Monday, October 8, 2012

Scary Irish films, Hollywood bashes, sketch writing and fire stunts...

A lot's happened in the 10 days since I last posted. I went to a few L.A. Irish screenings over the weekend of 28-30 September, among them Citadel and a clutch of really good Irish shorts. Citadel is absolutely terrifying, centering on an agoraphobic young father who's trapped with his baby daughter in the council tower block from hell. It's enough to put fear of hoodies into you for life, let's put it that way.

Its director Ciaran Foy spoke passionately during a Q&A afterwards about his own crippling agoraphobia, which was caused by a motiveless street attack when he was in his late teens.

During his recovery, he was told by a therapist that street thugs can literally pick people out of a crowd who've been victims of violence before, which is why people who've been assaulted once are more likely to be targeted again (scary idea, right?). Foy uses this idea of being a victim and being able to "see" fear to totally chilling effect in the movie. Citadel is easily one of the best horrors I've seen in years - go and see it when it comes out, but bring something to hide behind...

There's even a happy ending - writing the script (although a traumatic experience), helped Ciaran Foy put his own attack behind him once and for all.

And there was a happy ending for me too, sort of. A guy in the next row turned around as I was telling my cinema companion about my scripts and offered to read my work. Turns out he's an assistant at a management company. That's what L.A. is all about - right place, right time...

Kudos to Lisa McLoughlin, the festival director, for putting on such a great festival and for making us Irish look good...

Also this week, I went to my first proper, all-glam Hollywood party. Empire Magazine were doing a U.S. launch of their magazine and had a party at the Sunset Towers on Sunset Boulevard. I borrowed a fancy dress and a pair of heels from my flatmate (this girl has the best designer shoe wardrobe on the planet) and went along.

This was the stereotypical bash you've seen in so many movies - a red carpet, free booze flowing, a swimming pool, a gorgeous night-time view of the Hollywood valley. And stars - Michael Bay, Jeremy Renner, David Fincher, Brett Ratner, Joe Manganiello, to name but a few. There were loads of Brits, as you'd expect, and they pounded the bar like me as the Americans showed incredible restraint and nursed a single glass.

It was a top night. I was talking to two guys from Sky Movies at one point, who were in L.A. to do some celebrity interviews. They were mega excited about being there and it reminded me why it's GREAT to be here, why I shouldn't get complacent or lazy about it for a second.

Thursday, I had a meeting with a manager referred by a friend. He's a very nice chap, very  interesting, and the meeting seemed to go well (it was in a coffee shop, so it was more of an informal chat). He's reading my scripts, can't say any more than that for now.

On Saturday, I went to my first sketch writing class at Groundling performer and writer Sean Hogan's house. There were seven other writers, mostly female, which was refreshing!

Sean is an extremely nice guy as well as being one of those people who's just funny without having to try very hard. His advice on writing sketches is just as useful for someone like me who's writing comedy features, as one scene in a comedy film could be written the same way as a sketch and a lot of the same beats apply.

Here's what we've learned so far:

  • Always carry something with you to record ideas or little fragments of ideas.

  • Do "morning pages" to get the creative juices flowing. As soon as you wake up, grab a notebook and write 3 pages of anything at all. Do it fast. Don't correct anything. And never read your morning pages - they're just to get you motoring.

  • A sketch is 4 pages (or minutes) with a 3 act structure. The first act (couple of lines) sets up the who, what and where. The second act (the meat of the sketch) is the premise where the funny character or situation emerges. And the third act is the ending - it's funny and it wraps things up.

  • A sketch writer needs to think of a normal situation and then put a bizarre or ironic twist on it. For example, a fireman who is also a pyromaniac. A cheese shop, but there's not one speck of cheese. What if there was a self defence class, and in it was a man who attacks people?

  • Once you have your idea, write a list of 25 examples of things that could happen. Some of these will be terrible - it doesn't matter. Leave it a few hours, then pick out your best 5 - they will form the basis for Act 2. Then you just need your what, who and where and your ending...


I'll write more once I've tried this - we have to write a sketch this week and submit them by Friday so they can be PERFORMED during next Saturday's class. Gulp...

Later on Saturday I went to a beer-tasting party held by a girl from my improv class. She's a stuntwoman, so I met (not surprisingly) a lot of other stunt performers at it as well as well as a bunch of other industry people. I now know more about fire and car stunts than I ever dreamed I would - let's just say the 100% burn guys sound like they earn their money. Great party and an example again of how nice people are here. I didn't know a single person there except the hostess, and was made to feel really welcome.

And then lastly for this week, I went to an album launch party last night at the W Hotel for Daniel Bedingfield (remember him?). My memory was that he went from being super-cool to being untouchable in the U.K. over night - the fickle press! Anyway, he can certainly sing, and when he performed Gotta Get Thru This the crowd went mental. I didn't see any other famous people there apart from one Backstreet Boy...

This week, I'll be going to the L.A. Femme festival (film festival with a female slant) and gearing up for Austin, which is next week. Gotta get my pitches ready...

1 comment:

The last week: movies, Stanley Kubrick, a play, and Michael Bolton.... said...

[...] Here are a few of the things I’ve learned – the basics were covered in this post: [...]