SCRIPT ADVICE Newsletter – 6
- I’ve Got An Idea For A Script….
- A Day In The Life Of George, Jobbing Writer – ‘Networking’
- A Bit Of Extra
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I used to be a morning person. Happy to embrace the day, full of optimistic energy. Then again, I used to be a late-night let’s party till dawn person and during a particularly fecund period in my life, I also achieved the happy condition of being both at the same time. But then you get a bit older, parts of your body start to creak and other bits grow creases where there weren’t any previously and suddenly, your body tells you that drinking the same amount of alcoholic units as your BMI and staying up talking rubbish till 2am is no longer an option. Not unless you actually enjoy embracing the toilet bowl like an old friend and the dubious experience of greeting your 3 year old at 6am still drunk from the night before. No I don’t do that any more (honest) and am now a fully paid up member of the ‘I hate mornings’ club and hold a supplement subscription to the ‘going to bed before 10pm’ group. I now hate mornings because mine start so eye-wateringly early. Having a 3 year old puts paid to the once entirely un-appreciated joy of a morning lie in. He gets up with stuff to talk about (cars, trucks, dragons and knights) and lots of jobs to do (playing with cars and trucks and dressing up as a knight. I have to be the dragon, (which at such an un-godly hour and without any special makeup or lighting, I manage to do very well indeed) and all of this before those techy types at Cbeebies have turned their transmission switch to the ‘ON’ position. Between the hours of 6 and 8am I take the view that mummies over the age of 35 should be seen and not heard. Children under the age of 5 however, are seen and heard all too much. I try and hide in the kitchen, attempting to look busy when in fact all I manage to do is un-stick my eyelashes and unload the dish- washer. Michael finds me lurking there, hogging the kettle, trying to keep my eye bags from hitting the lino and jabs me in the bum with his sonic screwdriver:
Me: Yes Michael?
Michael: Are these my eyebrows?’
Me: Yes, and they are blonde and sandy. What colour are mummy’s eyebrows?
Michael: (close scrutiny) Grey.
I hate mornings.
I’VE GOT AN IDEA FOR A SCRIPT…..
I hear this a lot in my line of work. It often makes my heart sink a bit when the enthusee says something like ‘I was on the bus the other day and over heard a conversation between two women – very funny – it would make a great script’. Yes, there is no doubt that wigging in to other people’s conversations is a great way of ‘tuning in’ your ear; to getting used to listening to the rhythms of natural speech, and to learning how to control the ebb and flow of realistic, colloquial conversation. The Demon of Bad Dialogue lurks in the wings of many a professionally turned out script and not every writer finds it easy to write credible dialogue. The tone and style of writers such as Russell T Davies, Paul Abbot, Kay Mellor and Jonathon Harvey, to name just 3 writers capable of packing a strong, pithy dialogue punch is formed in my view, by their obvious love of language and the way people actually speak.
It is often the context in which the writer sets the dialogue spoken by a particular character, that really makes the scene sing. Often, it is the subtext of the scene that underpins the strength and appeal of the dialogue spoken and if a writer does not pay attention to the interplay between text and subtext within the scene, even lyrical and interesting dialogue can fall flat.
So an idea can start with language, but must actually contain a story to tell. This may sound obvious, but honestly, it is all too often that I find myself labouring through a script that actually does not contain enough plot, or enough things happening. So many scripts are created enthusiastically by writers who believe they have something to say, but who, in actual fact, have merely the kernel of an idea that started with something they overheard or an article they read or a event that occurred.
At the risk again of stating the obvious, stories have to have a beginning, a middle and an end and somewhere during and between these stages, there has to be a qualitative, clear, engaging journey taken and a progression shown throughout the narrative, via the characters and what they actual say and do. An idea becomes a script when text, subtext, character, dialogue and plot all come together. Now the writer can explore and describe visually and emotionally, the message, the moral, the theory behind their story. Now the writer is free to teach us something we might not have known, or show us lives that are not our own, but with which we can empathise. Now, with a strong narrative through line, like beads hanging on a string, the scenes within the script push the story on inch-by-inch and the characters in those scenes grow and develop and we, the audience are taken along for the ride.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GEORGE, JOBBING WRITER
7am – INT – MY FLAT – BEDROOM
Wake up to a feeling of foreboding and dread. Can’t think why. Do a bit of head rocking to see if I have a hangover. No. Check the pillow next to me, yep, empty. So, no over indulgence and no naughty one night stands. Why the creeping flush of anxiety under my PJs? Can’t be the menopause. I couldn’t be that unlucky surely. Better get up. Cleaning my teeth sometimes aids mental clarity – must be something to do with those red and blue stripes.
7.30am – INT – MY FLAT – BATHROOM
Fiercely brushing, then suddenly, like being hit in the head with a Space Hopper, I remember. Today is the first of a 4 day writer/agent/producer of telly drama jamboree called WriteUp! The organisers are friends of Scary Producer at Westenders and she has sort of almost-definitely-without-trying-to-hide-it forced the writer team to attend. WriteUp! It’s going to be hell and I hate it already, even the thought of that bloody irritating exclamation mark is making my cuticles curl. I spit toothpaste into the sink and in the mirror; my reflection gurns back at me. I look like Westender’s heavyweight griever Poppy Lemon; crumpled in grief at her toy-boy’s funeral, face collapsing inwards like a punctured vacuum flask.
10.00am – INT – THE ONEDIEN LINE SUITE – THE PLACE – LONDON
Am trying to look interested in the WriteUp! display board while up on the little stage, Viv Cholmondley (WriteUp! Festival Director) stoically chairs an earnest and humourless debate about the importance of comedy in dramatic writing. I stare blankly at a group photo of Viv and her WriteUp! Associates grinning inanely, perched on the steps of their new premises off the Goldhawk Road, and wonder why it is that these writery type events seem to happen in venues that actively drain the creative juice out of any one remotely creative or juicy. Speaking of which, Jaz Verge, the enfant terrible of new writers, whom at 17 is the youngest writer to have a play staged at the Royal Court, is currently deeply embedded in his own ego and is struggling to breathe whilst managing to continue to wax on about how, in his latest play ‘Torture in Tooting’ he likes to insert ‘moments of intense joy’ into scenes ‘unashamedly graphic’ in their ‘diabolical depressiveness’. God, I would like to punch him in his pretentious tattoo.
11.00am – INT – THE ONEDIEN LINE SUITE – THE PLACE – LONDON
Coffee Break. Viv, it turns out, is not a bad sort. She was very patient in her explanation of how to say her surname (not, apparently phonetically, you actually pronounce it Chumley – which beggars the response WHY THE FECK DON’T YOU WRITE IT LIKE THAT THEN?) and asked me if I had enjoyed the earlier ‘locking of horns’ and wasn’t Jaz marvellous? I think I managed to nod before Miles Cuban, gripping Viv like she was a muffin and he was carb-starved, dragged her away for a conflab with his celebrated new client Jaz. I have seen Miles suck the marrowbone out of a chicken’s windpipe, so I know how ruthless and thorough that man is. Jaz, I have no doubt, will go far and he doesn’t need me to swell the numbers currently circulating in his orbit. I cross the acrid blue shag pile in search of like-minded types.
11.15am – INT – THE ONEDIEN LINE SUITE – THE PLACE – LONDON
Now this is more like it. Holly (Westenders Nicest Script Editor), Colin Clipboard (Westenders archivist) Dylan and Su (both writers) and me are gathered in the ante-chamber having a metaphorical group hug before we have to go back into the Blue Room and get Networking. Dylan and I are discussing the merits of the series our suite is named after. We both agree that it is fab and shabby in perfect proportion. I also rather worryingly find Peter Gilmore, the leading man, a bit on the buff side. Su thinks sideboards are a massive turn off and we get confused for a bit because Holly thinks we are talking about furniture and says she’s always loved her mum’s welsh dresser. We put her straight over Peter Gilmore’s mutton chop face-do and then Scary Producer swoops down on us. She’s not happy. Neither is Di Featherstonehaugh (WriteUp! Co-Director) who is apparently, trying to get bums back on seats in the Blue Room to begin the next forum, ‘Traversing The Emotional Landscape of Contemporary Drama’. We do as we are told and disband.
6pm – THE BATTERED BADGER PUB – SOHO
Thank God that’s over. I am now pebble dashed by pretention, masquerading as good intention. Di Featherstonehaugh (not pronounced phonetically either, but as Fanshaw – these WriteUp! girls are taking the piss surely?) dragged us by the hand and we traversed the hills and dales, clinks and grykes of dramatic writing in modern Britain. Then, alarmingly, we were split up into ‘discussion groups’ and forced to collate our thoughts on ‘Characterisation and Its Role in Long Running Series’. I could have killed Dylan, because he shot his hand up and said my name when Viv asked us to nominate a group spokesperson. I don’t think The Onedien Line Suite appreciated my garbled, convoluted, rambling summary of our collective findings and now, half way down a bottle of Sauvignon, feet swelling up like warm bread in the heat of the pub, all I can recall of the most agonising 15 minutes of my life is a visual image of me, stammering and gulping, over-lit by strip lighting, my top clashing horribly with the lilac Venitian blinds, trying to avoid saying the phrase Emotional Landscape.
9.30pm – THE BATTERED BADGER PUB – SOHO
The Battered Badger smells of sweat, cork and corduroy. The talk is bouncy, fun, irreverent and loud. Shelly Croon, Dylan’s agent is half way down a second bottle of Fitou with Miles Cuban (we wonder if she will survive such a close encounter and I drunkenly vow to keep an eye on her windpipe for her, which she (naturally) does not understand.) Su is engrossed in a heated debate a table away, with some writing regulars from our rival soap Rossaman Street about how to keep writing for a series 40 odd years old, still fresh. Over by the now defunct cigarette machine, a nugget of established playwrights share anecdotes with a flank of fledgling telly writers and arranged up the stairway, Radio writers discuss the rigours of writing for a non-visual medium. Everywhere there is talk, argument, a sharing of experience, a swapping of knowledge and a lot of laughter. Di (of the improbable surname) starts the singing and at the end of it all, I think everyone agrees that this year’s WriteUp! Jamboree has got off to a flying start.
A BIT OF EXTRA
If you are a student, or have been during 2010 this is the competition for you:
National Student Film Association Announces Free Screenwriting Competition
Today the National Student Film Association (NSFA) invites all student film-makers to submit their short film scripts to the National Student Screenwriting Competition. The competition is run in partnership with the BFI and boasts a host of professional judges including BAFTA winner Asitha Ameresekere, the organisers of the London Screenwriters’ Festival, and board members of Euroscript and Women in Film and Television. The competition is aimed at UK students of all kinds who are looking for a career in film but have not yet had the chance to present their work to industry professionals. Not only does the competition offer fantastic prizes such as a mentoring meeting at BAFTA as well as BFI and IMAX vouchers, but students will also have the opportunity to get their scripts read by two members of the high calibre jury.
The competition is hosted online at Circalit, an online platform for aspiring writers, where all the entries will be visible to the public, and talent scouts will be paying close attention to the winning writers. Raoul Tawadey, CEO of Circalit, commented, “The NSFA are doing student film makers a great service by connecting young artists with industry professionals. Starting a career in film can be a difficult process and the gap between writing your first screenplay and seeing your work produced can be very daunting. I hope this competition and the work that the NSFA are doing will give students the opportunity to kick start a career in the film industry.”
Screenplay submissions can be up to five pages long and of any genre. The deadline is the 7th November 2010.
For more information please visit, www.studentfilm.org.uk
Contact: Franzi Florack firstname.lastname@example.org
SCRIPT ADVICE AT THE NATIONAL FILM AND TELEVISION SCHOOL
4 DAY WORKSHOP – PLOT AND DEVELOPMENT:
November 8 – 11th for those interested in HOW TO STORYLINE FOR LONG RUNNING DRAMA and HOW TO WRITE A TREATMENT FOR TELEVISION. Check out the link below
Or go direct to their website https://www.nftsfilm-tv.ac.uk and browse through their NFTS Shortcourses pages.
BBC WRITERS ROOM
This website is always a very useful font of info for writers. Their Opportunities web page is full of competitions and initiatives for writers new to the game and also those with a little more experience. I particularly like the look of this one, but there are many more opportunities listed so check out their website:
Little Brother’s Big Opportunity
BAFTA award winning television and film production company Little Brother Productions is offering a talented new writer £1,000.00 to develop an original television drama idea of theirs through to treatment stage.
Little Brother’s Big Opportunity is an endeavour to discover further new writing talent, and to develop with them compelling, original drama for television.
To be eligible, writers must have had one piece of their work professionally produced or, at the very least, have had a professional reading of their work.
Writers who have contributed episodes to UK television series or serials (e.g. a long running soap) are eligible to apply, but writers who have already had an original single, series or serial broadcast on UK television are not eligible to enter. No prior writing experience for television is required.
To apply, writers must submit their writing CV and the piece of their work of which they are most proud, that best demonstrates their talent, (this could be a stage play, a radio play or a screenplay) to:
Little Brother’s Big Opportunity
Little Brother Productions
155x Northcote Road
London, SW11 6QB
Deadline: December 31st 2010.
I hope I can help you with your writing; be it a television script, short (or full length) film or screen play, treatment or outline, novel or radio play, I read and script edit them all and can definitely help improve yours. Drop me an email@ Yvonne.email@example.com and let’s get working!
BYE FOR NOW AND HAPPY WRITING.
Copyright Yvonne Grace Script Advice November 2010