Friday, October 30, 2009

Back from the Lone Star State...

Well, back from Austin after an action-packed and seriously enjoyable five days. I’ve written a diary piece for the Irish Film and Television Network website which will hopefully go live in the near future and gives a description of what went down at the festival.

In the meantime, I’d like to give a shout-out to some of the great people I met: Jules, Daryl, Karen, Julie, Denise, Josh, Randy, Nikki, James, Richard, Yolanda, Aaron, Lauren, Len, Jana, Sebastien, Cynthia, John, Marlon, Michael Murphy (who looks like J.T. Walsh!), Brett, Steven, William, T.S., Emily, Ludek, Hans-Martin, Holly, Frank, Ramesh and Ruthie. Thanks to Sarah Sharp for driving me up to the lake and showing me areas of Austin I thought I wouldn’t see (driving in America phobia).

To Kirsten Smith for showing the rest of the girls how it’s done and to Mssrs. Black, Kasdan, Rossio and Petrie for being legends, full stop.

Also thanks so much to Alex McPhail and Barbara Morgan and everyone else at AFF.

See you next year!

Back from the Lone Star State...

Well, back from Austin after an action-packed and seriously enjoyable five days. I’ve written a diary piece for the Irish Film and Television Network website which will hopefully go live in the near future and gives a description of what went down at the festival.

In the meantime, I’d like to give a shout-out to some of the great people I met: Jules, Daryl, Karen, Julie, Denise, Josh, Randy, Nikki, James, Richard, Yolanda, Aaron, Lauren, Len, Jana, Sebastien, Cynthia, John, Marlon, Michael Murphy (who looks like J.T. Walsh!), Brett, Steven, William, T.S., Emily, Ludek, Hans-Martin, Holly, Frank, Ramesh and Ruthie. Thanks to Sarah Sharp for driving me up to the lake and showing me areas of Austin I thought I wouldn’t see (driving in America phobia).

To Kirsten Smith for showing the rest of the girls how it’s done and to Mssrs. Black, Kasdan, Rossio and Petrie for being legends, full stop.

Also thanks so much to Alex McPhail and Barbara Morgan and everyone else at AFF.

See you next year!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gearing up for the Austin Film Fest...

Two days to go to my trip to Austin and I’m finalising the Four Horsemen, as I’ve heard them called. Otherwise known as the one-pager, the synopsis, the pitch and the treatment. Especially with a long-haul trip like this, you start to wonder: how many copies do I bring? And do I bring a hard copy of each script (I have four I’d like to raise interest in)? I mean, I’m bringing a big case but I don’t want to look like Ivana Trump going on a trip or break the bell hop’s back when I get there. I’m staying in The Driskill, the hotel where the whole festival is happening, so the bell hops there had better get ready for my enormous suitcase…

Last year I handed out a lot of treatments but no actual scripts – partly because I didn’t have some of my American ones written or even finished. This time I’m thinking two double-sided copies of each. That way if a miracle happens and some producer/manager/agent actually wants to read a whole script, I can run upstairs and get one to hand over. And 20 copies of each treatment, cos you never know…

I’m also practicing the pitch, the thing most (probably all) writers dread. There’s been a lot of pacing up and down, trying to make them sound conversational. And trying to slow down, cos I’m a fast talker. Anyone trying the same thing, this is a great article on the art of the pitch by Craig Mazin. And anyone else going to Austin, the best of luck and see you in the Driskill Bar…

Gearing up for the Austin Film Fest...

Two days to go to my trip to Austin and I’m finalising the Four Horsemen, as I’ve heard them called. Otherwise known as the one-pager, the synopsis, the pitch and the treatment. Especially with a long-haul trip like this, you start to wonder: how many copies do I bring? And do I bring a hard copy of each script (I have four I’d like to raise interest in)? I mean, I’m bringing a big case but I don’t want to look like Ivana Trump going on a trip or break the bell hop’s back when I get there. I’m staying in The Driskill, the hotel where the whole festival is happening, so the bell hops there had better get ready for my enormous suitcase…

Last year I handed out a lot of treatments but no actual scripts – partly because I didn’t have some of my American ones written or even finished. This time I’m thinking two double-sided copies of each. That way if a miracle happens and some producer/manager/agent actually wants to read a whole script, I can run upstairs and get one to hand over. And 20 copies of each treatment, cos you never know…

I’m also practicing the pitch, the thing most (probably all) writers dread. There’s been a lot of pacing up and down, trying to make them sound conversational. And trying to slow down, cos I’m a fast talker. Anyone trying the same thing, this is a great article on the art of the pitch by Craig Mazin. And anyone else going to Austin, the best of luck and see you in the Driskill Bar…

Friday, October 16, 2009

What to do when your character is a Billy No-Mates?

You’ve written a comedy film with two female protagonists. They both have to be at least fairly likeable, but one of them doesn’t quite work. After reading it over and over, you realise what it is. The girl has no friends! She’s a recluse! She’s got no life outside of work, no existence unconnected to the plot. Who IS this person? And why would you want to watch her for 90 minutes?

That’s the problem with my script Star on the Run - but at least I’ve realised this after one draft. Now that I think of it, the amount of films I’ve seen in the cinema where the characters live totally friend-less lives is scary. All these lonely people going through life with nothing to do but cheer on their glamorous female boss in her attempts to snare a handsome but notorious bachelor (virtually every romcom I’ve ever seen). And action movies are even worse! Who does Rambo call when he wants to go for a beer? What does John McClane do at the weekends?

They say you should be able to say what each of your characters would eat for breakfast. Well, I think you should be able to tell what they’d do on Saturday night as well. Otherwise, everyone’s Jason Bourne – and he’s the only one who might be justified in having no friends, being on the run from the FBI, Interpol, MI5, etc etc etc….

This is tricky with films where it’s all about the plot – something like High Fidelity or Superbad work well partly because there isn’t much of a plot outside a bunch of people shooting the shit. But sometimes you can even use the fact that your girl or guy doesn’t have many friends as a plot point in itself – see Miss. Congeniality or Groundhog Day, where obsessive or obnoxious workaholics learn to rub along better with others. You don’t have to go overboard with this. Just a suggestion that this secretary/computer nerd/security man likes to sing karaoke or plays a mean game of football outside work may be enough to make them less cardboard.

Give your characters at least the semblance of a life outside the plot – or they’ll be forgotten as soon as the audience hit the car park…

What to do when your character is a Billy No-Mates?

You’ve written a comedy film with two female protagonists. They both have to be at least fairly likeable, but one of them doesn’t quite work. After reading it over and over, you realise what it is. The girl has no friends! She’s a recluse! She’s got no life outside of work, no existence unconnected to the plot. Who IS this person? And why would you want to watch her for 90 minutes?

That’s the problem with my script Star on the Run - but at least I’ve realised this after one draft. Now that I think of it, the amount of films I’ve seen in the cinema where the characters live totally friend-less lives is scary. All these lonely people going through life with nothing to do but cheer on their glamorous female boss in her attempts to snare a handsome but notorious bachelor (virtually every romcom I’ve ever seen). And action movies are even worse! Who does Rambo call when he wants to go for a beer? What does John McClane do at the weekends?

They say you should be able to say what each of your characters would eat for breakfast. Well, I think you should be able to tell what they’d do on Saturday night as well. Otherwise, everyone’s Jason Bourne – and he’s the only one who might be justified in having no friends, being on the run from the FBI, Interpol, MI5, etc etc etc….

This is tricky with films where it’s all about the plot – something like High Fidelity or Superbad work well partly because there isn’t much of a plot outside a bunch of people shooting the shit. But sometimes you can even use the fact that your girl or guy doesn’t have many friends as a plot point in itself – see Miss. Congeniality or Groundhog Day, where obsessive or obnoxious workaholics learn to rub along better with others. You don’t have to go overboard with this. Just a suggestion that this secretary/computer nerd/security man likes to sing karaoke or plays a mean game of football outside work may be enough to make them less cardboard.

Give your characters at least the semblance of a life outside the plot – or they’ll be forgotten as soon as the audience hit the car park…

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seeing My Name on the Big Screen

Well, Hotel Darklight arrived last night and it was worth the wait! I was still pretty nervous when I arrived at The Lighthouse last night, despite the fact that my family and friends had promised to say nice things whatever it was like. And the fact that several people who'd seen it had said the whole film looked great. Call me a big worry bug. 

I needn't have worried because the Darklight team shot eleven great shorts - and then did an even better job of putting them all together into a coherent piece. It's a sign of how anticipated it was that they ended up having two simultaneous screenings - one at The Lighthouse and one at The Cobblestone.

My short, My Regards to the Chef, was about three quarters way through and scarily, I am visible eating at one of the tables! Luckily hidden behind a pillar for most of it. The producer Alan Keane, who had to do one of the parts, did a great job and was as good as some of the pro actors. Everyone laughed at the bit with the psycho chef and the kitchen effects looked brilliant. So overall, I'm really happy with it. My family and friends couldn't believe what the production team had managed to do on such a zero budget and to be honest, I couldn't either. 

We decamped to the Dice Bar, but after discovering that getting a drink was going to take ten years, went to the overflow bar (Frank Ryans on Queen Street), and drank far too many vodkas.

There's hope that Hotel Darklight is going to come out on dvd - at any rate, I think Darklight are going to put the whole thing on their website. I had a great time at various Darklight events this year - the Geek Lounge was really interesting and guys, yes, you should do it once a month! The Mark Romanek interview was full of great anecdotes - the man has worked with everyone and has the CV to prove it. 

The whole thing is a real argument for why the government should be doing MORE for the arts in terms of grants etc and not cutting things like the Artists Exemption Tax. People out there want to make films, and they'll do it for nothing simply because they love movies and want to see their work up on the big screen. It's going to happen anyway, but surely the powers that be can have one less jet and give the money up for some decent script development/more cameras/wages for a short shoot?

Regardless, thanks to the whole Darklight team and roll on Darklight 2010!

Seeing My Name on the Big Screen

Well, Hotel Darklight arrived last night and it was worth the wait! I was still pretty nervous when I arrived at The Lighthouse last night, despite the fact that my family and friends had promised to say nice things whatever it was like. And the fact that several people who'd seen it had said the whole film looked great. Call me a big worry bug. 

I needn't have worried because the Darklight team shot eleven great shorts - and then did an even better job of putting them all together into a coherent piece. It's a sign of how anticipated it was that they ended up having two simultaneous screenings - one at The Lighthouse and one at The Cobblestone.

My short, My Regards to the Chef, was about three quarters way through and scarily, I am visible eating at one of the tables! Luckily hidden behind a pillar for most of it. The producer Alan Keane, who had to do one of the parts, did a great job and was as good as some of the pro actors. Everyone laughed at the bit with the psycho chef and the kitchen effects looked brilliant. So overall, I'm really happy with it. My family and friends couldn't believe what the production team had managed to do on such a zero budget and to be honest, I couldn't either. 

We decamped to the Dice Bar, but after discovering that getting a drink was going to take ten years, went to the overflow bar (Frank Ryans on Queen Street), and drank far too many vodkas.

There's hope that Hotel Darklight is going to come out on dvd - at any rate, I think Darklight are going to put the whole thing on their website. I had a great time at various Darklight events this year - the Geek Lounge was really interesting and guys, yes, you should do it once a month! The Mark Romanek interview was full of great anecdotes - the man has worked with everyone and has the CV to prove it. 

The whole thing is a real argument for why the government should be doing MORE for the arts in terms of grants etc and not cutting things like the Artists Exemption Tax. People out there want to make films, and they'll do it for nothing simply because they love movies and want to see their work up on the big screen. It's going to happen anyway, but surely the powers that be can have one less jet and give the money up for some decent script development/more cameras/wages for a short shoot?

Regardless, thanks to the whole Darklight team and roll on Darklight 2010!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Terror... plus some hope!

Terror has set in regarding Hotel Darklight. It’s struck me that a whole cinema of people tomorrow night are going to see it, including my little segment, and I have no clue how it looks! And worse still, I’m an extra and have no idea how visible I’m going to be! As long as there’s no extreme close-up of my mouth chewing or similar….

Tickets are available tomorrow night from 6pm and are free!

Also a story to give hope: as screenwriters, we’re always told not to write spec scripts based on existing works you don’t hold the rights to. Well, screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis enjoyed Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island so much, she decided to ignore that advice and write a spec draft anyway. And Martin Scorsese liked her spec so much, he decided to make it. The film, which has an amazing cast, hits cinemas in February. Those lucky enough to live in the States and get Script magazine should know that there’s an interview with Laeta in the current issue.

Terror... plus some hope!

Terror has set in regarding Hotel Darklight. It’s struck me that a whole cinema of people tomorrow night are going to see it, including my little segment, and I have no clue how it looks! And worse still, I’m an extra and have no idea how visible I’m going to be! As long as there’s no extreme close-up of my mouth chewing or similar….

Tickets are available tomorrow night from 6pm and are free!

Also a story to give hope: as screenwriters, we’re always told not to write spec scripts based on existing works you don’t hold the rights to. Well, screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis enjoyed Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island so much, she decided to ignore that advice and write a spec draft anyway. And Martin Scorsese liked her spec so much, he decided to make it. The film, which has an amazing cast, hits cinemas in February. Those lucky enough to live in the States and get Script magazine should know that there’s an interview with Laeta in the current issue.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who to bring to my non-remake movie?

I'm starting to get worried about the ticket allocation for Hotel Darklight. The first (and probably only) screening is taking place in the Lighthouse on Saturday night. A large number of people out of my family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances seem to want to come. Even my dentist wants to come. This would be great if it was only my film and I had the Savoy to fill - as it is, there are 11 shorts, the Lighthouse theatres are pretty small and I think I might only get allocated 2-3 tickets. Why is life never simple??

But as with this whole process, this is good practice for times to come. I've heard that even on most big films, the writer only ends up with 2 or 3 tickets (whatever's in their contract) so I'm always just gonna be bringing my folks/sister/significant other/a gay male walker.

On a totally unrelated note, almost every week there's a remake out and I'm starting to wonder: are they always a bad idea? Rob Zombie's Hallowe'en remakes definitely fall into the bad idea category (anything he makes does!). I've seen the trailer for the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie and one thing is for sure - Jackie Earle Haley is nowhere near as scary as Robert Englund. On the other hand, the first Ocean's 11 movie was a disaster compared to Soderbergh's version

When I was in Austin last year, I saw a talk by two young scriptwriters who'd written a killer script and gotten hired on the back of that to rewrite The Fury. This is a film which might benefit from a remake because the old effects were pretty crummy.  I think where things don't work is where you have an original film with a brilliant twist, like Bunny Lake is Missing. Nothing's ever going to top that twist, so how is the writer going to put their stamp on it? No wonder Reese Witherspoon bailed...

Bottom line - I think you have to tread carefully with remakes, and make sure you're not ruining or diluting all the things that made the source story such a hit....

Who to bring to my non-remake movie?

I'm starting to get worried about the ticket allocation for Hotel Darklight. The first (and probably only) screening is taking place in the Lighthouse on Saturday night. A large number of people out of my family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances seem to want to come. Even my dentist wants to come. This would be great if it was only my film and I had the Savoy to fill - as it is, there are 11 shorts, the Lighthouse theatres are pretty small and I think I might only get allocated 2-3 tickets. Why is life never simple??

But as with this whole process, this is good practice for times to come. I've heard that even on most big films, the writer only ends up with 2 or 3 tickets (whatever's in their contract) so I'm always just gonna be bringing my folks/sister/significant other/a gay male walker.

On a totally unrelated note, almost every week there's a remake out and I'm starting to wonder: are they always a bad idea? Rob Zombie's Hallowe'en remakes definitely fall into the bad idea category (anything he makes does!). I've seen the trailer for the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie and one thing is for sure - Jackie Earle Haley is nowhere near as scary as Robert Englund. On the other hand, the first Ocean's 11 movie was a disaster compared to Soderbergh's version

When I was in Austin last year, I saw a talk by two young scriptwriters who'd written a killer script and gotten hired on the back of that to rewrite The Fury. This is a film which might benefit from a remake because the old effects were pretty crummy.  I think where things don't work is where you have an original film with a brilliant twist, like Bunny Lake is Missing. Nothing's ever going to top that twist, so how is the writer going to put their stamp on it? No wonder Reese Witherspoon bailed...

Bottom line - I think you have to tread carefully with remakes, and make sure you're not ruining or diluting all the things that made the source story such a hit....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Moving on....

Today is a great day as I have finished Star on the Run, my Hannah Montana meets Notting Hill comedy! The last month has been tortuous as I couldn't seem to find enough time in front of my computer to finish it and yet it kept bursting out of me, usually at 3am. But now it's done. I'm watching TV with no guilt eating away at me and no dialogue running through my head...

The exhilaration will last about a week, after which I'll start thinking of another script. Or even start thinking about a rewrite...

Which leads to the question - when is the right time to put your script in a drawer and move on to the next one? Or should you move on to the next one until you're completely happy with the original script? 

I'm not sure that there's a right answer but my take on it would be: sometimes you do need to print the script, read over it and just put it away for a while. Maybe a month. Then take it out and read over it again. By that time you'll have a bit of perspective and will be able to see what needs to be fixed. 

As for moving onto another project, Marvin Acuna put it well in a blog post recently. This is the business of Next! So it's on to the next screenplay, the next treatment or even just the next idea. This script is finished, long live the next script! 

And check out Marvin's blog for a brilliant post by Terry Rossio. Every screenwriter should read this...

Moving on....

Today is a great day as I have finished Star on the Run, my Hannah Montana meets Notting Hill comedy! The last month has been tortuous as I couldn't seem to find enough time in front of my computer to finish it and yet it kept bursting out of me, usually at 3am. But now it's done. I'm watching TV with no guilt eating away at me and no dialogue running through my head...

The exhilaration will last about a week, after which I'll start thinking of another script. Or even start thinking about a rewrite...

Which leads to the question - when is the right time to put your script in a drawer and move on to the next one? Or should you move on to the next one until you're completely happy with the original script? 

I'm not sure that there's a right answer but my take on it would be: sometimes you do need to print the script, read over it and just put it away for a while. Maybe a month. Then take it out and read over it again. By that time you'll have a bit of perspective and will be able to see what needs to be fixed. 

As for moving onto another project, Marvin Acuna put it well in a blog post recently. This is the business of Next! So it's on to the next screenplay, the next treatment or even just the next idea. This script is finished, long live the next script! 

And check out Marvin's blog for a brilliant post by Terry Rossio. Every screenwriter should read this...