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Friday, February 10, 2017

Music in Film – How Important is It? - posted by John Montana

Making a short film, or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun. Here is how I came up with and developed the sound and music in my most recent film called HUNGRY. Its a wicked little dark comedy skewering the rampant greed of shoppers at Christmas time.

 

video makerSo the way I work is that in the very beginning of preparing to shoot the film, when I am still writing the script actually, I start to listen to music that I like. I listen with the sole purpose of getting a feel for how this particular song will go with the film. I use each song that I like or think might go well and imagine how it will tell my story. Here is an example…in “HUNGRY”, the story takes place at Christmas. So I was constantly listening to holiday songs, wild versions, old-fashioned ones, newer versions. The one I came up with was of a child choir singing Carol Of The Bells. This song was important in setting up the beginning of the film in 3 ways:

  1. It is a beautiful innocent rendition of this song
  2. It lulls the audience into the sweetness of the Christmas season
  3. It also didn’t telegraph what was coming to the audience

I cannot tell you how important music or sound is in setting up your story or film. If you can do it right, then the whole film just falls into place. Another example of how much music played a part in my film is when the main character walks into the shop, the owner is listening to 1930’s jazz. The story’s background was that this woman has been alive for several hundreds of years, and this is her favorite music. Now you don’t actually see a 500 -year old woman on screen as that was just the back-story. But this music really helped the actress get the feel for what I wanted. And her performance made the film. Another instance of how important sound was for me, was in editing. My film is a horror film, and so I had a small creature. But because I was on a small budget, I couldn’t really afford to build a creature that could move in every way I wanted. So movement was limited. What I did tho, was to search a couple of free sound sites for sci-fi sounds, or dinosaur roars. It took me weeks to get it the way I wanted. In order for the creature to look realistic, I had to use different sounds for each 2-second piece of footage that had the little guy in it. Each different sound conveyed a different want and emotion in the creature. It was incredibly grueling and difficult work. But in the end, the sounds and music are what really helped this film. In my opinion! And when my main character was being eaten alive, sounds were so vitally important in conveying the horror of what was happening to him. And at the end of the film, when it is clear that the owner is in cahoots with the creature, or the creature is almost her mate, then the music that I put in at the end conveyed the craziness of this situation. So I put in this wild and crazy piece that makes me giggle whenever I hear it.

Here are some examples of the films that I made and how and why I used the sound/music for each of them.

  1. Needs Talking – I actually came up with the idea of this film because I can hear a train’s whistle in the distance from my current home. Hearing the train, I was hit with how lonely it sounded… and then the story came to me of a married woman being alone in her own home. And then leaving!
  2. A House Cleaning – This had the feel of an old 30’s mobster film for me, and I went looking for some music from that time period. I had 2 songs from public domain that I used… the first one being a lively jazz piece that slowly moved into a foreboding piece when it becomes clear to the audience that danger is approaching. I thought the music really helped the film.
  3. LATE – You know… I used the sounds of the airport to open this film. The hectic rushing to and fro at LAX and how the lead woman came rushing into focus. And then I used the fading of those loud and crazy sounds into silence to enter into old memories. And then the quiet of the hospital hallway and the hum of the elevator to convey her fear. As it is always quiet before the storm. And then I used the saddest music I have ever heard when she finds out her mom has died before she could say goodbye.
  4. The Chaser – This is a very eerie little story that I adapted into a short. I found some very strange screeching of metal sounds and high-pitched eerie music to open the film to show just how far the lead guy had to go to have this meeting. And the strangeness of the building.

Some of my favorite films have some great music in them as well.

  • LUCY – by Luc Besson
    This is the most recent film by the French director who brought us the beautiful and haunting film – “La Femme Nikita”. In LUCY, the use of music has really been amped up to make the horror of what is happening to Scarlett Johansson’s character. There is the slow low drumbeat of when she is waiting in the office lobby in the beginning that makes you squirm in anticipation of something really bad coming her way. Then there is her becoming super aware: She hears the minute sounds of creatures crawling and the sounds of radio waves as they go up out of peoples cell phones. There are way too many examples of  how he uses sound to enhance this film.
  • RED – The final film of the Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kielslowski.
    This is such a magical film and the music he used in it is beautiful and eerie. From sudden crashing cymbals to convey horror, to gentle intoxicating music for the “Fashion Show”, to again crashing doors for when the storm blows in. It is such a subtle and at the same time “in-your-face sound effects and music.
  • BLADE RUNNER – by Ridley Scott:
    For me… the music in this film is the most amazing sounds and music I have ever heard used in a film. From the weird lively beat by some kind of reed instrument (I’m guessing) when Deckard is walking thru the outdoor bazaar to the echoing music when he is in the great building of the Tyrell Corp. Even the weird futuristic music by Vangelis for the scene transitions are masterful. For me again… this movie is the perfect example of how important music and sound are to creating the world of the film you are making.
  • IRREVERSIBLE – by Gaspar Noe
    In this film, there is an undercurrent of bass that was purposely put into the soundtrack. The reason for this is because this low bass sound creates a feeling of nausea and confusion and dizziness for the  audience. I have no conclusive evidence of this, but if this was intentional, then it is a brilliant use of sound to affect the audience and bring them into the world of Monica Bellucci’s character and of the  world of rape.
  • WITNESS – by Peter Weir
    I cannot tell you how much I loved this film, for its power and simplicity of the storytelling. The arc that Harrison Ford’s character makes as a result of living with this Amish family for a while is why I love the acting business. When done correctly, it truly is wonderful to watch. There is a scene that beautifully shows the world of the Amish… it is the shot of the fields swaying in the breeze. The sound of the wind as it moves slowly thru the wheat or grass field is mesmerizing. In that one piece of film, you are instantly transported tot his place and the sound is so tranquil, that I could understand why some people choose to live this lifestyle. And that is ultimately what you strive for…for your audience to get   immersed into your world… if only for an hour or two.

short film ideas

In conclusion, if you are in preparation for a film shoot, or if you are already in editing, then I cannot stress the importance of taking your time and getting the music and sound right. If you have the right style of music that brings your audience into your film, and the right sound effects if you are shooting a horror film, then this will improve your odds of this being a successful film. If nothing else, it helps your audience into your film, and it help in keeping them there. If you don’t believe me, go and watch the movie Brooklyn.  The music in this film will bring you instantly into this world, and it keeps you there. Whether you like the movie or not!

About The Author:

John Montana is a video maker living in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Interviews: Jose Prendes, on low budget filming and working with Asylum - posted by AnthonyCawood

Jose PrendesToday I'm sitting down with filmmaker Jose Prendes to discuss his films, his writing and the fascinating path he's taken... enjoy!

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting/film making?
I was an only child, and I lost my parents when I was five, so I was very lucky to find myself in the hands of my Godparents, who I came to see as my parents. My dad was a huge movie buff, and he never really set limits on anything I could watch, so banished away my loneliness by plunging into movies and books and things like that. I knew very early on that I wanted to be a part of the movie world. At first, I wanted to be an actor, and I dabble here and there, but I discovered a knack, and an unquenchable love, for writing, and realized that the real power behind a film was the writer/director, so I set my sites on that and haven't looked back since!

Q: You’ve been making films since 2001, The Monster Man been your first credited feature, which stars genre legends Linnea Quigley and Tom Savini how did that come about?
I had just finished film school and wanted to put my learning to the test, which is something that a lot of film school graduates fail to do. I decided to shoot a modest movie, on DV, with my friends as crew, and it ended up getting distribution, which blew my mind. It remains to this day my all time favorite filmmaking experience.

Q: You wrote, directed, produced and starred in The Monster Man, labour of love or only way to get it made?
Everything you make should be a labor of love, because in the end what is the point to any of it? I did all that because I wanted to do all that, and yes, I knew there was no other way
to get it made, and I wasn’t going to wait around for something to make my dreams come true, I was going to force them into reality myself. That’s sound advice for anyone who wants to be a filmmaker. If you can do it yourself, then do it yourself, it’s more rewarding.

Q: How did you go about funding it?
I had family loan me the money, and I was very grateful to them for that!

Q: Did your family get their loan back with interest?
No. No, they did not. But it was an investment in my future! A farm doesn’t usual pull a crop the first year.

Q: Your next work seems to be as a screenwriter on Song of the Vampire, how did that come about?
I got that because the female lead in MONSTER MAN, Denice Duff, was going to make that film her directorial debut, and she asked me to come on board and do a re-write to make it less goofy. It's funny, because MONSTER MAN is a comedy, but she had a feeling I could add something to it, and I tried my best. It was a fun project and I loved going to the New Orleans set and hanging with the crew. Good memories.

Q: A lot of writer/directors start out with short films, you jumped straight into features, did you try shorts?
I did try shorts, in film school. The truth is shorts are worthless in the commercial sense. They are great for practice and cutting your teeth on a set and figuring things out, but as a professional filmmaker, it does nothing for your career. Now, there are exceptions, and career’s have been started based off of shorts, but when you compare it to the amount of shorts that get forgotten the odds are astronomical. It’s a way better bet to make a feature, because then you can at least try for distribution. With a short, all you can do is play festivals, because no one buys shorts. I did shoot a short on 35mm in black and white, with an eye to incorporating it into a feature, which eventually became by second feature, CORPSES ARE FOREVER.

Q: Your next film, Corpses are Forever, you take on multiple hats again, do you enjoy the different roles?
Again, it was a case of no one is going to push this train down the track faster and harder than me, so I took all those jobs (and more that I didn’t credit myself for) with a glad heart because I was making my dreams come true. That film was bigger in scope, with 35mm cameras, and a larger cast, but I had a bigger crew, who kicked ass and we got it through. I got to work with the amazing Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Felissa Rose, and Linnea again, as well as the now-late icons Richard Lynch and Don Calfa. I also met my wife on that set, so it has very fond memories.

Q: There’s a gap of five or six years before your next work, what were you working on during that period?
I wasn’t able to afford another movie, so I busied myself writing novels, and scripts, and getting married, and moving to Los Angeles.

Q: Your next few films are as a writer, all genre fare, were these spec scripts or commissioned gigs?
Commission gigs, and the less said about these, the better.

Q: You’ve also worked in TV, with Veronique Von Venom and Rest for the Wicked (and others), what are the biggest differences to Film in your opinion?
Well, it’s not really TV, they were youtube shows. We shot them pretty much how we would shoot a film, so no real difference.

Q: Some of your more recent work has been writing for Asylum, how is it working for them and how did you break in?
Asylum distributed CORPSES ARE FOREVER, so that’s how I came to work for them. I’ll be honest, I can be rather frustrating at times, and I hate feeling like a typist, but they gave me a shot to make films, and I will forever be grateful to them for the opportunity.

Q: What’s your personal fave in the work with Asylum?
THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE, hands down, because I got to write and direct that sucker, and got to cast with talented young actors and had an amazing crew, and we really got left alone to make our own movie, and people tell me that it doesn’t feel like the typical Asylum film. That’s probably why I wasn’t asked to direct again, and we went our separate ways.

Q: You wrote and directed the 2015 release Blood Brothers/The Divine Tragedies, what can you tell us about it?
It’s based on the Leopold and Loeb case of 1924, about two men who decide to pull off the perfect murder to prove their mastery over mankind with their intelligence. I took a David Lynch/David Cronenberg stab at the idea and turned it into this surreal story about serial killer brothers.

Q: Blood Brothers has a different tone to the Asylum work and some of your earlier projects, was this a conscious shift?
Blood Brothers was a different type of movie than CORPSES or WHALEY, and I knew it needed to have room to breath, so I left it decide for itself what it wanted to be. It was conscious up to a point, deciding on colors and music and aesthetic things like that, but for tone I look back at the script and what came out of there. Sometimes I don’t know what the characters are going to say or what is going to happen, and that’s exciting, that’s when the movie takes on a life of it’s own.

Q: Again you’ve managed to assemble a great genre cast, including Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, do you hire these specifically? If so why?
Casting was interesting for this one. I had the two brothers in mind since the beginning, and then we spent a few months tracking everyone down. I’ll be honest and say that we didn’t have anyone in mind for the roles of Barbara and Ken, but when they names came up it was as if the universe had delivered them to the movie, like they were always supposed to be a part of it. I love their work and they loved the script and the characters, so it was an easy slam dunk.

Q: Any amusing anecdotes about the famous (to genre fans) stars you’ve managed to work with over the years?
Nothing I can share. Hahaha!

Q: You have Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy, coming up... it sounds fascinating and again the cast(?), part documentary I’m guessing?
It’s a documentary exploring the hidden meanings behind Ed Wood’s infamously “bad” movie PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. We get in a lot of trouble with the government over that, and I’m not sure how much I can saw about it before they com and arrest me. I was honored that folks like Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Fred Olen Ray, William Lustig, and others would join me in exposing the truth and hopefully redeeming Ed’s work. It will premier in London at the end of April, if MI-6 doesn’t shut us down.

Q: Any other projects in the works we should be looking out for?
I published a novel a few years back called SHARCANO, which was a direct response to SHARKNADO, but I wanted to tell that kind of story with no regard to budget or studio interference, so I wrote the most kick-ass, action packed version of a B-grade shark movie, and it’s done very well. People usually pick it up as a joke, and then they read it and realize it’s less like a Syfy Channel movie, and more like a Michael Chricton novel meet a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Anyway, the sequel will be coming out on 2017, hopefully, and it’s titled: SHARKS OF THE LIVING DEAD.
Also, I published my first two non-fiction books in 2016: THE HIGH-CONCEPT MASSACRE, featuring interviews with 13 genre screenwriters including Carl Gottlieb and S.S. Wilson, and THE ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK CAMPFIRE COMPANION, an episode guide/interview book about the beloved Nickelodeon tv series from the 90s. Both are available on Amazon, as well as SHARCANO.
Okay onto some writing specific questions...

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?
I don’t like to worry about method, my concern is the story. Odds are if you’ve seen a ton of movies, you will know what structure is and what feels right, and if the structure makes sense or not, and if a story is solid, meaning it contains a beginning, middle, and end, then it has a perfect structure.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer coverage services, position themselves as gurus etc, what’s your view on such services?
Don’t do it. It’s pointless. Agents and managers don’t care about that. They are basically frustrated writers who want to leach off of you to make money. Trust your gut.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?
Getting anyone to read your shit is the toughest part. I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences and some led to a rep, while most didn’t lead to anything. There is no hard and fast way in. I would suggest some prestigious festivals that tout the fact that agents read the winnings scripts, because even if you didn’t win there is a chance that someone who knows someone read your thing and loved it and wants to pass it on. I’ve just passed on scripts to folks, who have passed it on and on, and until something happens. I haven’t been able to shake anything loose for very long, but then again I realize I am not the commission guy. I tried it, and I didn’t like it, so I want to focus on making my own shit.

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?
Never used them.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?
Best and worst advice I got was: “quit”. It was the worst, because it’s so negative, but it was the best because it set that fire in my gut upon hearing it and I knew I wasn’t going to quit just to prove him wrong.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Jose questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite

script, if they’re different.
My favorite film is a tie between Jaws and It’s A Wonderful Life… very different, but very similar for the effect it had on me. Both of those films are brilliantly scripted.

Q: Favourite author and book?
Favorite author is Mark Twain, a kindred soul, and my favorite book is probably Tom Sawyer, or The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, I can’t decide.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?
Scotch. Any variety.

Q: Favourite food?
Hamburgers and fries. I’m a simple guy.

Q: Any other interests and passions?
I’m in a weird position where my hobby is a my career, so I have no side interested. However, I am putting on my own convention in June 2017. It’s called Kid Kon, and it will be the world’s first kid-centric pop culture convention. It’s a ton of work and planning, but like anything I endeavor in it is a labor of love.

Q: I believe you also run Kid Kon in Pasadena, what can you tell us about it and how’d it come about?
I’ve been wanting to put on a convention for a while, but never had a solid enough idea. As a father of two, I realized that there wasn’t anything that really spoke to the young fandom, it all seemed to be middle-aged guys, so I wanted to create something that was strictly geared to kids and the stuff they love. So Kid Kon was born!

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters reading this?
One word: quit. 😉

Thanks to Jose for such an enlightening interview. Follow Jose on twitter @JosePrendes

About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Interviews: Richard Uber, Producer, Editor and good guy. - posted by AnthonyCawood

Richard Uber has been in the entertainment industry for… well, as you’ll see, a mighty long time! He has produced and edited hundreds of hours of content in both Film and TV, met a plethora of fascinating people and was good enough to sit down for a chat with me…

 

Q: So, your first credit, at least according to IMDB, goes back to 1984 when you worked on some music videos… how did you get into the business?

I studied film at Iowa State in 1967-68 found out I had to wait 2+ years to take another film course.  Left school, went to work in a brokerage firm and got myself transferred to NYC where I quit and took the post production equivalent of a PA, a vault technician at a place called Preview Theatre which was where the MPAA screened their films. All for the amazing amount of $65 a week take home pay.  They also had 6 floors of film editorial rooms and I got assigned to work with those films that were working there.  I got to work on Alice’s Restaurant, The Arrangement by Eliza Kazan, Angel Levine, Boys in the Band, Frank Perry’s Last Summer, and the installation of the first Kem’s in America for Michael Waldeigh’s Woodstock.  I wanted to do more, so when worked slowed down I moved back home and went to Columbia College Chicago. Columbus was unique, the people who taught there were actually working in the industry.

I was very lucky, I worked my way through school by working the equipment cages for the still photography labs and the motion picture department. In 1971 Jim Bourgeois started teaching Sound Editing at Columbia College. He was an amazing teacher, and a great mentor. I stopped working at the school and worked for Jim, one month free, then became an assistant editor for pay, then a sound effects editor,  then a music editor, and finally a picture editor.  I was working on a NBC network series “Wild Kingdom” as the head sound effects editor at age 21.

In 1972 while a Junior at school I got my first National Emmy nomination for outstanding individual achievement in sound editing.  Needless to say, that was the end of my college education.  In 1973 I left Jim’s company and started my own.  We started out doing feature films,  local commercials, industrials, and progressed to doing national commercials, museum exhibitions, and special effects.  By 1975 we had a staff of 27, an office on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, and a lot of work on the west coast.  I had one client need me for 18 weeks in Los Angeles and loved it so much that I stayed there.  Eventually selling my share to my partners.

Living in LA, I edited numerous documentaries for NBC, ABC, and PBS. Some of these I was also working as an associate producer. There are 2 things that helped my career immensely,  I started working on music videos very early before MTV, and I was probably the 2nd or 3rd film editor to become an online editor, which meant i could master for broadcast my own work,  so I didn’t have to explain to another person exactly how to do this effect.

I actually have tons of credits before IMDB Lists them, and they don’t list music video credits that were broadcast, If they did that I would have a couple of hundred more credits. IMDB also ignores people who are in the studio system.  Check out my best friend Tim Clawson http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0165472/.
So many movies ignored.  There is no central authority for IMDB, it’s crowd sourced.

Q: You then seem to have moved into TV as an Editor, how did you break in and get regular work?

I got work usually from the people who knew me. Or someone saw something I edited and reached out to me to edit something for them.

How I cut commercials got me music videos.

Music videos plus documentaries got me tv shows.

All that plus the special effects I did got me feature work.

Like editing got me post supervision which led to producing work.

Q: You worked on projects for Pat Benatar, Madonna, and the Go-Gos to name a few… did you get to meet them as part of the process? Any good stories?

Yes, I met them all, and we were collaborators in the editing room. I was known as a collaborative editor, easy to get along with, and most importantly willing to try ideas not my own.

There are stories, but they remain in the edit bay…

With Toto on “Stranger in Town” We had to deliver that morning at 9am.  At 6am I’m sitting on a hay bale in the middle of the editing room,  doing Foley of dogs digging in the ground.  They thought if I was that crazy I had to keep working on their videos.  LOL

Q: You also did work with Orson Welles as a voiceover artist, how was it working with such a legend?

At the first time I was very nervous, until at the 3rd take I stopped him, told him I needed a smile at the end of the first sentence, and a slide down between 2 words in the 3rd sentence.  Once he knew that you knew what the hell you were doing he was a cupcake.  There was no way I would have led him off the cliff.  I enjoyed my time with him greatly.  When I explained how I recorded him, and how I used smpte time code as sprocket holes to auto assemble him onto a 24 track recorder (The first time it was ever done) He thought I was very clever and thus I ended up directing him on many commercials and film projects.  He was incredibly smart and regaled me with old stories during dinners at Ma Maison.

Q: Of the films/projects you worked on back then, which is your favourite and why?
I don’t know how to even answer that.  When I’m working on them they are at that time my very favorite of all time.

“The Power Pinch” an NBC primetime documentary about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Ren and Stimpy” for the fun of putting it together.

Pat Benatar for “Stop Using Sex as a weapon” for pushing analog video as far as it could go.

Music Videos for changing the paradigm.

Q: You worked as an Editor and a Producer at Paramount for a number of years, what projects did you work on there?

Actually more time at Fox Studios.  I was the senior editor there.  I did the first digital cinema there.  Like Bryan Singer’s “X-men” Joel Shoemaker’s “Phone Booth” and “Tigerland”

Then NewsCorp (The parent company) asked me to help move the company to digital/HD.  I became the producer who was in charge of all the HDTV that was broadcast on the Fox Network  which included Episode 1 of Star Wars, and the first Dolby E broadcast.  I had to work on every Fox Film and have it in HD ready for air on the networks that bought it.  This represented 120+ million to Fix, so it had to be done even though the technology wasn’t even there to make it work.  Those who are on the leading edge of technology call it the bleeding edge….

Q: I believe you also worked as an Editor for Disney for a while, how was that? What are they like as an organisation to work for?

My other best friend Rob Wieland brought me over.  As an organization we called it mousewitch in a concentration camp way of speaking.  We also redid the Mouseketeers song, with M. I.C.    K.E.Y.    oh you SOB….   it was a job and not a fun one at that.  It is what made me decide to go out on my own again.

Q: You now work with Visceral Films, how did that come about?

Scott sent out a message for help and being in Cincinnati I answered it.  The rest is history.

Q: Who are the rest of the Visceral team?

Scott Wohlstein, CEO, writer, a serial entrepreneur like me.  He loves making movies, He comes from  much more restrained budgets than I do.

Devin Dietrich is a writer, and is in charge of Television projects.

We all come from different backgrounds which creates an amazing synergy

Q: Visceral Films ran a competition looking for a Horror script which a few of the SimplyScript’s writer’s entered, what prompted such a fairly usual approach?

We didn’t have any scripts that would work with the Land of Illusion and we wanted to see what other writers could come up with.  And we wanted to be aware of other writers.

Q: The scripts had to be set at the Land of Illusion Halloween theme park with the intention of filming there, how did that partnership/collaboration come about?

It’s simple.  I line produced a film there, knew the owner and the other key people and talked to my partners and we decided to do a co-production with Land of Illusion.

Q: How were the scripts evaluated, I imagine its a little different to how you’ve considered scripts in the past?

Totally different,  All the scripts were read by multiple people.  The top 15 or so were read by everyone involved in the decision making.  They were broken down and rated in different categories, including how easily it could be produced.  The metrics for each category were created and the cream rose to the top.  It was readily apparent which 3 were the top 3.

Q: Do you intend to use the competition approach again?

Yes, we found you.  I would love to find new writers, we are a writer-centric company,  but these projects need to be in production first. Our first responsibility is to our writers.

Q: As a producer how do you then go about financing such projects?

The 64 million dollar question, or 5 million dollar question, or 2 million dollar question.
We use Executive Producers who have worldwide contacts that pitch our films to investors who gave worked with them before.

In some cases we have an investor who will invest the last 50% as long as other investors have previously invested in films.

The other way is the Netflix way, we produce a film for 3.5 and we sell all rights for 10.  This only works with select people who have proven track records.

Q: Do you have an update on the optioned scripts?

Yes, the Brexit and Trump have had negative influences on our raising of capital.   Investors are cautious at the moment.  We expect a better reception to our projects in the 2nd quarter of 2017.

Q: What else have you got planned  Visceral Films.

There are a variety of projects on the horizon. Corporately because of Tax Credits we might be moving across the river to KY.

Q: What are your thoughts for aspiring screenwriters in terms of the best way to break in, or get their scripts seen by producers?

Keep entering contests,  keep collaborating with other writers.  I have a friend who got started in an entry level position at a literary agency. It is a catch 22 to get an agent.  Be wary of some agents that want money up front.  That is what the 10% of everything you do is for.  And keep writing.  Make sure you have the craft of screenwriting down perfect.  A non standard formatted script usually is sent to the circular file cabinet.  And don’t ever send unsolicited scripts to a company that doesn’t accept them.  You can get banned there and quickly around town.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer screenwriters coverage services, position themselves as guru’s etc, what your view on such services?

If you are really bad they might help.  They exist to make money for themselves, not the writers.

Q: What’s the best and worse film making advice you’ve been given?

The best,  Hire the best people you can afford for their position.  Step back and let them do their job. Run interference from the powers that be, so they can do their jobs.  And treat them like valued human beings.

The worst, It’s a tie
Digital will never be as good as analog.
and my favorite in 1987
“You should think about another career, you aren’t very good at this”. (just gotten 3 MTV nominations, and was going to Vancouver Canada to work on 3 series)

Now for a few ‘getting to know Richard questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different?

Citizen Kane

Q: Favourite author and book?

Film book:    François Truffaut Hitchcock,a wonderful book about Hitchcock.
Joseph Mascelli: The 5 C’s of cinematography. (writers should read this)
I’m hard pressed to determine which is my favorite book.  My father was a book publisher, I was surrounded by 1000’s of books all my life.
Probably Doris Kerns Goodwin, Her boohs on Eleanor and FDR, and on Lincoln are amazing.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

Wine, Reds,  Pinot Noir  Sonoma, in Oregon Oak.  ( 10 of us were partners in a Winery in Central California)

Q: Favourite food?

Thai Chicken and Beef Satay, Larb and other delights.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

Still Photography, Cooking

Q: Where do you live in? And what are your thoughts about moving to LA for a screenwriting career?

In California I live 70 miles  NW up the coast in San Buena Ventura.   In Cincinnati  I live in Over the Rhine (OTR) section just north of downtown in an 1860’s house my brother and I fully restored.

Moving to LA.  have enough money saved to survive a year.  It us very expensive to live there.  Try getting entry level jobs at production companies, or Literary agencies.  Keep at it, You will be rejected many many times.

Q: Any final thoughts for the aspiring screenwriters of ou there?

Keep at it.  You have selected a very hard career.  The rewards are worth it if you succeed.  Keep at it every day, and learn from each other.  You have made wonderful scripts, the main problem is getting them made.  Have a body of work you can show.  Good luck to all of you.


About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Comment on this on Anthony’s Blog

Friday, January 6, 2017

Always Be Writing – by John Montana - posted by John Montana

Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writer’s slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film or some writing project that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great project that will bring them fame and glory.

Now… you might get angry with me for saying this, or you will probably vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Of course it can be a dream that this happens, but most likely the story in some form has already been told before. Don’t sweat it!

Really, I’m not kidding with you. Don’t let it prevent you from writing. Just write… let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just! Write! You can worry about judging it after you are finished.

When you are done you can go back and create a story that will inspire you to make a film of it. Think of it this way… You are a sculptor starting with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film. So what I am trying say here, as succinctly as I can, is don’t be obsessed with telling an original story or have an idea that nobody has thought of before. Because ninety-nine times out of one hundred… it’s been done before.

I make short films. I enjoy shooting them and making them. But I am not under any illusion that these short films will make my career. I have two full feature scripts waiting to be done. I am using my shorts films to open doors and to gain experience on the set. Period! 99.99% of short films will never make money or be commercial. They are only a means to an end.

A short film is merely a “means to an end”, to get someone to ask you this: “Do you have any feature scripts that I can read?” To generate interest in you and what you have written. So here is a saying that I have come across many times… Always Be Writing.

Here is another way to look at this: Treat your writing, or other creative work, with the same kind of respect you have for your family doctor or dentist. Doctors and dentists have studied hard for years and treated their work with respect and care. So should you.

If you treat your writing with disdain and laziness, or as a lah-dee-dah creative artist that will get to it “when inspiration strikes”, then shame on you. Because all you are doing is confirming to society that artists are all flaky and emotionally high-strung…and that we are ultimately disposable as paper in an outhouse. And to quote a line from Bruce Willis in Robert Rodriguez’s “SIN CITY” – “There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong, and then there’s this”. And I don’t say this to be flippant, it’s just that artists are treated so badly, I want to stop this the best way I can.

Exercise: For the next three weeks, set your alarm clock early in the morning and spend ONLY 15 minutes each day writing!! Something…Anything…Just write! Don’t look at it and judge it as being either good or bad. That is not the exercise. The exercise is to try and create a HABIT of writing. Like you go to your job. It is an attempt on your part to train your body and mind for just 15 minutes each day to take your writing seriously and just write. And for those of you with the excuse “I don’t have time”… then here is another saying that I really love. TIME IS MADE, NOT FOUND! – You make the time by prioritizing it and writing. Simple as that!

About The Author: John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, Hungry has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.

Images courtesy John Montana

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Five Tips on Making a Short Film – by John Montana - posted by John Montana

Making a movie or a short film can be an extremely exciting and fun adventure. It is a ton of fun being on a set and shooting your own film. However, it can also be a complete nightmare, especially if you are not prepared or really have no idea on how to go about it. I have been making short films now for five years, and I have had some success at it. And I keep growing as a filmmaker, because no matter how many issues come up, I keep working at it. But for the most part, each film I have made has been very challenging because problems ALWAYS come up on a film set. It will be your job to navigate through these rocky times as it will most likely be your film. Don’t worry about it. If you learn how to stay calm and be focused on just solving these issues as they arise, you will have a great and rewarding experience. Following are five tips that I feel can smooth your way into filming. These tips address issues that I feel tripped me up several times and I want to share them with you, so you won’t make the same mistakes, because “Time Is Money”. If you remember this one thing, it will go a long way to keeping you on track and making a great film.

1. Be A Storyteller
The Bottom Line is this: The director is first and foremost a storyteller. You must have a cohesive, compelling story to tell. This is not a difficult thing to do, as everyone has at least one story to tell from their life. Whether it is a breakup, or a family trauma, or a secret desire… the list is endless. You have to trust that no matter how painful the story is, or how embarrassed you are of that story, it has been experienced before by someone else. This is not a bad thing… it means that we are all connected in many ways and that these stories are indeed universal. We all have a unique story to tell that many people will relate to and identify with.

2. Write Every Day
Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writer’s slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great film. Now…you might get angry with me for saying this, or you will probably vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Just write… let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just write. You can worry about judging it after you are finished. Think of it this way… A sculptor starts with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film.

3. Learn How To Communicate
Several directors I know have become very successful in their careers as filmmakers. They learned how to have some knowledge about every aspect of the process of filmmaking. They have learned how to speak the language of every person on their set, from costumes to the actors to the director of photography (D.P.) to the grip to the sound designer to the art director. What I am trying to say is this… I have almost totally screwed up a couple of my films because I didn’t communicate well enough with my crew. I wasn’t clear enough with a couple of my crew members of what I wanted, which then led them to do what they thought I wanted. It almost destroyed me and my film. Think of it this way. Everyone of your crew is an expert in their chosen field. You are being respectful of them, in turn they will do their best to give you what you are seeking. And that is called “Collaboration”. And good collaboration almost always leads to a great film.

4. Set Up Your Shot List Before Shooting
There are some directors who will storyboard every single shot on their shot list. Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for this, as he was also notorious for giving his actors very little freedom in their movements and portrayal of their characters. I don’t do this personally. I write out a complete shot list of every scene that I want to film. This is my process of making my shot lists:

I look at my script and write down the first scene and how I want to shoot it or how I want it to look on film. I normally start at the beginning and work my way through. I study the first scene over and over again. I look at the number of ways that I would like to shoot it. I will then write down the first set-up in regards to the camera angle and type of shot I want. Then I will choose another angle to shoot the same scene. I will then need to get coverage on these shots so that when I am editing, I have something to cut to for a reaction. And so when I have 4-5 different shots or set-ups for that first scene, I will then move on to the next scene and do it all over again. I find the act of setting up scenes is one of the most creative parts of the filmmaking process… for me anyways. There are so many options to choose from andso many different ways that you can tell your story. This part is where I go through all of my options and run the scene in my head and visually see how it plays out. Does it work? Or is there another, better way to do it?

What I am trying to say is this – ALWAYS finish your shot list before you get to your set. It will give you a road map of what you want, and how you will shoot your film. And, because you are so well prepared, you can easily replace or remove a shot that you don’t need. Or you will be inspired to get another shot…one you didn’t think of before. And when this happens, it always feels great.

5. Create a Real Environment
Creating a real world or environment for your actors or for the film is so important, that you will be surprised how easy filming is when you get this right. This is why I love shooting on real locations. The environment is real, as it is the world of the story. This is very helpful for your actors to believe the world they are in. Their imaginations must have something solid to grasp, in order to create believable characters. Wardrobe, lighting, their creativity all help in achieving truth in their performances. Now shooting on a sound stage is great as well, as long as you have the money to do it, or if your production is large enough where this is in your budget. I am at the stage where I go and rent locations as this is much cheaper and more time efficient. Even if you are on a soundstage you must not skimp on making the world as real and believable as you can.

So these are five important tips that every filmmaker should have addressed before shooting your film. If you take the time to prepare for your shoot correctly, when you actually get to the set, things will flow much more smoothly that if you were careless. Because if there is one thing you can always count on, is that there will be “challenges” that arise on the set. It is how well you deal with them that will make or break your film.

About The Author: John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, Hungry has been accepted into 27 film festivals all over the world. Watch his free online movies at No Title Production Films.

Images courtesy John Montana

Monday, October 24, 2016

Roadmap Writers - posted by Don

roadmapwriter Roadmap Writers aims to bridge the gap between fresh, talented voices and the industry execs who can make things happen.

Roadmap is a hub for writers who have the talent, put in the work, and take advantage of every opportunity to build relationships with executives from all corners of the industry.

With the most immersive training in the industry, Roadmap prepares their writers for marketing…and then provides them with unparalleled access to execs to strategically push their art forward. Roadmap’s motto is “Get Real. Get Ready. Get Traction.”

Roadmap’s staff has over a decade of experience helping writers and has helped many achieve success through our training programs. Roadmap has recently partnered with the WGA, Slamdance, the Tracking Board and SeriesFest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Textual Assassins – Directory’s Commentary - posted by Don

I found this in the comments section from Rob Wright, the film maker of Textual Assassins. There are some great insights here on the film making process. For writers (and film makers) there is a lot of valuable information here on working with a director to go from script to screen.

– Don

Rob writes,

robDear Simply Scripts, hello!

I hope you don’t mind me jumping in on this thread – I’m the film-maker behind Textual Assassins.

First off, I wanted to say a big thanks to Simply Scripts.com for providing such a fantastic resource (for both script writers seeking feedback on their work or looking for opportunities to have their work made, and for film-makers looking for material or writers to collaborate with).

Back in April of this year, when I was considering making a film and before I had settled on Nolan’s wonderful screenplay, I spend many enjoyable evenings here reading many, many screenplays – I was struck by the creativity and quality of the work, but also by the supportive community spirit evident in the forums.

Anyway, by way of giving something back, I thought I might share a few insights about this project in case any of this might be of interest or useful in some way to your community?

I should say at this point (in case it isn’t obvious) that Textual Assassins was my first attempt at making a film (at least on this scale) – I am therefore very much a beginner/indi film-maker still learning the ropes and as such anything I say below should not be taken too seriously – it’s certainly not an industry insight – however, since Nolan Bryant and I managed to come out of our little collaboration unscathed, still on speaking-terms (haha-Nolan), and with a finished piece of work we are both quite proud of, I suppose we must have done something right !

I’ve tried to think of a few things below which might be of interest, but please feel free to ask any other questions if you would like to know more. (Who knows, Nolan might also answer from his perspective too)? If anyone is interested there are some photos, example storyboards, and further thoughts on this Facebook page.

Why Did I Choose This Particular Script?

There are some fantastic scripts on this website, but for me Textual Assassins appealed for a number of key reasons. It’s witty (in a black comedy kinda way), well written, with some great characters and fun dialogue, etc. – but on a more practical level, it was just… ‘do-able’ (read: manageable for me as an indi film-maker). Limited locations / minimal props needed, a small leading cast, concise and to the point (about the right length for me, not too ambitious in scope, but still a challenge). A beginner film-maker’s dream really. I also read the community forum posts alongside the script and got the sense (largely by the way that the author was responding to suggestions and critique from others) that he would be someone I could work with.

What Happened Next? How was Contact Made?

I contacted Nolan via email, and asked permission to turn his screenplay into a short film – I was open and honest with him about my pervious limited experience but sent some examples of smaller projects I’d completed in the hope that this would show I was serious. I was trying my best to give assurances that I’m a ‘finisher’ and if he would take a chance and grant me a time limited option, the film WOULD be made. After a good number of initial email exchanges we settled on agreeable terms. I also agreed to consult before any major changes occurred, and promised to keep him posted on progress as I hit the milestones.

There are Some Differences Between the Screenplay and the Film – Why so?

Both Nolan and I were open from the outset to the idea that some things would change. This was a two-way street though – I suggested a few things, some he was happy to run with, and others, he explained, he would rather not see happen – and this was OK for me too. Nolan was a great person to work with, clearly talented, but also flexible and open – this was important to me.

For the most part I tried to adhere to the original Screenplay and use it as the blueprint for the story, but here were a few reasons for change, which might be food for thought?:-

i. Localisation – the original script used some phrases that tied it to a particular region (of the world) – and yet the film was going to be made elsewhere (I’m from the UK so that is where the film would need to be set, Nolan is not). A example: the original script included one character described as “bush-league” – this is simply not a phases well understood in the UK (it was changed by me through negotiation with Nolan to “School-Boy error” to address that).

ii. Character Names – some of the film characters have different names to those in the Script (eg. Kyle became Big-Dave). Again, a bit of a localisation thing for me. Kyle isn’t a widely popular name in the UK in the age range of the character. Also, this wan’t a big deal, but my actor playing the role of Kyle looked to me more like a BIG-DAVE!

iii. Other changes came about during early rehearsals or indeed ad lib, where my actors felt their characters would respond slightly differently. As their Director I wanted to allow them this ownership of the characters. Some other direction changes came about due to taking advantage of the layout at the locations we had available. The two pillars in the hallway were just crying out to be used for the stand off between PETE and DAVE for example.

iv. Another somewhat larger change occurred towards the end of the film. In the original screenplay when the police show up, the five assassins are instructed to “drop their guns and raise their hands” and we do not know their fate (but assume they are arrested?). However in the film, I wanted the viewer to see Rookie making a move (and we assume hit fired at the police?). Nolan and I talked this through, along with a third possible ending and I had agreed to shoot all three alternative endings and then we could evaluate which worked best in the edit. As it happened, unfortunately, I overran on the schedule during the film shoot (a night-time shoot at the location) and had to make a quick judgement call in the moment – either continue shooting and risk annoying the location owners (it was about 2:30am and the flashing police lights were becoming annoying!) or cut our losses and only shoot one of the endings. I opted for the latter.

(I suppose the point here is, sometimes even with the best will in the world, a Director might need to make changes and sometimes they need to be made quickly).

How many table-reads / rehearsals did we have with the cast before shooting?

We had rehearsals only for the 3 main characters (Assassins – PETE, DAVE & ROOKIE). The other actors learnt their (few) lines independently and I gave direction as we filmed on location, we filmed multiple takes till I got what was needed. Remarkably, other than the actor playing ROOKIE, the cast consists entirely of good friends of mine whom had zero previous acting experience (I think they did a great job!). I arranged for PETE and DAVE to have two acting classes before we held rehearsals with ROOKIE. The actor playing ROOKIE was more experienced and helped a little on set with acting direction. We had only two rehearsals sessions in total before we filmed.

How long did it take to make the film?

5 Months (not a day-job) – although in reality most of this time was spent planning. Getting the actors on board, converting the script to storyboard, then to shooting script and shortlist, location-hunting, prop-making, organising dates and times when I would be able to access equipment (camera and lighting etc.) and when people would be able to make it. Once the planning stages were done, the film was shot during only 5 shoot-days (2 long days in the main house location + 3 shorter sessions at the other locations). There was a great deal of pressure during the shoot days, as I was leaning on the job to some extent, and was very mindful to keep the location owners on board.

How much did it cost to make the film?

Textual Assassins took a great deal of time, energy and effort to make – but this was largely because I was trying to do pretty much everything on my own – a labour of love you might say. I wanted to direct this film, yes, but I also wanted to use this opportunity to learn something about the other key roles typically associated with film-making. This means that I made the storyboard and props myself, I sourced the locations, organised the cast, arranged the acting-classes/rehearsals, stood as DOP, I operated the camera and microphones, I set up the lighting, recorded sound-effects, edited the footage, colour graded the film, decided upon the soundtrack music, I composed the additional music, etc, etc.

Honestly – I think I gained about 5 years of real film-making experience by tacking this project in this way, but it was a heck of lot of work for one person alone and much more that I had anticipated.

Other than a few items which I bought or hired – most of the technical equipment was hired for free through a lot of begging and borrowing! My actors (my friends) all agreed to work for free (although I fed them!) and they all commented that they really enjoyed the experience very much.

Textual Assassins was made with a budget of only c.£300 (c.400 USD / c.350 Euros).

…anyway, I hope this post proves to be in some small way useful to the community here at Simply Scripts. I know the film isn’t perfect, but given the constraints highlighted above, I’m quite pleased with the outcome and I believe Nolan is too. We thank you once again for this great resource through which we were connected.

Keep writing the great material people!

Rob.

Textual Assassins (10 pages in pdf format) by Nolan Bryand

Being a hitman is tough, killing indiscriminately is harder than you’d think. (Short, Dark Comedy)

Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Friday, September 2, 2016

STS Interviews: Up Close and Personal with Danny Stack - posted by AnthonyCawood

Occasionally we take a break from showcasing scripts, and focus on the masterminds behind the words. Because there’s nothing better than hearing from successful members of “the craft”, and absorbing the sage words they have to tell.

Today, we are happy to publish an interview between Anthony Cawood, and Danny Stack, a UK based screenwriter and director whose TV credits include Eastenders and Doctors, kids’ TV shows The Octonauts and Thunderbrids. He also co-wrote and co-directed the kids’ feature Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg (just recently released). As if that wasn’t enough, Danny also produces the UK Scriptwriters Podcast, blogs about the industry and has released a book to help aspiring screenwriters break in, entitled: The UK Scriptwriter’s Survival Handbook.

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting?

A: I was working as an assistant in Channel 4’s comedy department in the late 90s, when they were making shows like Spaced, Black Books, Chris Morris etc. It was a great time for the dept and the channel, and I got to read a lot of scripts that were submitted. I always had a fascination with screenwriting, so my time at C4 just added fuel to the fire, and I realised it was what I wanted to do above all else. My bosses thought I was nuts, but I gave up the day job in 1999 and went freelance, trying to become a scriptwriter. I was nuts!

Q: How did you get into Channel 4 as an assistant in the first place?

A: I came over from Ireland in 1994 and got work as a media temp (which I highly recommend as a way of getting ‘in’ to the biz). I got a temp job at C4 that was meant to last 2 weeks but I stayed 2 years! It was in the Viewer Enquiry dept; taking complaints and enquiries from the general public. I then took a year out to go traveling, and when I returned I knew I wanted to work at C4 again, so I got a temp job there, and saw a job was available in the comedy dept, so I jumped at it, and got it!

Q: You’ve been writing scripts for 10 years, how did you break in with your first one – The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers (or was there something before that)?

A: When I went freelance, I initially worked on a couple of TV shows as part of the production crew (Black Books, Ali G) but then decided to fully focus on my writing (paying the bills via script reading/script editing). Between 2000-2004, I read loads of scripts and developed my own writing portfolio. My first break was BBC’s Doctors as they read one of my spec scripts, liked it and invited me to write for the show. That was my first commission, but it ended up on TV just after my episode of The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers. The Adrenalinis was my first commission in kids’ TV, and it came about as I met Nick Ostler (the co-creator of the Adrenalinis) at a short film screening, and he just had The Adrenalinis commissioned by CiTV. ‘Know any good animation writers?’ he asked. ‘Yes, ME!’ I replied, having never written for animation previously (!).

Q: Your early career is primarily in UK TV, how did you get in and get regular work?

A: BBC’s Doctors was my way in. I got my first agent and she sent one of my specs to the person responsible for hiring new writers on the show. She read my script, liked it, and invited me to pitch ideas for the show. I wrote 2 episodes in total, but I got frustrated by the commissioning process, often waiting long periods to hear if an idea was accepted or rejected, or worse ‘spiked’ (to be used at a later but indeterminate point). But writing for Doctors got me the opportunity to write for EastEnders. You have to write a trial episode of the show to get selected and on my first try, I was rejected. A year later, I tried again, and got accepted. I wrote 2 episodes of EastEnders, and was lined up for more, but then a new producer came on board and did an overhaul of the writers, and I was out (and gutted!).

Q: You’ve written for Children’s TV too, what are the differences when writing for a younger audience?

A: The main difference is tone. All the usual screenwriting craft applies. In fact, even more so, as kids are very sophisticated and watch a lot of story so they can tell if something is boring, predictable or not very good within seconds.

Q: Is it any easier to break in to Children’s TV?

A: In a way, yes, as there’s less ego and status involved in Children’s TV, so a new writer can find it quite welcoming, regardless of whether they’ve got previous experience. My top tip would be to attend the Children’s Media Conference (http://www.thechildrensmediaconference.com/ every year in Sheffield) as it’s a who’s who of the UK biz, so a great way to network and schmooze your way into writing for kids’ TV.

Q: You’ve taken the role of Writer/Director on some of your shorts, was this to maintain artistic control, expand your experience, or something else?

A: All of the above! I realised a director gets all the credit and the writer is largely ignored. I didn’t want that to happen with some of my passion projects. I was always interested in directing anyway, so I decided to make shorts to see if I was any good, expand my experience, and have some fun! I made a very ambitious supernatural drama called Origin (http://originshortfilm.co.uk/), and spent a lot of money, but it was essentially my film school and I learned a lot. The film did well on the festival circuit and won Best Horror at the London Independent Film Festival.

Q: Would you advocate writing/making short films, why do you think they are useful?

A: I would recommend EVERYONE try making at least one short film, homemade or otherwise (official funding etc). I know a lot of writers who aren’t interested or don’t think they have the suitable mentality/personality but you get a lot of help when you’re directing a film (the cameraman, the sound, the actors, etc) so it’s not as daunting as you think. But giving it a go is great just to see how the process is done, and gives you added appreciation for those who do it on a regular basis.

Q: Did you start with short scripts and then move to features with Nelson Nutmeg or have there been other feature scripts so far unproduced (‘The Good Guys’ for example)?

A: When I started out, I wrote feature spec scripts & TV spec scripts, then short scripts. All of this helped to build my writing portfolio. Getting a feature film made through the industry is a real achievement (on average, it takes about 5 years for a film to get made). It’s little wonder that most feature spec scripts don’t get made at all. But taking control of your own work means you can produce your own scripts, which is what I started to do with my short scripts and web series. This in turn gave me the confidence to tackle making my own feature film, and I hooked up with my good friend Tim Clague to help make this happen. But sometimes you get the chance to work on commissioned feature films; I did a rewrite of the Lego Friends movie, and a horror script I was hired to rewrite goes into production this November.

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?

A: I’ll lay out the five main beats of the three-act structure first (inciting incident, end of act one, midpoint, end of act two and final twist/denouement) just to give me a basic shape or skeleton that I can work from. After that, anything goes and I’ll follow my instincts regarding the characters and story. If/when I get stuck, I’ll cherry pick from some of the structural models to see if they can help unlock the problem (e.g. Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet or the 22-step approach etc). I’m a big fan of structure, I see it as your friend that’s there to help you when you need it.

Q: Where did the idea come from for ‘Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg’ (http://www.nelsonnutmeg.com/), and what prompted you to dive in and make it yourself (with your writing/directing buddy Tim Clague)?

A: I had been working with Tim for a few years, first with the UK Scriptwriters Podcast (http://ukscriptwriters.podomatic.com/), and then on more official projects like corporate work/ads. On the back of one of these ads, Tim suggested we make a family feature film together. He was frustrated with his individual efforts to get a feature film made. He wanted to make an indie low budget film but didn’t want to do horror. Family/kids sprung to mind, and I’d been working in kids’ TV for quite a while at this stage. So he figured if we combined resources, and wrote/produced/directed together (Coen Brothers style), that would get the film in the can. So we agreed to do it this way, then knocked around a few ideas, and came up with a summer camp mascot getting killed and a gang of kids investigate (knowing that we could shoot this locally to us, too).

Q: What were the challenges you face in making Nelson?

A: Well, we had no money. And no support. It was just us two to begin with, and all we had was the idea. But we put all our experience into practice, breaking down what needed to be done in common sense chunks (you can check out ‘Making Nelson Nutmeg‘ here – http://dannystack.com/making-nelson-nutmeg/). Once we knew where the story was going to be set, we went into pre-production putting the necessary elements in place. We hadn’t even written the script yet but we wanted to get some momentum going while we wrote the script rather than wait. So, once the location was locked, we started to gather a small team, then we finished the script, then we networked with the industry to tell them what we were doing and why, then we crowdfunded some money, put in some of our own cash, and got small private investment elsewhere, and made the film for that amount. The combined savvy and nous from the both of us really paid off, and directing the film together worked very well (our top tip: make sure the both of you are involved in creating & developing the story together from the start, that way you have equal understanding and no-one goes off on an individual director vision-quest).

Q: Anything you’ve learned from the experience? And anything you’ll change in future scripts/films because of it?

A: I come from a script-heavy background, I love scriptwriting and all its intricacies. But working on the feature showed me how flexible the script can actually be, once the practicalities of production come into play, or what the actors can do, and then what the edit can achieve or improve. I was aware about all of this previously but I got to experience the differences physically and emotionally by making my own film, and that’s a key difference than just reading a clever article somewhere online. But I also learned that there’s a tonne of info that doesn’t go into a script; all of the stuff you’ve worked out in terms of world of the story and character motives and certain bits of logic that’s perfectly clear to you but you end up answering questions about on set to cameramen, props, make-up, actors etc as they don’t know the story as well as you do. If you CAN’T answer one of these questions, you haven’t done your work properly to this point.

Q: What’s the release plans/schedule for Nelson Nutmeg?

A: It had its world premiere at the London Film Festival in October 2015, which was a great boost and achievement for us (we made a kids’ film for kids with kids in the lead roles, and on a microbudget, but we get a world prem at the London Film Fest. Crazy!). Since then, it’s been on the festival circuit and a mini-UK cinema tour we organised ourselves. It got a US release in the summer of 2016, and we’re finalising plans for a UK Stream/Dvd release this autumn or later in the year. We’re such a tiny film, but we’ve reached well beyond our expectations.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?

A: Well, I go into this in great detail in the UK Scriptwriter’s Survival Handbook (http://bit.ly/UKScriptwritersKindle), which myself and Tim compiled as a hands-on and practical guide to surviving as a screenwriter in this country – sharing our experience and practical know-how. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever before to make contacts, and get your work out-there. And there’s more help, courses, articles and books to make writing ‘easier’. Writing doesn’t get easier of course, but there’s no excuse not to get better. Networking is important; half of the work I’ve ever done is via the contacts I’ve made over the years.

Q: You co-host the excellent UK Scriptwriters podcast, what prompted this venture and what have you learnt from it?

A: I actually started the podcast as I was procrastinating, and having a bit of a slump with my confidence/writing. I was online trying to find UK writing podcasts as a way to get inspired and couldn’t find any so I thought: THERE SHOULD BE ONE. And then: I’LL DO IT. And then: NO, I’LL DO IT WITH TIM, HE’S PROBABLY GOT A GOOD MICROPHONE. And lo, he had. We’ve been doing the podcast since 2010. We enjoy it for ourselves mainly, as a hobby, but it’s been a neat distraction, and one that ultimately led to us working together to make Nelson Nutmeg.

Q: You’ve had some great guests on the podcast, any personal faves? (mine was Tony Jordan!)

A: Mad Max writer Brendan McCarthy was great; very generous with his time and insight on the making of that film. Andrew Ellard’s comedy podcast is a popular one, as is James Cary’s sitcom special, and James Moran’s horror interview, and Debbie Moon’s Wolfblood. I’ve loved all our guests! We’re open to suggestions on who might be next…

Q: Your blog is a must read too: http://www.dannystack.com, that’s been going for 11 years, providing a tool of free help and advice for writers. Do you enjoy giving back to the community in this way?

A: I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because there’s a whole load of sites and social media that are very needy for your screenwriting time & attention. I’ve been blogging since 2005 and trying to share what I can. But why do I do this? Is it an insecure need for time and attention? That must be part of it, but I realised it comes from a bigger and deeper reason than that: I’m doing it because it’s the kind of advice and support I would have liked when I started out, when I didn’t know what I was doing or what I could do. I’m doing the blog and providing free help (when/where I can) because I know what it’s like to feel cut off or clueless or not talented enough. But with a committed application and focus in the right areas, anything is possible.

Q: You’ve also co-written ‘The UK Scriptwriters Survival Handbook’, what prompted that?

A: Ah, sorry, I’ve mentioned this already in the answers above. But it’s curious. You can give away free advice and insight on a blog (like I’ve been doing) yet still get daily emails asking you the same questions about how to get an agent or how to break in as a writer. There’s a constant source of people coming through, and they may not have come across your site. And even when you point them towards the article on the site or the relevant blog post, they still don’t really follow through. But if you put all the relevant info in a book, then people are willing to pay for the info, to have it ready at hand. So, Tim and I decided to put the best bits of our blogs into one book that would cover everything everyone would need to know about surviving as a screenwriter.

Q: It’s fairly unusual for a UK focused book of that type, as most seem to feature US and working in Hollywood. How is it being received?

A: It’s done really well, for such a niche area and niche audience. We self-published, and it’s made us some handy money between us, so we’re pleased. Some of our properly published friends in the world of screenwriting books have expressed jealousy that they didn’t self-publish themselves, as the publishing deals for these types of niche books aren’t always that generous. Ha!

Q: You help with assessing entries for the Red Planet Prize, which is a great competition for UK screenwriters, what’s the idea behind this?

A: In 2007, I had an idea for a UK screenwriting competition where a new writer would get a prize for their winning script BUT ALSO get mentored afterwards to ensure that their career received the kickstart it deserved. I took the idea to writer/producer Tony Jordan (Life on Mars, Hustle, EastEnders, etc), who immediately jumped on it, and came up with a fantastic prize: £5k cash, a commission on one of Tony’s shows (or he would option the winning script) and an agent (if you didn’t already have one). The Red Planet Prize (named after Tony’s production company, Red Planet Pictures) was launched at The Screenwriters Festival in the summer of 2007. The entire scheme has proved to be a great success (BBC’s Death In Paradise coming from the Prize, as well as many writers advancing their careers). I am very proud to be a part of it, especially as I know all-too-well what it’s like to be a new writer trying to break into the industry (tapping back into what I said earlier about ‘why do I do this?’).

Q: When does the Red Planet Prize run, and when is the announcement of this year’s due?

A: It’s a biannual event nowadays. This year’s winner was announced a couple of weeks ago – details here – http://dannystack.com/red-planet-prize-2016-winner/!

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?

A: I haven’t used any of these services. I would imagine that they’re useful to some people and frustrating to others. Check them out, weigh them up, give them a punt, your mileage may vary. Be wary of just handing over money for an empty subscription or empty leads.

Q: What screenwriting projects are you working on now, and when can we next expect to see your name on the credits?

A: I’m working on a lot of kids’ TV shows at the moment. There’s the CBeebies’ favourite Hey Duggee, which is a real treat, and a few more I’m not allowed speak about. There’s that horror film I rewrote going into production in November. And I’m working on the next family film with Tim, a Christmas movie, which we plan to shoot in winter 2017.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?

A: The best advice is to finish what you’ve started. Don’t waste too much time online looking for the perfect answers or convincing yourself that there’s no point as the industry’s a closed shop (it isn’t), just write and finish a damn script (feature script preferably, but TV or short script will do, too) then who knows what might happen? The worst advice I got was when I decided to pursue writing and two close friends advised me against it, saying the competition was too great and you had to be really good. They were right, in a way, but I fully committed myself to the cause, knowing that I had at least got what it takes (or knew that I had to at least try), and am getting better all the time. There are more talented writers out there than me, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get ahead of them.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Danny’ questions!

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different.

A: My favourite film changes daily, depending on what I’ve just seen or re-watched. At the moment, it’s Manhattan by Woody Allen. One of my favourite scripts is Stranger Than Fiction by Zach Helm; the way it was written was far more enjoyable than how the film actually came out (but that’s another lesson in itself).

Q: Favourite author and book?

A: Again, this can vary on any given day, but Song for Achilles by Madeline Miller is incredible. Classic-wise, I’m a cliched fan of The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

A: Yes please. Oh sorry, you mean what type? Any kind of decent lager. A full bodied red. And I’m quite partial to a milk vodka (http://www.blackcow.co.uk/) or two.

Q: Favourite food?

A: Give me a decent burger or fry up and I’m happy.

Q: Football team?

A: Nottingham Forest.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

A: Sport. Keeping fit (very important as a writer; I’ve had years of back trouble that is now regulated by effective exercise).

Q: You’re from Ireland but (I assume) live ‘down South’ now. Anything from home you miss?

A: I live in Bournemouth now. But I miss Clonakilty black and white pudding (http://www.clonakiltyblackpudding.ie/) from back home. The UK doesn’t do white pudding at all as far as I can tell, and the black pudding’s a bit hit & miss. A decent pint of Guinness can also be hard to come by.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?

A: Read all the free stuff (http://dannystack.com/downloads/) on my blog and if that doesn’t cover everything, buy my book!🙂

About Interviewer Anthony Cawood: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

STS Interviews: A Meet N’ Greet with Screenwriter Rick Ramage - posted by AnthonyCawood

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting?

Oddly enough, I became a screenwriter by default; I wanted to be a novelist. I had just written my first novel and I sent it to someone whose opinion I trusted. He told me my book wasn’t very good – but that I was a good writer. He said he thought that I was very visual. So he suggested I try writing a screenplay. Thank God he was nice enough to encourage me!

Q: Was The Proposition the first screenplay you found success with?

While I was still in film school, I managed to option a script (for very little money). It was called “Triad” and it was a psychological thriller. But it gave me a tremendous surge of confidence to actually option a script. So I wrote The Proposition next. And that was my first major sale.

Q: How did you connect with the filmmakers and sell The Proposition?

A friend of mine showed the script to an exec at Disney – she didn’t buy it, but she did like the story and the writing. That led to an introduction to an agency. And that led to the script getting into the hands of the right producers. A few of those producers wanted it bad enough to get into a small bidding war. I think the whole process, from getting the script read, to getting an agent, to actually selling it took about a week. It was so fun – changed my life, too.

Q: The Proposition has a great cast – did you get to be involved in the production at all?

Now that I look back on the whole process, I was very lucky, because the producers and the director were really good to me. The actors were awesome, too. Even though I was a complete rookie, everybody treated me with great respect, and — more importantly – the script was treated with great respect.

Q: That was followed by Stigmata – another great cast. How did this script come about?

Stigmata was a re-write assignment. And yes, great cast. I was asked by MGM producer, Frank Mancuso Jr. to do the re-write and we pretty much went right into production after only a few drafts.

Q: Studio pics and living the screenwriter dream …

One of the best things to come from putting a spec script out, is that even if a studio doesn’t buy it, there’s a very good chance that you might pick up a writing assignment if they like your writing. I always try to assure new writers that a rejection is not always a rejection of your story or writing. It’s usually because the studio already has something “similar” in development, or because that type of story just isn’t going to line up on their slate. Often times a producer or an executive will read you and if he or she likes your writing, they will think of you for other projects they may have in development.

Q: Where did the inspiration for “Haunted” come from?

My manager asked me to meet with Andrew Cosby, the co-creator of the show. He pitched Haunted to the producers and they brought me in to work with him. Andy is a very collaborative guy, and we got along great in the writing process.

Q: Now the move to TV is fairly common, less so then. What prompted the shift?

To be honest, I really can’t remember why writing for TV even sounded good. I was making way more money as a feature writer … so I suppose it was the challenge.

Q: Peacemakers was a change in genre … do you have a particular genre?

Good question. I’ve never wanted to allow myself to get pigeon-holed into one genre, because that very definitely limits your marketability for assignments. Every time I write a spec, I try to keep it fresh (genre-wise) so that producers know I have a wide range.

Q: How did ‘Ichabod’ come about?

Ichabod was a labor of love.

I’m a great fan of classic literature. I sold a spec script for a lot of money that year, and I wanted to do something cool for my kids. (They were in 4th or 5th grade at the time.) Most dads go out and buy a pony or something – but I wrote my kids a play.

I approached some song-writers that I knew and suggested we do Ichabod for kids in grade school and middle. As it turned out, we had 89 sell-out performances and won some awards with the play … But my feature career was just too busy to run a theatre company, so I let the company go for several years. Then, when I decided to see if I could direct a film, I went back to Ichabod. I was honestly thinking about doing a TV series for kids based on the classics. So it (kind-of) made sense on a business level … It aired on PBS and I thought I was going to launch the series, but then my funding fell through. It’s still a dream of mine to do the series, which I called “Timeless Tales”.

Q: How was the experience of directing Ichabod?

Flat –freaking– awesome. I’ve never had more fun. It was truly one of the best creative experiences of my life.

Q: Thoughts about moving to LA to pursue a screenwriting career?

I’ve always said the hardest thing about being an artist is financing your life while you do the work. I think writers should live where they can do their best work … If that means Denver, or Miami or Fargo — so be it.

I also think too much emphasis (especially for new writers) is placed on living in LA. Meeting with executives and producers don’t just fall out of the sky. Until you have a bullet-proof script, you’re really not going to get good meetings anyway. Once you have a truly great writing sample, I believe producers and agents will find you. LA is always looking for the next great talent that will take the world by storm.

My advice is get the script right, and the rest will take care of itself …

Q: Your career appears to have gone quiet for a few years. What were you working on and what happened to all those projects?

The truth is, I took a few years off because I felt burned-out. I thought I would finally write a novel, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Then one day, a friend of mine called and asked me pretty much the same question you just did: “Where have you been? You’re not working …” I laughed when he said that he was really glad I took some time off, because now he could finally afford me because my quote would suck … He said he wanted me to write the script for a project that he thought he had set up – but that didn’t work out. So then he asked me if I had any old specs sitting around. I said I had one, but I was saving it so I could direct it … Needless to say, he talked me out of that, and we took the script out … It sold over the weekend, and we had a green light within the week. The script was “Heaven Sent” due out this holiday season.

Q: What was the genesis of the documentary?

I’m laughing because I still don’t know how that project landed on my imdb page! I need to take it off! … It was really just a small favor for a friend : )

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure? Do you follow or advocate any particular method?

Yes. Yes. And… yes!

I am a creature of method. And I do have a very particular way of addressing structure, and character development based upon a method that I’ve developed over the years. But if I go into it here and now, I’ll spoil the first episode “Method vs. Madness” of The Screenplay Show… And it’s so important for me to get it right when I describe it to new writers. I honestly believe it will make a difference in the way they approach story.

Q: Have you ever tried the conventional “breaking in” routes?

To be honest, no. I’ve never had to write a query letter or make a cold call as a writer. I’ve been really lucky in that I was approached by my first agent because he read one of my scripts (through a friend) which then sold. So you might say Hollywood found me.

That’s why I tell new writers that it really is all about the material. My career didn’t start because I was good in a pitch meeting or because I wooed an agent, or because I was a nice guy that producers wanted to meet. Producers buy your work and employ you to rewrite their scripts because they respect your writing …

Q: You are now launching a new venture: The Screenplay Show. Where did the idea for that come from?

A friend of mine who runs a writer meet-up group asked me to do a seminar for his writers a few years ago. Very reluctantly, I agreed… But then instantly regretted it because I was completely afraid I would bore people to death, droning on about a “how to” approach.

So I pulled my editor into the mix, and we put together a very visual presentation which actually shows examples of screenwriting elements, such as writing transitions, creating character arcs, writing action, the plot, etc.

For instance, we pulled about fifty stills of Jack’s character from “The Shining” to visually document his character arc – or descent into madness. It was very effective, because people could see it in real time when it was compared to the script (I put page numbers beside the stills). You get the idea …

But what really surprised me is that the writers were almost more interested in the “writer’s experience” … They had more questions about method and the biz, than they did about the nuts and bolts. So that got me thinking: if I combine my “story” with the nuts and bolts, it’s really a very different kind of writing series.

I’ve been extremely fortunate during my 25 year career to have developed scripts with some of Hollywood’s top producers and directors. Those experiences have changed and informed the way I write and approach story. After all, they were generous enough to share their knowledge with me for one purpose – to get the story right. So, I began to think in terms of presenting that knowledge and those insights in the form of a narrative, or show style.

Q: How will people be able to see it / get involved?

Each episode will be approximately 30 minutes. You will be able to purchase and stream at our site. We will consider moving to other formats later. I’m also talking to a cable network, so that is a possibility now, too.

Q: One of the accusations leveled at other gurus is that they haven’t had anything produced or sold. But that can’t be leveled at you – is that what makes your offering different.

I hope so. I mean, you can talk all day about the nuances that make a race car driver great, or a football player, or a ballet dancer, or an artist – but I would hope you’d get the information from someone that has actually been “to the show” … Otherwise there is too much information missing from the actual process of learning. It’s called trial and error. You learn things in the script development process that just isn’t covered in books.

I believe that people know instinctively that you learn by doing, much better than by reading it in a book or a talking-head video. One of the things that I feel is really important, is to talk to new writers about rejection and heartbreak. In “The Screenplay Show” the highs and lows of the craft are talked about quite naturally in the narrative since I have had plenty of both in my career.

The trick is to learn from it and not take rejection too personally.

Q: What exactly is it, and what will the episodes cover?

The Screenplay Show is an actual show you’ll be able to watch. It’s a very different approach to screenwriting, from a personal point of view. It’s both the story of a writer’s experience in Hollywood, and how those experiences have informed the way I write and how I have survived for 25 years. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve developed material (from spec scripts, to rewrites, to book adaptations) with some of Hollywood’s most talented directors and producers. That has definitely informed the way I go about my business . I will be sharing that information and knowledge — both technical and philosophical – in a narrative, visual way during each episode of The Show.

The Episodes cover these topics:

1) Method vs Madness:

We live in two worlds: the physical and the mental. New writers are often balancing a full-time job with trying to find quality time to write. I talk about my own method, and how I discovered a way to get the work done. But I also explain how important it is to have a method that is intellectual – which leads to episode 2 called ….

2) “Write with Questions”

A very famous author gave me this tip, and once I came to understand exactly what he was talking about. I realized that he had just given me a method (of the intellectual kind) that actually helps me solve problems. I believe learning to write with questions is the single most important factor that has helped me set up and sell over 40 scripts in Hollywood. But here’s a teaser: it’s not what you think it is …

3) Writing the Beat Outline

Over the years, I learned to write my outlines using a technique that also informs the way I pitch. Most new writers think a pitch is a condescended version of the story … But a pitch is also the story of how you’re going to write a killer script. Don’t forget, you’re also auditioning to prove that you have the chops to back up your pitch. In The Show, I’ll share a technique that will help you get on the page as a writer – because it will assure the producer you’re not only a good storyteller, but ready to go to script.

4) Tone

It’s my opinion that this is where most scripts live or die. Most new writers DO NOT know how to give their script a voice. In fact, when I’m asked to do a rewrite, that’s usually what they are looking for – the proper tone (or writer’s voice) for the story. Another word for it is “soul”.

5) Character Arcs

A great director once told me that the key to writing great characters is that
“we write in search of ourselves…”It sounds obvious, but it isn’t. (It does tie very nicely into Episode 2 once we break it down … )

6) The Four Elements

This is another episode I’m anxious to get into, because once again, most new writers don’t really know how to write or execute these basic elements of screenwriting properly. 1) Action 2) Plot 3) Subtext 4) Transitions

7) Act I
8) Act II
9) Act III

We’ll be talking in-depth about the three-act structure, and how to seamlessly build three acts into one solid story. We’ll also delve into something that I feel is crucial to your success as a screenwriter: the mid-act breaks … It’s also very important that new writers understand how to enter and exit each act so that your reader will keep turning pages.

10) The Biz

When I do a live seminar, this is the topic the writers want to hear about the most – not only do they want to know how to break in, but they need to know what happens once you do sell that first script. How do you survive this intense and competitive business?

Q: I’m assuming this isn’t a purely altruistic venture? What are the costs involved to you and how will you charge for it?

Since this is a “show” format, and not a talking head seminar, the “usual suspects” on a line item budget are required: Lights. Camera. Crew. Actors. Sound. And finally Post – the show will have a rather hefty budget.

Basically, for $149.00 writers can pre-purchase all ten 30 minute episodes now at a 50% discount. (When we are finished with production, the show will retail for approx. $300.00.)

Q: Screenwriters are perhaps, rightly, a little suspicious of guru’s with schemes that promise them success – for a fee of course. What is different about the Screenplay Show and how would you answer that challenge?

Great question. I would answer by reminding people from the start that I’ve never taken the position that I am a “guru” or a “coach” or a seminar guy. I’m a working writer – so I won’t be spewing theory. I’ll only be talking about the methods and techniques that have worked – and continue to work – for me.

I think anyone who promises instant success in this business is full of BS. What I can promise, however, is that I’ll be coming at the craft of screenwriting from a very different perspective than most. Why? Because I’ll be sharing the same techniques and methods that some of Hollywood’s most talented writers, directors and producers have shared with me.

Q: How will you judge success for The Show?

I’m smiling right now, because I won’t get to be the one who does that. Only the writers who take the time to tune-in to The Screenplay Show will get to judge. And deservedly so. If they learn something that helps them become a better writer, wonderful. If they think I’ve wasted their time and money – I’ll get slammed. But that’s how it is for the writer of any show or movie. It is the nature of our business to get applause or … rotten tomatoes.

Q: If successful, what next for the project?

My hope is to take The Show on the road if we are successful. One of my personal requirements for any of my projects is that I only take on subjects that interest me. And I’ve always been fascinated by the methods of other writers, actors and athletes. I like to know how they prepare, execute, and deal with the business they are in. Learning from other writers how they do-what-they-do will be interesting to me. Why? Because I’m sure I’ll learn something.

I’m working on several projects right now, both film and television. I think we almost have to keep several irons in the fire for one to get hot … Working on several projects has always helped to diversify the odds of success vs failure.

Q: What’s the best / worst advice you’ve been given?

The best: “read the third act as many times as the first act” we tend to write FADE OUT and think it’s done too quickly.

The worst: “Don’t write so much exposition – the director will just ignore it anyway.”

To the latter, I politely say “bull”. My scripts are stories, first. They just happen to be formatted like a script. As a storyteller, I always try to think of my scripts as a literary work – or in other words, I’m on the page.

A producer once told me the script was fat, but I responded by saying that there was no charge for the extra words. I wasn’t being snide, either. I simply told her that it was my draft, because we were about to go out to the town on spec … people would be reading it and judging me as a writer, as well as for story. So I insist that my scripts read well. She agreed, too.

Q: Favorite film / script?

I have too many “favorite” films. But I’m an unapologetic romantic when it comes to most of my faves: I like anything by David Lean, but I also never miss a chance to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” … As for my favorite script, I’d have to say my favorite script-writer is Steven Zaillian.

Q: Favorite Author / book

Once again, too many to pick one. I did recently admire “Broken Music” by Sting. I was really taken by his writing. He’s as eloquent and lyrical and aware in his prose as he is with his music. And when I say “admire his writing” I really mean it makes me jealous. (Great writers will do that to you; you put them down wishing that you were that good : )

Q: Beer / Wine or other

I like brew pub blondes … But it’s a very cold martini that makes the voices in my head go away until the next writing session.

Q: What screenwriting software do you use – and why?

I’m a Final Draft guy. Why? Because it’s become like a pair of my favorite jeans – I’m comfortable with it.

Q; Favorite Food?

Pasta. Not the best choice for a guy who sits on his ass all day, but my wife makes it from scratch, so it’s hard to deny on Sunday.

Q: Any other interests or passions?

I’m a big sports fan – all types. Sports has become the other thing that helps me get the voices out of my head at night. I don’t sit there and analyze the seventh inning, the way I do when I’m watching a movie.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?

I once had an agent tell me that any writer in Hollywood is just one script away from being a success. You are one script away.

About Interviewer Anthony Cawood: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

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