CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Feb 7th 2016
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 REGINA MORIARTY writer of the award-winning MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND (BBC).
THE TWO PHILS GUIDE TO WRITING AND SELLING A GREAT SCREENPLAY
Weekend course London March 19 – 20 2016
A course for screenwriters of all levels of experience. Run by script editor / producer / trainer PHIL SHELLEY (runs the Channel 4 screenwriting course) and writer / script editor / screenwriting guru PHIL GLADWIN (Screenwriter, script editor, runs ScreenwritingGoldmine comp). With special guest speaker, literary agent MATTHEW BATES (Sayle Screen).
DAY 1- The craft of screenwriting
DAY 2 – The business of screenwriting.
‘THE CAVALRY ISN’T COMING!’
A quote taken from this inspiring keynote speech by MARK DUPLASS at SXSW 2015
This talk has huge applications for all of us as creatives trying to find our way in an unforgiving industry – and today’s excellent guest blog by writer / director GAVIN O’GRADY is a brilliant illustration.
The big thing to take away from Mark Duplass’s keynote speech and Gavin’s article is this-
If we continue to try to run our screenwriting careers only in conventional ways – entering the normal competitions, submitting to the normal BBC writers room calls, writing blind to literary agents – all of the things that to the uneducated are the acknowledged routes into the industry – then our chances of flourishing are minimal – because those are the routes where EVERYONE is going and, however good you are, the statistical chances of success by these conventional routes are tiny.
SO you have to be innovative, imaginative and, above all, find ways to express and sell your own individual, idiosyncratic talents – and you need to have a healthy scepticism about all the ways that most companies try to prevent you submitting your script.
Gavin is a great example of this with his new web series HAPPY NOW. I have an emotional interest in the success of Gavin’s series because I recommended two writers to him with whom I’d worked via my script consultancy and courses – SONYA DESAI and CAROL COOPER – both of whom I knew to have real talent and strong, distinctive, comic voices as writers; and it’s a delight to me to see how Gavin has taken their talents and crafted such excellent short films with their scripts.
So I’m keen to see this web series getting the success I think it deserves. So, I’d ask you please to watch the three x 7 minute films (honestly it will be a treat not a chore) and if you enjoy them PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ON SOCIAL MEDIA and to your friends. The director, producer, writers and actors involved deserve their work to be recognised. Thank you! And now over to Gavin to tell you about the development and creation of the series…
‘In early November a friend and I launched our first self funded scripted web series – Happy Now. It’s a comedy about love, relationships and all the issues modern couples face. Each seven minute episode tells a story about a different couple, written by a different writer. If you haven’t already seen it, you can watch it here – www.happynowwebseries.com
Since we launched with the first three episodes, online views are in their thousands, a couple of production companies have been in touch to give some very positive feedback and it’s also caught the eye of a journalist who’s interested in potentially running a story on the series. Not bad for the first few weeks and with more episodes in the pipeline we’re slowly building a larger audience through social media and other online video platforms.
With a couple of short films already under our belts we wanted to do something more ambitious where we could connect with audiences instantly, rather than painfully waiting for short film festivals to reply, so a web series felt like the obvious next step. Our attitude was, if production companies aren’t going to ask us to make a scripted comedy then we’ll just make it without them! We were encouraged by the recent success of the US web series ‘High Maintenance’ which has been so successful online that HBO have now bought the rights and are making 6 x 30 minute episodes to be broadcast later this year.
It’s taken about eighteen months from first talking about the idea to finally uploading the first three films online, and we spent the first six months just talking about the concept which changed considerably. It was crucial having this time to really work out what the series was about and who the audience was. It’s been down to us to market and distribute this online so it was essential we considered who the audience would be from the beginning.
We decided very early on that we wanted to make a comedy, they always do better on the web as you’re far more likely to share something hilarious with your friends. We agreed that 7 minutes would be the maximum length because we wanted people to be able to watch them on the move and at work. We also decided that each episode would be a different story, meaning the audience didn’t need to see the previous episodes to understand what was happening. Having a variety of stories meant there is always something for everyone. If you don’t like the story and characters in the first episode, then the next episode has a whole new story and set of characters. It’s also given us the opportunity to target niche audiences in future episodes…there are no limits for who this series can be about.
Collaboration is the key to good filmmaking whether it’s a short film or a big budget blockbuster. The bottom line is you can’t do it all by yourself, you can certainly try but chances are it won’t work and it’s better for your own sanity to share the stress with other people. With this in mind we felt the series would be richer if we had different writers for each episode as each person would bring their own distinct voice and perspective. For a series that was about relationships this made a lot of sense and became hugely important. We found writers through friends’ recommendations and Philip Shelley was kind enough to recommend two writers who went on to write two of the episodes; Prince Charming and Eat You.
The writing process was without question the longest part of the process. We all had day jobs so trying to find the time to dedicate to the project was a struggle but the length of time allowed the stories to develop. I worked closely with all the writers taking on the role of script editor, asking questions and suggesting ideas. The stories had to be funny, original, well observed, surprising, have a clear hook in the first 30 seconds and have a satisfying ending. It’s important that the stories stand apart from each other but still fit comfortably within the same mould and feel like they exist within the same world.
Trying to keep all the writers in sync was a challenge and I think perhaps at times slightly frustrating for them too. It was a constant conversation between the writer and myself about what would and wouldn’t work. Ultimately there are no wrong choices, just less interesting choices and our shared goal was to make the scripts as brilliant as they could possibly be. The online audience are ruthless and trying to keep them watching is a struggle so it was important these stories never felt obvious or predictable. It was definitely a process of give and take but then that is the reality of writing in this industry. Unless you’re Aaron Sorkin don’t expect to have your work untouched but don’t be resistant to other people’s thoughts and suggestions – fight for what you really believe in but don’t be afraid to let other people into the process.
In the end getting something made all comes down to a really great script. I hate to point out the obvious but it’s absolutely true. We cast this series completely from scratch, we didn’t know any of the actors before we made this and with no money to offer them it’s testament to the writers and their scripts that we managed to get such a great cast. It didn’t hurt that I had some shorts and TV work to show their agents but the bottom line is if the script was bad they wouldn’t have said yes. Actors love to dress up and play – it’s what they do for a living, so if you have a great part to offer them, don’t be afraid to ask because they might say yes!
We were fortunate enough that we were able to borrow some very expensive cameras and lenses through some industry contacts but that said these days people are making films on their iPhones. ‘Tangerine’ which was released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago was one of the best films I’ve seen at The London Film Festival in years and was shot entirely on iPhones. From my experience audiences will forgive lower picture quality but not sound so always make sure you get a great sound recordist.
We used friends and the website Shooting People for sourcing other crew members and Air BnB for most of our locations. Shooting People is great for connecting people with the right skills who have the same goal to succeed in the industry. We kept the location crew small – camera, sound, camera assistant and make-up. Everything else we did ourselves; props, costume, catering etc. Keeping the team small meant there were less people to rely on but enough people to spread the load. We tried to keep the time commitment to a minimum too so we filmed each episode in one day and in one location. This was a requirement in the scripting process – if the script couldn’t be shot in a day then it needed to be re-written until we could.
I edited the films myself on my MacBook and uploaded the films onto Vimeo which is a lot less cluttered than YouTube but also harder to get your work seen. Choosing the right platform for you to upload your work requires careful research but ultimately they all have pros and cons. If you can’t decide – just do both! We created the website ourselves using Wix.com and created pages on all the major social networking sites. Since the launch we’ve used these to target online magazines and blogs who might be interested in featuring Happy Now.
The total cost for the series so far is £3000 and that includes everything from rehearsal rooms, locations, insurance, van hire, catering, props and the website. It was a self funded project so nobody got paid and we don’t expect to get any of our money back. Anyone making this for financial gain might need to think twice but that said, it is possible to make money in this area – Ikea and Dominoes have all put money into making scripted web series to promote their brands and as the internet continues to dominate this will no doubt be happening more and more. BBC Three and Channel 4 are now back in the game of making online shorts for their websites, something they stopped doing for quite some time.
Aside from the prospect of making money what we now have is something we can show broadcasters and production companies. Demonstrating an entrepreneurial attitude to your career is appealing to producers and a short or a web series shows them something that a script or a treatment can’t. It was stressful and exhausting but we learnt loads of new skills that we’ll be putting to good use for the next episodes. Apart from a few sleepless nights here and there, we also had a lot of fun! Hope you enjoy watching!’
Thank you Gavin. And just in case you haven’t got it yet here’s that link again!
You can also follow them on facebook
And Twitter – @HappyNowSeries
Until next week
All the best
Dec 11th 2015