Monday, June 28, 2010

The Andrew Bovell masterclass, or how Hollywood chews you up and...

I attended a masterclass last Friday at the Lighthouse, organised by FAS Screen Training Ireland, which was with Australian screenwriter and playwright Andrew Bovell. It was a really interesting session, starting with a screening of Bovell’s 2001 film Lantana. This was his breakthrough project as far as Hollywood was concerned, but he had spent years before that writing award-winning plays and working on Australian films such as Strictly Ballroom.

I hadn’t seen Lantana before – it’s an excellent multi-narrative thriller, featuring great performances from the likes of Anthony La Paglia, Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush. Bovell broke down how he created the script from his original stage play Speaking in Tongues. This was in turn based on three separate plays he had written about several disparate couples and their relationships. The initial idea for the plot came when Bovell saw a woman’s dress shoe at the side of a highway and wondered what had happened to the woman. He then kept seeing lost shoes everywhere – at the beach, on the street – and coming up with stories about how they might have come to be abandoned. The opening frames of the film show a woman’s dead body, one of her feet bare. We don’t find out for a long time who the woman is, but the image of death sticks with the viewer and Bovell stressed the importance of a strong opening image like this to hook the audience.

The whole process of the adaptation was interesting, because he had to decide on a “main” character for the film and had six or seven characters he could have chosen from. He eventually picked the character of Leon, a police detective, because he was the most obvious link between the other characters and was investigating the suspicious death that is the focus of the overall plot. The play’s ending was very ambiguous, whereas the film’s ending had to be much more clear-cut (someone asked was this the difference between the two formats and why. The answer seemed to be, yes, but no one’s sure why this is).

“Lantana”, incidentally, is a flowered vine in Australia that looks innocuous at first but is covered in tiny, sharp thorns on a closer look. This was the perfect metaphor for a film about outwardly respectable, happy people and their damaged real lives.

Bovell listed his influences as including Nashville, Amores Perros and Babel. He likes working with multi-narrative stories as he finds single narratives boring to write. He has a theory that single narratives are favoured in the U.S. because of the cult of the individual over there.

This led on nicely to an afternoon session where Bovell outlined with searing honesty how his Hollywood dream turned into a nightmare. After Lantana was released and was a critical and commercial hit, he found himself courted by Hollywood and hired for a number of projects. Most of them subsequently fell through, but he spent six years working on an adaptation of the classic BBC series Edge of Darkness. This film eventually emerged this year in the form of a brutal thriller starring Mel Gibson, very far from the complex, thoughtful screenplay Bovell was originally hired to write (or thought he was to write?). Along the way, Bovell got ripped off by a Hollywood hotel receptionist (never trust California blondes, apparently), passed from studio exec to producer to exec, nearly had a breakdown and ultimately got replaced by Oscar-winning writer William Monahan, who did a first-line rewrite of his script. Bovell retained his writing credit, but claims that he doesn’t recognise most of the finished piece as his work.

The brilliant closer? Bovell claims that if Hollywood comes calling again, he’ll be up for more. Such is the lure of the movies….

That was Friday. Saturday, I attended the gala dinner of the Indian Film Festival of Ireland at the Hilton Hotel in Rathmines. It was really well attended and featured a DJ I would happily hire for a wedding. Anyone who can get a whole roomful of people up dancing is a star in my eyes and it was all very Bend It Like Beckham. Bollywood actress Gul Panag and directors Prakash Jha and Suhail Tatari were in attendance, as was British Indian director Sangeeta Dutta. I’m already looking forward to IFFI 2011.

As I mentioned yesterday, the IFFI is over tomorrow night and the last film is Gangaajal. The ticket for it includes a meal afterwards at Monsoon restaurant, so if you like Indian movies and food, check that out.

The Andrew Bovell masterclass, or how Hollywood chews you up and...

I attended a masterclass last Friday at the Lighthouse, organised by FAS Screen Training Ireland, which was with Australian screenwriter and playwright Andrew Bovell. It was a really interesting session, starting with a screening of Bovell’s 2001 film Lantana. This was his breakthrough project as far as Hollywood was concerned, but he had spent years before that writing award-winning plays and working on Australian films such as Strictly Ballroom.

I hadn’t seen Lantana before – it’s an excellent multi-narrative thriller, featuring great performances from the likes of Anthony La Paglia, Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush. Bovell broke down how he created the script from his original stage play Speaking in Tongues. This was in turn based on three separate plays he had written about several disparate couples and their relationships. The initial idea for the plot came when Bovell saw a woman’s dress shoe at the side of a highway and wondered what had happened to the woman. He then kept seeing lost shoes everywhere – at the beach, on the street – and coming up with stories about how they might have come to be abandoned. The opening frames of the film show a woman’s dead body, one of her feet bare. We don’t find out for a long time who the woman is, but the image of death sticks with the viewer and Bovell stressed the importance of a strong opening image like this to hook the audience.

The whole process of the adaptation was interesting, because he had to decide on a “main” character for the film and had six or seven characters he could have chosen from. He eventually picked the character of Leon, a police detective, because he was the most obvious link between the other characters and was investigating the suspicious death that is the focus of the overall plot. The play’s ending was very ambiguous, whereas the film’s ending had to be much more clear-cut (someone asked was this the difference between the two formats and why. The answer seemed to be, yes, but no one’s sure why this is).

“Lantana”, incidentally, is a flowered vine in Australia that looks innocuous at first but is covered in tiny, sharp thorns on a closer look. This was the perfect metaphor for a film about outwardly respectable, happy people and their damaged real lives.

Bovell listed his influences as including Nashville, Amores Perros and Babel. He likes working with multi-narrative stories as he finds single narratives boring to write. He has a theory that single narratives are favoured in the U.S. because of the cult of the individual over there.

This led on nicely to an afternoon session where Bovell outlined with searing honesty how his Hollywood dream turned into a nightmare. After Lantana was released and was a critical and commercial hit, he found himself courted by Hollywood and hired for a number of projects. Most of them subsequently fell through, but he spent six years working on an adaptation of the classic BBC series Edge of Darkness. This film eventually emerged this year in the form of a brutal thriller starring Mel Gibson, very far from the complex, thoughtful screenplay Bovell was originally hired to write (or thought he was to write?). Along the way, Bovell got ripped off by a Hollywood hotel receptionist (never trust California blondes, apparently), passed from studio exec to producer to exec, nearly had a breakdown and ultimately got replaced by Oscar-winning writer William Monahan, who did a first-line rewrite of his script. Bovell retained his writing credit, but claims that he doesn’t recognise most of the finished piece as his work.

The brilliant closer? Bovell claims that if Hollywood comes calling again, he’ll be up for more. Such is the lure of the movies….

That was Friday. Saturday, I attended the gala dinner of the Indian Film Festival of Ireland at the Hilton Hotel in Rathmines. It was really well attended and featured a DJ I would happily hire for a wedding. Anyone who can get a whole roomful of people up dancing is a star in my eyes and it was all very Bend It Like Beckham. Bollywood actress Gul Panag and directors Prakash Jha and Suhail Tatari were in attendance, as was British Indian director Sangeeta Dutta. I’m already looking forward to IFFI 2011.

As I mentioned yesterday, the IFFI is over tomorrow night and the last film is Gangaajal. The ticket for it includes a meal afterwards at Monsoon restaurant, so if you like Indian movies and food, check that out.

Andrew Bovell masterclass, plus IFFI draws to a close

Went to a great masterclass on Friday with Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell. Then spent some of the rest of the weekend working for the Indian Film Festival of Ireland, including a gala dinner on Saturday night that had a real Bend It Like Beckham vibe. The DJ was straight out of a Bollywood film and had everyone dancing whether they liked it or not!

I'll write more about each of these tomorrow cos both were really interesting but in the meantime, the IFFI is over tomorrow night and the last film is Gangaajal. The ticket for it includes a meal afterwards at Monsoon restaurant, so if you like Indian movies and food, check that out. 

Also, anyone who hasn't seen my Youtube pitch and had a giggle, you can see it here. The competition is still running and you can vote for my effort by signing into Youtube and clicking the "Like" button underneath the vid.

Thanks folks!

Andrew Bovell masterclass, plus IFFI draws to a close

Went to a great masterclass on Friday with Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell. Then spent some of the rest of the weekend working for the Indian Film Festival of Ireland, including a gala dinner on Saturday night that had a real Bend It Like Beckham vibe. The DJ was straight out of a Bollywood film and had everyone dancing whether they liked it or not!

I'll write more about each of these tomorrow cos both were really interesting but in the meantime, the IFFI is over tomorrow night and the last film is Gangaajal. The ticket for it includes a meal afterwards at Monsoon restaurant, so if you like Indian movies and food, check that out. 

Also, anyone who hasn't seen my Youtube pitch and had a giggle, you can see it here. The competition is still running and you can vote for my effort by signing into Youtube and clicking the "Like" button underneath the vid.

Thanks folks!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm pitchin on Youtube and the results are not pretty...

I saw this pitch contest on the business of show institute website a week ago and thought, that looks scary but maybe I should practice pitching. Took me this long to build up the guts to do it, but it's finito and you can view it/vote for it  here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AiJhiBvB1o

God, I have a newfound respect for actors and TV presenters. You have no idea how horrible your own voice can sound or how insane your hair can look until you videotape yourself. The only reason  I finally managed to do it is that I had 5 hours sleep last night and just wanted to get the whole thing  over with so I could watch NCIS L.A. Factors like my voice and whether I should brush my hair went  out the window, as did enunciation, plot, etc etc. 

Feck it, it's over bar a load of people laughing at it (and that's best case scenario).

Some idiot said we should do one thing every day that scares us - this is mine for today.... 

Click on the link, click on the likes, please! Save me from my shame!!!

I'm pitchin on Youtube and the results are not pretty...

I saw this pitch contest on the business of show institute website a week ago and thought, that looks scary but maybe I should practice pitching. Took me this long to build up the guts to do it, but it's finito and you can view it/vote for it  here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AiJhiBvB1o

God, I have a newfound respect for actors and TV presenters. You have no idea how horrible your own voice can sound or how insane your hair can look until you videotape yourself. The only reason  I finally managed to do it is that I had 5 hours sleep last night and just wanted to get the whole thing  over with so I could watch NCIS L.A. Factors like my voice and whether I should brush my hair went  out the window, as did enunciation, plot, etc etc. 

Feck it, it's over bar a load of people laughing at it (and that's best case scenario).

Some idiot said we should do one thing every day that scares us - this is mine for today.... 

Click on the link, click on the likes, please! Save me from my shame!!!

GMD Day Two - More of the Funny....

Friday was the long day of the Give Me Direction event and it kicked off with comedian Sharon Horgan interviewing writer/director Nicola Holofcener. I’m a major fan of both these ladies but especially Holofcener ever since her film Lovely and Amazing, which contains possibly the most toe-curling “what do you really think of my body” scene in cinema. She followed that up with Friends With Money and the excellent Please Give, which was screened for us later in the day.

In the flesh, Sharon Horgan was super-glam and Nicole Holofcener was small and kind of looked like her preferred leading lady, Catherine Keener. Here’s what she had to say about writing scripts and shooting movies:

· She doesn’t outline (another one!) because she likes to not know where her story is going. She re-reads and edits every day so that by the end, it’s not too much of a mess.
· Her agent once told her she should stop writing (!). Sony Classics told her Please Give was too depressing. Note: They are on crack. It’s hilarious.
· She doesn’t try and write funny scripts.
· She had a terrible experience directing a short before making two that she was happy with.
· It took her 6 years to get her first feature made, and in the meantime she worked in production, retail and as a secretary. Miramax then bought her debut film Walking and Talking.
· She takes out any dialogue that sounds like “cinema dialogue” or that’s too smart. Her big tip was to take out the first line of any piece of dialogue or at least to look closely at them because they are very often the lines you can lose.
· She bases characters on people she knows and this has led to hurt feelings. The “gay” husband in Friends With Money, for instance (one of my favourite characters), was based on a guy she knew, although he failed to spot that and was oblivious to the similarities!
· She can’t pitch big concept movies and has failed to get rewrite jobs because of this.
· Turned down the chance to direct a Seth Rogen comedy in Vancouver cos it would have meant being away from her kids too long.
· She waxed lyrical about Keener, her favourite actress and screen alter-ego. Emma Thompson apparently turned down the lead in Please Give.
· Her next project is a film with Sarah Silverman, who she’s stoked to work with.
· She doesn’t wonder if her experiences are universally interesting. She just writes them up anyway.

What was inspiring about this lady – and indeed, about Bobby Farrelly – was that they took a lot of the intimidation and complicated crap out of directing. Bobby Farrelly said frankly that he and his brother still don’t know anything about lenses or camera angles. They just hire a good DoP, concentrate on getting good performances out of the actors and make sure there’s loads of material for the editing suite. Nicole Holofcener, similarly, made it sound like a much easier job than is usually understood. Their message was: hire good people and then trust them.

Next up was novelist and screenwriter Pat McCabe, who was interviewing veteran producer Stephen Woolley. Woolley is a fascinating guy even apart from all the films he’s produced over the years (among them Absolute Beginners, Angel, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, etc, etc, etc). He started out running the legendary alternative London cinema The Scala, before moving almost by accident into producing and eventually directing the Brian Jones biopic Stoned. He was full of interesting stories and it wasn’t hard to get a great interview out of him. What I couldn’t understand was what the interview was doing in the middle of an event focussing on comedic writing and directing, because Woolley wouldn’t be a known authority on this. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to see it. I just would have rather seen someone else interviewed at this event who’d written and directed something funny. One thing that does look reasonably funny and is bound to be a hit is Woolley’s latest producing number, Made in Dagenham (they showed a trailer for it).

After lunch (ah, Yamamori!), comedy actress Alice Lowe talked about sketch shows and movies. She and director Jacqueline Wright are halfway through a year of making one comedy short a month. They showed a few of them and they look astoundingly good for films shot on a shoestrong budget, not to mention being well-written and highly amusing. Lowe’s worked on almost every big U.K. comedy show going as well as the movie Hot Fuzz, but still finds it hard to get her stuff on TV. There’s the old “we already have a female comedy show” chestnut, apparently.

Lastly before we all went to watch Please Give and then inhale a lot of free drinks was an interview with Peep Show writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam McBain. Peep Show is just one of those shows that makes me develop a stitch when I’m watching it, I laugh so much. It was kind of a shock to see that the guys responsible for it look like kind estate agents. Or nice uncles. Anyway, they talked about how they work (one writes the dialogue for one episode, then the other takes over), how a writing partner is invaluable when you’re writing comedy, and how if you can’t get something made here, you should try Britain (this makes sense as the crowd across the water make most of the best comedy). Oh, and they kind of wrecked Richard Blackwood’s career by writing a really bad sitcom for him. If they don’t deserve an award for that at least…

Overall, I really enjoyed the event and learned at least some things from it. As I said, I don’t think the Stephen Woolley interview was appropriate for the kind of event it was and the theme it had. For the most part though, job well done, JDIFF and (here I’m going to say something you won’t hear very often from an Irish screenwriter) nice one, Film Board….

GMD Day Two - More of the Funny....

Friday was the long day of the Give Me Direction event and it kicked off with comedian Sharon Horgan interviewing writer/director Nicola Holofcener. I’m a major fan of both these ladies but especially Holofcener ever since her film Lovely and Amazing, which contains possibly the most toe-curling “what do you really think of my body” scene in cinema. She followed that up with Friends With Money and the excellent Please Give, which was screened for us later in the day.

In the flesh, Sharon Horgan was super-glam and Nicole Holofcener was small and kind of looked like her preferred leading lady, Catherine Keener. Here’s what she had to say about writing scripts and shooting movies:

· She doesn’t outline (another one!) because she likes to not know where her story is going. She re-reads and edits every day so that by the end, it’s not too much of a mess.
· Her agent once told her she should stop writing (!). Sony Classics told her Please Give was too depressing. Note: They are on crack. It’s hilarious.
· She doesn’t try and write funny scripts.
· She had a terrible experience directing a short before making two that she was happy with.
· It took her 6 years to get her first feature made, and in the meantime she worked in production, retail and as a secretary. Miramax then bought her debut film Walking and Talking.
· She takes out any dialogue that sounds like “cinema dialogue” or that’s too smart. Her big tip was to take out the first line of any piece of dialogue or at least to look closely at them because they are very often the lines you can lose.
· She bases characters on people she knows and this has led to hurt feelings. The “gay” husband in Friends With Money, for instance (one of my favourite characters), was based on a guy she knew, although he failed to spot that and was oblivious to the similarities!
· She can’t pitch big concept movies and has failed to get rewrite jobs because of this.
· Turned down the chance to direct a Seth Rogen comedy in Vancouver cos it would have meant being away from her kids too long.
· She waxed lyrical about Keener, her favourite actress and screen alter-ego. Emma Thompson apparently turned down the lead in Please Give.
· Her next project is a film with Sarah Silverman, who she’s stoked to work with.
· She doesn’t wonder if her experiences are universally interesting. She just writes them up anyway.

What was inspiring about this lady – and indeed, about Bobby Farrelly – was that they took a lot of the intimidation and complicated crap out of directing. Bobby Farrelly said frankly that he and his brother still don’t know anything about lenses or camera angles. They just hire a good DoP, concentrate on getting good performances out of the actors and make sure there’s loads of material for the editing suite. Nicole Holofcener, similarly, made it sound like a much easier job than is usually understood. Their message was: hire good people and then trust them.

Next up was novelist and screenwriter Pat McCabe, who was interviewing veteran producer Stephen Woolley. Woolley is a fascinating guy even apart from all the films he’s produced over the years (among them Absolute Beginners, Angel, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, etc, etc, etc). He started out running the legendary alternative London cinema The Scala, before moving almost by accident into producing and eventually directing the Brian Jones biopic Stoned. He was full of interesting stories and it wasn’t hard to get a great interview out of him. What I couldn’t understand was what the interview was doing in the middle of an event focussing on comedic writing and directing, because Woolley wouldn’t be a known authority on this. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to see it. I just would have rather seen someone else interviewed at this event who’d written and directed something funny. One thing that does look reasonably funny and is bound to be a hit is Woolley’s latest producing number, Made in Dagenham (they showed a trailer for it).

After lunch (ah, Yamamori!), comedy actress Alice Lowe talked about sketch shows and movies. She and director Jacqueline Wright are halfway through a year of making one comedy short a month. They showed a few of them and they look astoundingly good for films shot on a shoestrong budget, not to mention being well-written and highly amusing. Lowe’s worked on almost every big U.K. comedy show going as well as the movie Hot Fuzz, but still finds it hard to get her stuff on TV. There’s the old “we already have a female comedy show” chestnut, apparently.

Lastly before we all went to watch Please Give and then inhale a lot of free drinks was an interview with Peep Show writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam McBain. Peep Show is just one of those shows that makes me develop a stitch when I’m watching it, I laugh so much. It was kind of a shock to see that the guys responsible for it look like kind estate agents. Or nice uncles. Anyway, they talked about how they work (one writes the dialogue for one episode, then the other takes over), how a writing partner is invaluable when you’re writing comedy, and how if you can’t get something made here, you should try Britain (this makes sense as the crowd across the water make most of the best comedy). Oh, and they kind of wrecked Richard Blackwood’s career by writing a really bad sitcom for him. If they don’t deserve an award for that at least…

Overall, I really enjoyed the event and learned at least some things from it. As I said, I don’t think the Stephen Woolley interview was appropriate for the kind of event it was and the theme it had. For the most part though, job well done, JDIFF and (here I’m going to say something you won’t hear very often from an Irish screenwriter) nice one, Film Board….

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Give Me Direction - Day One with Bobby Farrelly....

I missed the Give Me Direction event last year, organised by JDIFF and the Film Board, so was mustard keen to get to this one. Especially as the line-up included Bobby Farrelly and one of my favourite female directors, Friends With Money-helmer Nicole Holofcener.

Thursday afternoon kicked off with Bobby Farrelly, who seemed like a nice man. It would've been cool to have had his brother there too, seeing as comedy screenwriters like to do double acts, but I thought he was very informative. Lenny Abrahamson interviewed him (hard to imagine two more different directors!) and asked pretty much all the important stuff.

Here's what I learned from Mr. Farrelly's interview:
  • The bruvs know the initial premise of the film when they sit down to write it but not the whole story. That way, they get to play around with the characters and see what unfolds.
  • They like to paint themselves into a corner by the end of Act 2, with no idea as to how the hero will get himself out of trouble. Cos then the audience won't know either!
  • He likes screenwriting books, especially Syd Field and Save the Cat, but thinks you can't "write to the rules" all the time as the audience will be able to tell that it's forced.
  • He and the bro write 5 pages a day, on a good day.
  • They like to do table-readings before they start filming, with 5-6 other writers and anyone else they think is funny.
  • They do their own audience test-screenings and will make as many changes as needed until the laughs come.
  • They spent about 10 years out in Hollywood writing scripts and working minimum wage jobs before they lucked out with Dumb and Dumber. They had never directed so much as a short before but were fortunate enough to hire Jim Carrey, who was about to go stratospheric with Ace Ventura. So they got to direct the movie, and for 16m dollars instead of the planned 100k budget.
  • A lot of the jokes come from their own experiences and memories. For example, the zipper incident in There's Something About Mary happened to a friend of their sister. Owww... Plus the mentally-challenged brother was based on a real guy they grew up with.

They then screened Kingpin, the only Farrelly brothers film I'd never seen, which is bloody hilarious. Especially Bill Murray.

I thought it was a good first day - fun and kind of motivational. I can write a multi-million dollar flick! It also hammered home something that every writer/group of writers was going to subsequently tell us - that comedy is very hard for one person to write. You need someone to bounce the humour off, to check that you're not writing total shit that isn't funny. And if you've no one to write with, a table reading might be a good idea.

I'll report tomorrow on the wondrous second day of GMD, which included the guys from Peep Show and Ms. Holofcener.

Give Me Direction - Day One with Bobby Farrelly....

I missed the Give Me Direction event last year, organised by JDIFF and the Film Board, so was mustard keen to get to this one. Especially as the line-up included Bobby Farrelly and one of my favourite female directors, Friends With Money-helmer Nicole Holofcener.

Thursday afternoon kicked off with Bobby Farrelly, who seemed like a nice man. It would've been cool to have had his brother there too, seeing as comedy screenwriters like to do double acts, but I thought he was very informative. Lenny Abrahamson interviewed him (hard to imagine two more different directors!) and asked pretty much all the important stuff.

Here's what I learned from Mr. Farrelly's interview:
  • The bruvs know the initial premise of the film when they sit down to write it but not the whole story. That way, they get to play around with the characters and see what unfolds.
  • They like to paint themselves into a corner by the end of Act 2, with no idea as to how the hero will get himself out of trouble. Cos then the audience won't know either!
  • He likes screenwriting books, especially Syd Field and Save the Cat, but thinks you can't "write to the rules" all the time as the audience will be able to tell that it's forced.
  • He and the bro write 5 pages a day, on a good day.
  • They like to do table-readings before they start filming, with 5-6 other writers and anyone else they think is funny.
  • They do their own audience test-screenings and will make as many changes as needed until the laughs come.
  • They spent about 10 years out in Hollywood writing scripts and working minimum wage jobs before they lucked out with Dumb and Dumber. They had never directed so much as a short before but were fortunate enough to hire Jim Carrey, who was about to go stratospheric with Ace Ventura. So they got to direct the movie, and for 16m dollars instead of the planned 100k budget.
  • A lot of the jokes come from their own experiences and memories. For example, the zipper incident in There's Something About Mary happened to a friend of their sister. Owww... Plus the mentally-challenged brother was based on a real guy they grew up with.

They then screened Kingpin, the only Farrelly brothers film I'd never seen, which is bloody hilarious. Especially Bill Murray.

I thought it was a good first day - fun and kind of motivational. I can write a multi-million dollar flick! It also hammered home something that every writer/group of writers was going to subsequently tell us - that comedy is very hard for one person to write. You need someone to bounce the humour off, to check that you're not writing total shit that isn't funny. And if you've no one to write with, a table reading might be a good idea.

I'll report tomorrow on the wondrous second day of GMD, which included the guys from Peep Show and Ms. Holofcener.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What makes a hero?

This is a question that caused a lot of debate at a recent screenwriting group session. Do they have to be good? What things can a hero absolutely not do (if anything?). Everyone had views on it and I discovered something about myself – I have a more idealistic idea of what makes a hero than I would have thought.

For me, a hero has to be basically good. He/she can be grumpy, lazy (at least to start with), annoying, stupid or naive. They can have any number of personal faults. Marty McFly, for example, was unable to walk away from a fight (this a very, very common hero problem). Indiana Jones is incredibly cynical and has a hazy relationship with the law (is he more tomb raider than archaeologist?). Ripley in the Alien films has a real attitude problem, although I guess she has her reasons...

But I believe there are things a hero just can’t do. Sleep with his best friend’s girl. Sorry, that’s just my opinion! Kill someone innocent. Abandon his/her aged aunt in a horrible care home. Shamelessly embezzle money. Pin blame for stuff on other people. Stamp on puppies – you get the picture.

Now, I realise that there are plenty of movie protagonists who do these things and more. In a film like Point Blank, Lee Marvin’s character is the best out of a very bad bunch of characters. Jake Gittes in Chinatown isn’t exactly an angel, neither is John Travolta in Pulp Fiction or Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley. But they aren’t heroes. They’re protagonists or in some cases, anti-heroes.

Yep, heroes have to be good – or at least they have to end up that way. That’s my ten cents, anyway.
Talking of a film with a rather unheroic hero, I’ve done a post on the first film to show during the upcoming IFFI 2010, the legendary Devdas. Check it out.

What makes a hero?

This is a question that caused a lot of debate at a recent screenwriting group session. Do they have to be good? What things can a hero absolutely not do (if anything?). Everyone had views on it and I discovered something about myself – I have a more idealistic idea of what makes a hero than I would have thought.

For me, a hero has to be basically good. He/she can be grumpy, lazy (at least to start with), annoying, stupid or naive. They can have any number of personal faults. Marty McFly, for example, was unable to walk away from a fight (this a very, very common hero problem). Indiana Jones is incredibly cynical and has a hazy relationship with the law (is he more tomb raider than archaeologist?). Ripley in the Alien films has a real attitude problem, although I guess she has her reasons...

But I believe there are things a hero just can’t do. Sleep with his best friend’s girl. Sorry, that’s just my opinion! Kill someone innocent. Abandon his/her aged aunt in a horrible care home. Shamelessly embezzle money. Pin blame for stuff on other people. Stamp on puppies – you get the picture.

Now, I realise that there are plenty of movie protagonists who do these things and more. In a film like Point Blank, Lee Marvin’s character is the best out of a very bad bunch of characters. Jake Gittes in Chinatown isn’t exactly an angel, neither is John Travolta in Pulp Fiction or Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley. But they aren’t heroes. They’re protagonists or in some cases, anti-heroes.

Yep, heroes have to be good – or at least they have to end up that way. That’s my ten cents, anyway.
Talking of a film with a rather unheroic hero, I’ve done a post on the first film to show during the upcoming IFFI 2010, the legendary Devdas. Check it out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Only Mad Dogs and Irish Guys go to L.A....

I went to the launch party for the Indian Film Festival of Ireland’s programme on Wednesday night at Solas Bar. It was great fun and well attended, plus I got to wear a nifty Indian ensemble for it. You can see the pics and what went down at the official blog.

On a (maybe slightly) related note, I saw an interview with this chap, Mark Hayes in the Metro during the week. Mark, who’s from Cork and seems to be a cheerful, optimistic sort of fella, wrote a sitcom a few years ago that got rejected by RTE. Undaunted, Mark then moved to L.A. anyway to be a stand-up comedian and try and break into acting/writing. This led to adventures where he got frisked and nearly arrested by L.A. cops, chased by a wild boar, attacked by a hotel maid on Spring Break and went boozing with Robbie Williams on his yacht.

Now, everyone will have their own opinions about whether going to L.A. was a good idea in his position (no contacts, sounds like he was fairly broke, etc). I think it was brilliant and thoroughly envy his bravery. Maybe I’m just in a particularly headwrecked place right now but the thought of jacking it all in and heading for the L and A is a tempting thought. Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve been there and it is literally the fakest-looking place on earth (all the buildings look like they’ve been built temporarily for a film set). And that it’s the kind of place where you can find yourself accidentally at a porn publisher’s house party (maybe that was just me though). Still, it’s where movies get made, where the action is.

So it’s Friday. Raise a glass of something strong to taking risks, being crazy and grabbing life by the cajones...

Only Mad Dogs and Irish Guys go to L.A....

I went to the launch party for the Indian Film Festival of Ireland’s programme on Wednesday night at Solas Bar. It was great fun and well attended, plus I got to wear a nifty Indian ensemble for it. You can see the pics and what went down at the official blog.

On a (maybe slightly) related note, I saw an interview with this chap, Mark Hayes in the Metro during the week. Mark, who’s from Cork and seems to be a cheerful, optimistic sort of fella, wrote a sitcom a few years ago that got rejected by RTE. Undaunted, Mark then moved to L.A. anyway to be a stand-up comedian and try and break into acting/writing. This led to adventures where he got frisked and nearly arrested by L.A. cops, chased by a wild boar, attacked by a hotel maid on Spring Break and went boozing with Robbie Williams on his yacht.

Now, everyone will have their own opinions about whether going to L.A. was a good idea in his position (no contacts, sounds like he was fairly broke, etc). I think it was brilliant and thoroughly envy his bravery. Maybe I’m just in a particularly headwrecked place right now but the thought of jacking it all in and heading for the L and A is a tempting thought. Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve been there and it is literally the fakest-looking place on earth (all the buildings look like they’ve been built temporarily for a film set). And that it’s the kind of place where you can find yourself accidentally at a porn publisher’s house party (maybe that was just me though). Still, it’s where movies get made, where the action is.

So it’s Friday. Raise a glass of something strong to taking risks, being crazy and grabbing life by the cajones...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Be ready to network, anywhere, anytime...

I think I've admitted before that I don't like networking very much. All that deliberate glad-handing doesn't come naturally to me; I get nervous just thinking about it. But put me at a normal party and I can talk for Ireland. This isn't always a good thing, of course.

Anyway, what I've realised recently is that I've had it all wrong. Networking does not just happen in a hotel ballroom with a flipchart outside, it can take place anywhere. On the bus, at a bar, at work. You never know when you're going to meet someone interesting who might be a contact going forward - and who wants to know more about your work. And when they ask the immortal question, "So what do you write?", you want to be able to talk naturally about your scripts. 

The solution, in my opinion, is to practice your pitch until it sounds like a story you'd tell your friends in the pub. Then be ready to wheel it out, in a nonchalant fashion, whenever anyone asks The Question. If you have a pitch prepared and you're feeling brave, you might want to check out this online competition, which is running until July.

I'm blogging at the moment about the very first Indian film festival of Ireland, which you can check out here. I know very little about Indian cinema but it's a world I've always felt curious about. Plus their movies look damn cool. So I'm really looking forward to this festival as an introduction - a taste of what's out there. 

For all you screenwriters, script writer Atul Tiwari will be conducting a workshop as part of the festival. I've heard film writing in India is more like TV writing here (i.e. a team of writers working together) so I'm excited to find out more about this.

The launch party is on this week at Solas on Wexford Street at 4pm so drop in if you are in the area! There will be music and a screening of a Bollywood movie, as well as food and drink.

Be ready to network, anywhere, anytime...

I think I've admitted before that I don't like networking very much. All that deliberate glad-handing doesn't come naturally to me; I get nervous just thinking about it. But put me at a normal party and I can talk for Ireland. This isn't always a good thing, of course.

Anyway, what I've realised recently is that I've had it all wrong. Networking does not just happen in a hotel ballroom with a flipchart outside, it can take place anywhere. On the bus, at a bar, at work. You never know when you're going to meet someone interesting who might be a contact going forward - and who wants to know more about your work. And when they ask the immortal question, "So what do you write?", you want to be able to talk naturally about your scripts. 

The solution, in my opinion, is to practice your pitch until it sounds like a story you'd tell your friends in the pub. Then be ready to wheel it out, in a nonchalant fashion, whenever anyone asks The Question. If you have a pitch prepared and you're feeling brave, you might want to check out this online competition, which is running until July.

I'm blogging at the moment about the very first Indian film festival of Ireland, which you can check out here. I know very little about Indian cinema but it's a world I've always felt curious about. Plus their movies look damn cool. So I'm really looking forward to this festival as an introduction - a taste of what's out there. 

For all you screenwriters, script writer Atul Tiwari will be conducting a workshop as part of the festival. I've heard film writing in India is more like TV writing here (i.e. a team of writers working together) so I'm excited to find out more about this.

The launch party is on this week at Solas on Wexford Street at 4pm so drop in if you are in the area! There will be music and a screening of a Bollywood movie, as well as food and drink.