I spent Monday at the 3rd day of the London Screenwriters Festival Talent Campus scheme. The day was spent with script consultant / editor and all-round story guru KATE LEYS talking about how story works. I have to say my attention was absolutely held for the full session, from 9.30 – 6 – as Kate spoke without the use of any clips, powerpoint presentations or other artificial aids for the whole session.
Kate Leys talks about story with a real clarity borne of experience – she has worked on so many good scripts with good writers (I used to read scripts for her many moons ago when she worked at Film Four). It was a really useful story refresher day, that made me think about how story works in a lot of interesting ways. So much of what she said came down to how the best stories and characters come from the observation of real life, of putting yourself as writer into your characters’ situations.
And one of the other big things I took away from the day was the importance of clarity and precision in story-telling – how screenwriting in particular is about precise story – about conveying action in particular precisely and visually.
And she then gave verbal feedback in front of the room of 30+ people to all 28 of the ‘Talent Campus’ writers on their submitted screenplay ideas. Kate’s feedback was perceptive, constructive and honest – the writers not only picked up invaluable tips on their own projects but will have learned so much from Kate’s feedback on everyone else’s ideas.
To do this at the end of a day spent on her feet talking without notes showed very impressive mental (and physical!) stamina.
Kate is talking at the London Screenwriter’s Festival (Oct 23-25) and if you’re going and have the chance to attend her session, I can guarantee you will come away energized and much-better informed about story and the craft of screenwriting.
And here’s a link to a really good summing-up of the first three days of the LSF Talent Campus by writer KT Parker
Driving on Friday, I listened by chance to Kermode and Mayo’s weekly film review on the radio. I was struck by what a bumper week it sounded like – Kermode recommended 5 films highly. And the way he talked about them made me very much want to see each film. I’ve managed to see two of them so far and I’m working on the others! (although given the way feature film distribution works it’s highly likely that most of them will disappear without trace after their one week in the cinema). They were:-
A SYRIANLOVE STORY – a very powerful documentary by Sean McAllister that humanises and really drives home the tragedy of the crisis in Syria. Still on BBC i-player!
And here’s a really interesting interview with Sean McAllister –
…in which he says, ‘Character is king for me. I try to tell everything through character. Story is important but without great character arc a film just isn’t potent. People primarily connect through characters – that’s the empathy.’ Which is true of any sort of story-telling at its best – and echoes one of Kate Leys’ main themes.
…which came out in the UK this week but which I saw on an aeroplane a few months ago and enjoyed immensely. I was particularly heartened to hear Kermode say that the film made him cry two or three times – because it did the same to me, but which I put down at the time to the fact I’d been awake for about 24 hours, and was pretty much ready to cry at anything. It’s a Disney film, suitable for all ages, and there’s something of a Disney formula to it. But actually what it is, is a really skilled, engaging piece of story-telling, with quite a stirring anti-capitalist message!
…which Kermode liked because it worked as a story / thriller, and because ‘it’s really about something’.
ORION: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Another documentary that sounded fascinating – about a man who found great fame as an Elvis impersonator. A man who craved fame, and found it – but perversely, only at the price of personal anonymity.
Which he made sound great – human, character-driven, funny, touching.
You can also see his reviews of all of these films in last week’s Observer
C21 DRAMA SERIES COMPETITION
Just a quick reminder that the deadline for this very worthwhile script competition is coming up soon – Oct 16th.
‘The C21 Drama Series Script Competition, produced in association with leading independent studio eOne and Creative England, is designed to find the next big thing in international drama. We’re looking for outstanding pilots for a one-hour drama series from fresh writers who have got what it takes to create a primetime drama series. Winners will each receive 10K development funding, time in a writers room on a current series, and assistance in taking their drama project to series, with unprecedented access to the global television drama market.’
BAFTA / BFI SCREENWRITER LECTURE SERIES
I’m off tomorrow to the BFI in London to see the Beau Willimon (HOUSE OF CARDS) interview. But I managed to miss both the ANDREW BOVELL and JIMMY MCGOVERN sessions – if anyone attended either of these evenings, and would like to write up something about them, that would be great. Please email me – address below.
JEREMY CORBYN Part 2
Following up on my theme of people from the arts leading the way in political campaigning, here’s a link to a really excellent, inspiring and very well-written article by RONAN BENNETT from last week’s Observer about Jeremy Corbyn.
Ronan is one of the UK’s most talented screenwriters – most recently he wrote 2 series of Channel 4’s outstanding TOP BOY.
And a funny / thought-provoking comment on the ridiculous recent press coverage of Corbyn –
‘Tell the important story’- is a lesson we could all heed
Finally, news that two of my favourite stage plays from the last year, both from the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, are transferring to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End –
THE WASP by Morgan Lloyd Malcom and FOUR MINUTES TWELVE SECONDS by James Fritz.
Both are outstanding plays and productions and I highly recommend them. (James went onto be one of the 12 writers on the 2015 Channel 4 Screenwriting course, on which he wrote another excellent script).
Until next week
All the best
Oct 2nd 2015