting yourself exercises – finding the beginnings of characters in public spaces / public transport, and going into creative extensions of the people you observe. Analysing why particular people interest you.
The importance for screenwriters (and script editors) of the ability to pitch – whether written or verbal.
Writing script outlines / treatments. One particular ‘beatsheet’ / outline / treatment – whatever you wish to call it, that I show to trainee script editors – is a master-class in how to write a compelling outline. As a script editor / producer, these documents can at times be as enjoyable to read as the best scripts. And if you read a strong outline, you know with some degree of certainty that you’re going to get a good script.
For writers they’re tough to write – you often have to write 8 pages to condense it down to 2 pages. And you often don’t get paid to do them, or get paid a fraction of your script fee (usually 10%) when in reality they are more like 50%+ of the work.
For script readers, writing a synopsis is very difficult – a craft in itself.
The Art of Screenplays by Robin Mukherjee is one the very best screenwriting books of recent years.
Writers don’t just need to be able to articulate their story – they need to be able to articulate what excites them about their story, and why they need to tell it NOW.
Thinking about the personal crisis at the heart of your lead character – so often that is the key to your story. (or is in fact your story).
As a script editor, identifying the positives in a script is the best way-in to helping a writer fix the things that are working less well.
Successful characterisation is about the gap between what we say and what we do.
If you want to work as a script editor or writer in the UK TV and film industries you need to have a huge love for UK content (however much you also love US content!). Many Americans revere DR WHO, SHERLOCK and DOWNTON ABBEY – the grass is always greener on the other side!
Reading screenplays is hugely instructive for screenwriters – and sometimes you can learn even more from bad screenplays than good screenplays.
Screenwriting is not literary, it is not about quality of writing, it is about telling a gripping story and, above all, being entertaining (©Phil Gladwin!)
When working on a story in a particular genre, you should study other stories in that genre.
For script editors – don’t just give writers a list of prescriptive notes – engage them in a dialogue, and get them to articulate their intentions if you don’t think they’re clear.
A love of story is essential for writers and script editors. Study scripts, TV, films, theatre, radio – and read books about the craft of dramatic writing.
The TV and film industries are in a period of accelerating flux. If you want to work in the industry, you need to be up to speed with new developments and possibilities. It is a time of rapidly increasing opportunity.
Writing can be a lonely business. Writers need to find like-minded communities of writers with whom they can share experiences and script feedback. Solidarity between fellow writers is very important!
The industry is increasingly London-centric. If you’re not based in London, you need to be doubly determined and organised to drive your career.
Social media, used in the right way, can be very useful to your career.
Networking shouldn’t be a dirty word. Like almost every other industry, it’s a huge part of working in TV and film. Find a way to enjoy it, to make a virtue of it. A huge part of industry networking is discussing the merits or otherwise of new films, TV shows etc with your friends. In other words, something we all do anyway.
I’ve received an email from Prakash Patel at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. They are looking for both unsolicited scripts – and script readers. This sounds like a great opportunity –
New Writing at West Yorkshire Playhouse
We want a large, noisy space for new writing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. A space that nurtures bold, new voices and that supports rich and diverse stories about where we live in Leeds, in Yorkshire and in the world.
The Literary Associate, Jacqui Honess-Martin is the primary source of contact for all new writing enquiries: Jacqui.firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I send you my script?
We are excited to discover new writers both locally and across the UK and encourage unsolicited scripts to be sent to us through two reading windows each year.
Unfortunately we are unable to read unsolicited work outside of these windows.
Our next Unsolicited Reading Window will be 1 – 26 June 2015.
Please send your script with a covering letter that details your full name, address, phone number and email. We will not be able to consider your script without this information. We’d also be grateful if you could complete and submit an Equal Opportunities Form which is available via our website.
We strongly encourage scripts to be sent by email to email@example.com
If you do not have access to email scripts can be posted to: Unsolicited Reading Window, Literary Associate, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UP
(Please note it is not possible for us to return scripts sent by post, please do not send sae)
We will endeavour to read everything we are sent, but would ask that you help us by just sending one script per writer and by sending us something that we have not seen before. We are delighted to accept scripts from local writers, UK writers and even international writers, but we can only read scripts in English.
You will receive an acknowledgement that we have received your script. Your script will be read by a team of readers drawn from writers, directors, theatre makers, audience members and members of the West Yorkshire Playhouse team, led by the Literary Associate.
Once all the scripts have been read, we will make a decision on the scripts and writers we can support or develop further. Unfortunately we do not have the resources to offer full feedback on all the scripts we receive, but we will be in touch again at the end of the process to let you know the outcome of your submission. We anticipate that this process will take up to 4 months, so please bear with us if you haven’t heard during this time.
We look forward to reading your work.
Script Readers Wanted
West Yorkshire Playhouse is recruiting Script Readers for our next open submission window in June 2015.
We are looking to build a team of a broad range of people that can bring their own diverse stories, passions and interests to the script reading process. We are keen to hear from those who have read for West Yorkshire Playhouse or other venues before, but we are also looking to find passionate writers, theatre makers and audience members who we may not know or who may not have previous reading experience.
A team of 6 Script Readers, managed by the Literary Associate, will read and report back on scripts submitted during the June 2015 Unsolicited Script Window. The reading team, led by the Literary Associate, will then meet to identify scripts and writers that can be offered further development or support by the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
A passion for theatre and storytelling
Access to email
Approximately 12-16 hours of reading time between 15 June and 13 July 2015.
Script Readers will need to attend a full day shortlisting day at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Saturday July 18. A contribution to travel costs will be made to those living outside Leeds.
To apply please send your CV and covering letter including answers to the following questions:
What is your favourite play and why? (500 words)
What are you reading at the moment? (150 words)
To Literary Associate Jacqui Honess-Martin Jacqui.firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday May 29th.
Until next week,
All the best