CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Feb 21st
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 REGINA MORIARTY.
THE ART OF SCREENPLAYS by ROBIN MUKHERJEE
In preparation for my CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS course I’ve just ordered a massive bulk purchase of ROBIN MUKHERJEE’s book THE ART OF SCREENPLAYS to use as the book I give to the first ten people who sign up for each of my courses. (and look out for announcements of more courses imminently!)
I’m very pleased to be able to give away this book – because it really is the best book on writing in general and screenwriting in particular that I’ve read for a while.
Not in any way prescriptive, it’s more broadly about creativity and the elements of your life that you need to tap into to be a successful writer.
It’s really good on how writers need to gather ‘the stuff of life’, be constantly on the lookout around them for story – how you should keep a notebook on you at all time.
It’s very instructive, with some great specific examples, about turning observed moments and fleeting images into characters and stories.
There’s a particularly good section on research, and turning research into story, in which RM discusses time spent observing in a hospital A&E department, and the process by which he turned what he observed into CASUALTY stories.
This is a great insight into the sort of work needed to become a successful, working TV drama writer.
And it’s really good on creativity, on the way writers need to think, how they need to tap into life as it goes on around them – as opposed to the often far less interesting (mainly American) books that go into act breaks, mid-points, and technique checklists.
But what there is on structure is very good and clear. His ‘six-beat storyboard’ is a really good template for testing out the structural strength of your story.
RM comes across as what he is – a screenwriter of real experience who has the confidence and knowledge of having worked extensively at the industry coal-face – a lot of really good credits in TV and feature films. Unlike many screenwriting books, he writes from a position of authority – and it shows.
And the book is dedicated to Tony Dinner, who gave me my first script-reading job in TV.
Speaking of good writing about the industry…
STEPHEN FOLLOWS film industry blog
For me this is one of the most consistently interesting, well-researched and insightful blogs about how the film industry works. For screenwriters and anyone who already works, or wishes to work, in the UK (and international) film industry, this weekly blog is full of fascinating facts and figures, that will inform your work as a screenwriter.
Most recently, a really interesting report on the industry campaigning to win Oscar nominations in ‘How much does a Hollywood Oscar Campaign cost?’ This is an incredibly detailed insight into the extraordinary lengths gone to, to procure Oscars.
Other recent surveys / studies articles with particular application to the UK market have included –
‘What are the highest-grossing low budget British films?’
‘What makes low and micro budget films sell?’
‘Who’s distributing the best films in the UK?’
All very much worth a look http://stephenfollows.com/blog/
MORE TV DRAMA
Two TV drama shows that seem to have rather undeservedly slipped under the radar – THE NEWSROOM series 3, and LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX series 3.
THE NEWSROOM 3 is classic Aaron Sorkin – brilliant, quick-fire dialogue, all-round wit and sprakling repartee and high intelligence – but it’s also got a lot of really interesting things to say about all sort of different subjects, and in the week in which a Fox News ‘expert’ / moron described, ‘…cities like Birmingham that are totally muslim…’ as ‘…a non-white city, where non-muslims just simply don’t go in’, the on-going debate in the show about press ownership, what ‘news’ is for, etc is very timely.
LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX
Compared to HAPPY VALLEY I think this is very under-rated. Into its third series, the show continues to be consistently excellent. It’s a wonderful example of character-driven story-telling. It’s determinedly low-concept – the ‘big’ idea behind it initially was the late-life love affair between two old people. That remains very much part of it but equally strong – if not even stronger – are the stories surrounding the older couple’s respective daughters – played brilliantly by Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire. One of the things that is so impressive about both performances is how different Sarah Lancashire’s character is from her character in Happy Valley, and Nicola Walker’s from her police chief character in C4’s Babylon.
What I think LTIH demonstrates brilliantly is (at the risk of repeating a theme) how engaging and compelling flawed characters are. In LTIH both Anne Reid and her daughter Sarah Lancashire are in many ways objectively unlikeable – the Anne Reid character is stubborn to a fault, homophobic, even racist, yet wonderfully real and human. Similarly the Sarah Lancashire character is superior, arrogant but again so real, with a sense of vulnerability beneath the steel.
And what’s impressive is that virtually every single character has their own agenda, their own inner complications – their own sense of reality. It really is worth watching as a study of how to create real, engaging characters – and then enabling those characters to dictate and drive the story.
It’s a soap – but that isn’t meant as a denigration. It’s an example of a particular genre done at its very best.
BBC Radio 4 : Saturday Live Jan 10th http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04xjcmw
Not strictly about screenwriting or writing at all; but one of the guests was Paul Sinton-Hewitt, founder of ‘Park Run.’ PARK RUN is a wonderfully simple idea. It started as a single ‘timed run’(he’s keen to stress it’s not a race as such) for 13 people in Bushey Park, and now takes place in over 556 parks all round the world for hundreds of thousands of people weekly on Saturday mornings at 9am. He was really inspirational, talking about the mid-life crisis that led to the creation of ‘Park Run’ – divorce, getting sacked from his job, being unable to run (something that sustained him physically and mentally) due to injury, facing a bleak future in his mid-40’s – that led to him using an idea he’d seen in his native South Africa, to start Park Run. And it was based, as he said, on ‘giving something back’ to one of the things that had given him such pleasure in life – running. This is something that Phil Gladwin emphasises in his talk on how ‘networking’ shouldn’t be seen as a dirty word on our 2 day screenwriting course. As writers, you should be of the attitude that you’re actively looking to meet and help and share information with other writers – and if you have this attitude it will pay dividends for you.
One example of how much Paul Sinton-Hewitt has ‘given’ was how Waterworks Park in Belfast – previously a sectarian no-go area – had been transformed by Park Run, as have so many people’s lives. I’ve run Park Runs in various parts of the UK and I can vouch for its positive powers!
And while I’m on running, there’s definitely a feature film in the extraordinary life of RON HILL, who in December celebrated 50 years of running at least a mile every single day. The guy is clearly insane but he’s also a sort of genius – a pioneer who started his own hugely successful running clothes company, and in his prime was one of the very best distance runners in the world, significantly quicker than any UK marathon runner running today – and in his prime he ran his 100+ training miles a week around a physically-demanding full-time job. But it’s the achievement of running every single day – even straight after quite serious surgery and a car accident! – that for me marks him out as a true hero!
OK that’s enough about running,
Until next week,
All the best
Jan 16th 2015