Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dwarves, the Film Board and Granny O'Grimm....

First, a story. A guy who works with my sister is going on a stag weekend soon (that's a bachelor party for you Yanks..). The best man recently collected 80 euro from him and the other guys going on the weekend away.

This is to cover the entertainment, or at least some of it. For that money (a grand in total - 80 quid x 12 guys), a dwarf from Glasgow will fly to Dublin, cover himself in blue paint, dress as a Smurf and make a sudden appearance during the first night of the trip. He sneaks up beside the groom and handcuffs himself to him. That's it. For the rest of the weekend, the groom has to do everything with a dwarf handcuffed to his wrist.

After laughing a lot (Yes, I'm immature), I had three questions. First of all, are dwarves really that hard up for work? I'd want at least five grand to endure that amount of hassle!

Second, can you imagine any group of women agreeing to pay 80 quid a head just to see their mate handcuffed to a dwarf (actually...)??

And thirdly, seeing as I laughed for five minutes straight after she told me this, why wasn't it the plot for Hangover 2? They didn't need to go to Bangkok - just handcuff the groom to a dwarf and the rest would've followed!

On a much more depressing note, I went to the Writers Guild AGM on Saturday in the Morgan Hotel. Two and a half hours later, everyone emerged feeling very blue and immediately went to the bar for drinks. Why?

The Guild's broke. It may even end altogether if the new Film Board head decides to cut their only remaining funding this year. There are only 300 scriptwriters in Ireland earning over 5k a year from writing. One of the only shows in town hiring writers are Fair City - and they're apparently horrible to work for.

Talking of the new Film Board head, James Hickey, he showed up at the start of the meeting to introduce himself. He seemed nice enough, but then again, he was kind of in the lion's den, surrounded by 60 writers. He was going to be conciliatory. He talked up new movies The Guard and The Runway and revealed that Setanta Sports will be screening a season of Irish movies as a showcase.

But overall, it was clear from his speech that there will be no big changes at the Board and the way they do things. It's business as usual, whether that's good or bad.

I got a bit annoyed during the meeting, not at him, but at some of the self-defeating talk going on. One female writer went on about how there are no Irish films "about women". Well, there are hardly any Irish films about anybody! I'm a woman and obviously I'd like to see more of our experiences on screen. But stop moaning about it and write something that gets made! Then you can write your big female opus. Also, 73% of Guild members haven't paid their yearly dues yet, or put their profile up on the IPSG site. Pull your fingers out, people!

Much more uplifting was Friday night at Filmbase, where on a very wet evening, three Oscar-nominated shorts (The Door, New Boy and Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty) got a screening. There was a Q&A after with the writer/directors (Juanita Wilson, Steph Green and Nicky Phelan respectively) which was brilliant.

They talked about scrabbling together funding - Juanita Wilson got turned down several times by the Film Board and eventually got told yes as long as she shot on digital (she shot on 35mm). Nicky Phelan talked about discovering writer/actress Kathleen O'Rourke performing Granny O'Grimm at a stand-up event. Steph Green optioned New Boy from writer Roddy Doyle for a euro (!) and talked about differences in opinion she had with him over the script. And of course, they all talked up the Oscar luncheon - what wouldn't I give to get there some day!

Seeing people who've made there gives you hope, makes you push on that bit further. And on that note, my big piece of recent good news - I've been chosen, along with writers Caroline Farrell and Lauren McKenzie, to have a script consultation during the Film Fleadh with Walk the Line writer Gill Dennis. Bring it on!

Dwarves, the Film Board and Granny O'Grimm....

First, a story. A guy who works with my sister is going on a stag weekend soon (that's a bachelor party for you Yanks..). The best man recently collected 80 euro from him and the other guys going on the weekend away.

This is to cover the entertainment, or at least some of it. For that money (a grand in total - 80 quid x 12 guys), a dwarf from Glasgow will fly to Dublin, cover himself in blue paint, dress as a Smurf and make a sudden appearance during the first night of the trip. He sneaks up beside the groom and handcuffs himself to him. That's it. For the rest of the weekend, the groom has to do everything with a dwarf handcuffed to his wrist.

After laughing a lot (Yes, I'm immature), I had three questions. First of all, are dwarves really that hard up for work? I'd want at least five grand to endure that amount of hassle!

Second, can you imagine any group of women agreeing to pay 80 quid a head just to see their mate handcuffed to a dwarf (actually...)??

And thirdly, seeing as I laughed for five minutes straight after she told me this, why wasn't it the plot for Hangover 2? They didn't need to go to Bangkok - just handcuff the groom to a dwarf and the rest would've followed!

On a much more depressing note, I went to the Writers Guild AGM on Saturday in the Morgan Hotel. Two and a half hours later, everyone emerged feeling very blue and immediately went to the bar for drinks. Why?

The Guild's broke. It may even end altogether if the new Film Board head decides to cut their only remaining funding this year. There are only 300 scriptwriters in Ireland earning over 5k a year from writing. One of the only shows in town hiring writers are Fair City - and they're apparently horrible to work for.

Talking of the new Film Board head, James Hickey, he showed up at the start of the meeting to introduce himself. He seemed nice enough, but then again, he was kind of in the lion's den, surrounded by 60 writers. He was going to be conciliatory. He talked up new movies The Guard and The Runway and revealed that Setanta Sports will be screening a season of Irish movies as a showcase.

But overall, it was clear from his speech that there will be no big changes at the Board and the way they do things. It's business as usual, whether that's good or bad.

I got a bit annoyed during the meeting, not at him, but at some of the self-defeating talk going on. One female writer went on about how there are no Irish films "about women". Well, there are hardly any Irish films about anybody! I'm a woman and obviously I'd like to see more of our experiences on screen. But stop moaning about it and write something that gets made! Then you can write your big female opus. Also, 73% of Guild members haven't paid their yearly dues yet, or put their profile up on the IPSG site. Pull your fingers out, people!

Much more uplifting was Friday night at Filmbase, where on a very wet evening, three Oscar-nominated shorts (The Door, New Boy and Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty) got a screening. There was a Q&A after with the writer/directors (Juanita Wilson, Steph Green and Nicky Phelan respectively) which was brilliant.

They talked about scrabbling together funding - Juanita Wilson got turned down several times by the Film Board and eventually got told yes as long as she shot on digital (she shot on 35mm). Nicky Phelan talked about discovering writer/actress Kathleen O'Rourke performing Granny O'Grimm at a stand-up event. Steph Green optioned New Boy from writer Roddy Doyle for a euro (!) and talked about differences in opinion she had with him over the script. And of course, they all talked up the Oscar luncheon - what wouldn't I give to get there some day!

Seeing people who've made there gives you hope, makes you push on that bit further. And on that note, my big piece of recent good news - I've been chosen, along with writers Caroline Farrell and Lauren McKenzie, to have a script consultation during the Film Fleadh with Walk the Line writer Gill Dennis. Bring it on!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writing a hit - whether it's a song or a script

I was in the pub last Friday and my friend's husband Philip, who's gotten a record company to buy some of his tracks, was talking about creating and mixing songs. And it struck me what a similarity there is between songs and movies.

He was talking about the process, how there is a structure to a song and there has to be a build-up in it to a compelling climax. Just like a movie - everything has to build in momentum towards the third Act.

There must be a hook that keeps the listener interested, like a motif. Great fims have plants and pay-offs that feel satisfying.

Songs you spend an hour working on are often better than ones you rewrite over and over again. I believe that scripts can get rewritten to death and that the freshness can often be forced out of them by too much attention.

And lastly but most importantly, songs can't be too wordy - and neither can scripts. You've only got a certain amount of room for words in either of them, and each word must count.

(Given the size of beer you were drinking, Phil, you probably don't remember saying half of this. But trust me, it was profound).

There was one other big similalarity I noticed. Songwriters, like scriptwriters, spend a lot of time in rooms by themselves. It's a solitary pursuit. And one that a lot of people wish they could give up! But you have to have a compulsion to write songs or scripts, otherwise the constant rejection and apparent hopelessness would beat you down, make you quit.

There has to be nothing else you want to do.

I went to a car boot sale and sold a load of crap this weekend. Now working on selling a large number of college books that for some inexplicable reason, I've hung onto since 2000. Will I ever read 18th century epistolary novels again? I hated them first time around, so I think not!

They're not coming with me to Hollywood :)

Writing a hit - whether it's a song or a script

I was in the pub last Friday and my friend's husband Philip, who's gotten a record company to buy some of his tracks, was talking about creating and mixing songs. And it struck me what a similarity there is between songs and movies.

He was talking about the process, how there is a structure to a song and there has to be a build-up in it to a compelling climax. Just like a movie - everything has to build in momentum towards the third Act.

There must be a hook that keeps the listener interested, like a motif. Great fims have plants and pay-offs that feel satisfying.

Songs you spend an hour working on are often better than ones you rewrite over and over again. I believe that scripts can get rewritten to death and that the freshness can often be forced out of them by too much attention.

And lastly but most importantly, songs can't be too wordy - and neither can scripts. You've only got a certain amount of room for words in either of them, and each word must count.

(Given the size of beer you were drinking, Phil, you probably don't remember saying half of this. But trust me, it was profound).

There was one other big similalarity I noticed. Songwriters, like scriptwriters, spend a lot of time in rooms by themselves. It's a solitary pursuit. And one that a lot of people wish they could give up! But you have to have a compulsion to write songs or scripts, otherwise the constant rejection and apparent hopelessness would beat you down, make you quit.

There has to be nothing else you want to do.

I went to a car boot sale and sold a load of crap this weekend. Now working on selling a large number of college books that for some inexplicable reason, I've hung onto since 2000. Will I ever read 18th century epistolary novels again? I hated them first time around, so I think not!

They're not coming with me to Hollywood :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fix-it thoughts come when you least expect them...

First of all, good news. Producer Lady's company came back and signed the option and sent me a copy. So it looks like my dollar option deal is underway - officially! Now I'll keep my paws crossed that they make the movie and give me a feature credit already.

Having finished my Star on the Run rewrite, I'm now on to rewriting another script. Or should I say, scripts, because I have three to choose from. I've been thinking about them all for the last week and little nuggets keep coming to mind at the most random times. I was stuck at a traffic light yesterday and I suddenly thought of a way to fix this thriller. I was watching another movie on Friday's night and it struck me that the characters in another film should be younger.

I don't want to sound pretentious, but I think this sort of gestation period is important for writing. Writers don't seem to think like everyone else anyway, and I've always been someone who got in trouble in the past for staring into space, dwelling on something random about a short story or this terrible novel I wrote in school.

We need days of staring at a pot of coffee but also days of routine, because the best thoughts come to me when my conscious brain has switched off, immersed in a boring task like hoovering. This time is when the real business of rewriting gets started, when the existing script gets picked apart and the solution to putting it together again starts to emerge from the fog. Hopefully...

The IFI are showing a season of 1970s thriller at the moment and I highly recommend checking out Cutter's Way, which I saw last week. A brilliant character piece, it stars the underrated John Heard as disabled vet Alex Cutter and Jeff Bridges as his charming conman friend, who each become obsessed with solving a local girl's murder. (It was a shock to see Bridges, about ten stone lighter than he is now and nowhere near as hairy). This is a kind-of thriller, but it's much more about the people than the plot and is easily the last great film of the American New Wave. They don't make 'em like this anymore...

Fix-it thoughts come when you least expect them...

First of all, good news. Producer Lady's company came back and signed the option and sent me a copy. So it looks like my dollar option deal is underway - officially! Now I'll keep my paws crossed that they make the movie and give me a feature credit already.

Having finished my Star on the Run rewrite, I'm now on to rewriting another script. Or should I say, scripts, because I have three to choose from. I've been thinking about them all for the last week and little nuggets keep coming to mind at the most random times. I was stuck at a traffic light yesterday and I suddenly thought of a way to fix this thriller. I was watching another movie on Friday's night and it struck me that the characters in another film should be younger.

I don't want to sound pretentious, but I think this sort of gestation period is important for writing. Writers don't seem to think like everyone else anyway, and I've always been someone who got in trouble in the past for staring into space, dwelling on something random about a short story or this terrible novel I wrote in school.

We need days of staring at a pot of coffee but also days of routine, because the best thoughts come to me when my conscious brain has switched off, immersed in a boring task like hoovering. This time is when the real business of rewriting gets started, when the existing script gets picked apart and the solution to putting it together again starts to emerge from the fog. Hopefully...

The IFI are showing a season of 1970s thriller at the moment and I highly recommend checking out Cutter's Way, which I saw last week. A brilliant character piece, it stars the underrated John Heard as disabled vet Alex Cutter and Jeff Bridges as his charming conman friend, who each become obsessed with solving a local girl's murder. (It was a shock to see Bridges, about ten stone lighter than he is now and nowhere near as hairy). This is a kind-of thriller, but it's much more about the people than the plot and is easily the last great film of the American New Wave. They don't make 'em like this anymore...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Post-Rewrite: The Ritual

I pulled an all-nighter (well, until 3.00am) on Tuesday night to finish the rewrite of Star on the Run. The Austin film festival deadline was looming and Act 3 still needed tweaking. So it was that I finished at 3 and staggered off to bed with a sore back (damn IKEA chair!), having done a limp whoop on finishing the draft.

I was tired but happy the next day, until tiny, stabbing darts began to float into my brain, ruining the post-monster rewrite party. One character lied to her dad for the entire script, and during their big row, he never called her on it! Spelling mistake on the second last line. A secondary character whose function in Act 3 is unclear even to me. AND - this is a doozie, I never established at the start that one of the characters is based in Austin.

So the AFF draft isn't perfect. I have to hope that their judge isn't as pernickety as I am, that they overlook my little crimes. Because Austin is the motherload when it comes to making a rep, getting an agent, meeting producers, etc, etc. Placing there could make 2012 the best year of my life.

But there's no point in thinking about that. Instead, I'll carry on my usual post-rewrite ritual, which is as follows:
  • Wait as least five days before touching the script again. It's too soon, people. Give it some time to gestate.
  • Print out a full copy, sit down and read it. Don't analyse it, just see how it flows. Afterwards, you'll start thinking of a bunch of things that need work.
  • The next day, get a big red pen and read it again, this time writing furious notes along the lines of, "why would she say this? Fix!"
  • If the problem is dialogue, read the offending portions out loud. This awful experience will show what parts need to be cut and which ones changed.
  • If it's structure, map out the script. I currently have a series of pink Post-its taped to my study ceiling. 40 of 'em - one for every scene in the movie. It looks like something the Unabomber might have done, if he'd been into pink. Do this and stare at it, moving things around until the true story becomes clear.
  • Then rewrite the sucker again!
In other news, I've signed the option and found a lawyer to witness it. But Producer Lady and her people have still not signed their copy and sent it back to me. Does anyone know if this voids the whole thing? It's been two weeks.... why are film people so fickle?!!!

Post-Rewrite: The Ritual

I pulled an all-nighter (well, until 3.00am) on Tuesday night to finish the rewrite of Star on the Run. The Austin film festival deadline was looming and Act 3 still needed tweaking. So it was that I finished at 3 and staggered off to bed with a sore back (damn IKEA chair!), having done a limp whoop on finishing the draft.

I was tired but happy the next day, until tiny, stabbing darts began to float into my brain, ruining the post-monster rewrite party. One character lied to her dad for the entire script, and during their big row, he never called her on it! Spelling mistake on the second last line. A secondary character whose function in Act 3 is unclear even to me. AND - this is a doozie, I never established at the start that one of the characters is based in Austin.

So the AFF draft isn't perfect. I have to hope that their judge isn't as pernickety as I am, that they overlook my little crimes. Because Austin is the motherload when it comes to making a rep, getting an agent, meeting producers, etc, etc. Placing there could make 2012 the best year of my life.

But there's no point in thinking about that. Instead, I'll carry on my usual post-rewrite ritual, which is as follows:
  • Wait as least five days before touching the script again. It's too soon, people. Give it some time to gestate.
  • Print out a full copy, sit down and read it. Don't analyse it, just see how it flows. Afterwards, you'll start thinking of a bunch of things that need work.
  • The next day, get a big red pen and read it again, this time writing furious notes along the lines of, "why would she say this? Fix!"
  • If the problem is dialogue, read the offending portions out loud. This awful experience will show what parts need to be cut and which ones changed.
  • If it's structure, map out the script. I currently have a series of pink Post-its taped to my study ceiling. 40 of 'em - one for every scene in the movie. It looks like something the Unabomber might have done, if he'd been into pink. Do this and stare at it, moving things around until the true story becomes clear.
  • Then rewrite the sucker again!
In other news, I've signed the option and found a lawyer to witness it. But Producer Lady and her people have still not signed their copy and sent it back to me. Does anyone know if this voids the whole thing? It's been two weeks.... why are film people so fickle?!!!