Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Lucky Dozen...

The Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild recently ran an event called the Lucky Dozen. This offered 12 writers the opportunity to meet a well-established writer, producer or director and discuss their work with them. Apparently it’s going to run as a semi-regular event and I highly recommend it. Partly because it was really informative, partly to support the Guild and partly because it was a lot of fun. I got to meet 11 other writers and the Guild had even managed to provide some wine, cheese and crackers. Looking forward to the next one!

By the way, the promo video for Connecting Creativity is up on Youtube. This is the theatre piece that I’ve written a monologue for - the show is on the 16th August at the Centre for Creative Practices on Pembroke Street, Dublin 2.

As usual, being a writer I can only say how horrifying it is seeing myself filmed. The only good thing I can say about my contribution is that at least my hair looks nice...

But you can judge for yourself:

Monday, July 22, 2013

When good pitching goes bad...

Well, as regards the Fleadh I had a great time in the 30 hours I spent at it! I drove down there like a maniac on Saturday evening, having stopped off at a friend's birthday lunch before leaving Dublin. I got to the Radisson (late) for a pep talk on pitching from the moderator, Magma Films' Ralph Christians, which was actually really helpful. Ralph gave a rundown of what they were looking for, which was basically a rundown of the story and characters, an idea of the possible budget, any ideas on directors or actors to be involved, and the film's USP. There were five contenders - three guys, two girls, including me.

Then it was off to the Film Board party and a lot of talking and drinking. Non-alcoholic drinking for me, cos I hadn't managed to sort out any accommodation and had to stay in my parents' holiday house instead. Nothing wrong with that - it's a lovely house - it's just that it was a forty minute drive away, the last ten minutes down tiny country roads. It was midnight when I got there, with mad locals driving right up the car's tailpipe on the way. Still, it was free, and it forced me to get a (sober) early night!

Anyway, the pitching. I don't think it would come as a shock to any of the three lads to say that their pitches did not go well. They all spoke for far too long, and we did have ten minutes in total, which is a long enough time for a pitch. Two of them used visual aids, which didn't go down well with the judges at all. (Can everyone just accept at this stage that visual aids DO NOT WORK? I've seen them ruin so many peoples' chances. )And at least two of the pitches were so muddled that I couldn't tell you what the story was.

Now, I hold my hands up here. I didn't win - so my pitch wasn't perfect either. My project was a sports comedy about  a really bad GAA football team. First problem with the pitch was that it was too detailed and mentioned too many characters. I should have cut it back to the bare bones. Second, some people just don't like sports comedies - they're Marmite. At least one of the judges did not seem to like the concept, the genre, (or me, tbh ;)). Third, I did not have a logline prepared when they asked for it. I know. Doh. My only complaint is that they should have asked everyone else for their logline too! Some of the projects would have benefitted from being distilled down to one sentence.

The winner - the only other lady involved, was also the only person pitching that I was happy to lose to. She was just a very natural, fluent pitcher. She was also the calmest-seeming of all of us, and a worthy winner. Congratulations to Jacinta!

Here's the ironic thing I found: it's all about making the pitch seem as natural as possible, but that's not easy when you're standing in front of a ballroom full of people. It IS easy when you're standing in a bar talking to 3 or 4 people. And before and after the actual pitch, I pitched the project effortlessly in several bars. Now I just have to figure out how to replicate the bar pitch in an official situation...

In the meantime, thanks to the Fleadh for yet another great time, and for the opportunity to pitch. By the way, if you get a chance to see Four Queens, a brilliant short by Vittoria Colonna, make sure you do. It's a ghoulish tale of four middle-aged sisters who meet to pick over their dying mother's estate, and stake all their hopes on a game of cards. Well worth a look!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pitching, working with actors, and actors vs. the Apocalypse...

Two new developments in less than a week! I’m going to be taking part in the Galway Film Fleadh pitching competition this coming Sunday and I’m also taking part in Connecting Creativity, a project that connects artists and writers.

The pitching is a daunting enough prospect: on the one hand, I have 8 minutes (max) to pitch. Even if I only do six minutes, which sounds more likely, that’s a nice long time to have. On the other hand, it’s going to be in front of a hotel ballroom full of people on Sunday afternoon. And there’ll be no Dutch courage (probably a good thing) because I have to drive back to Dublin afterwards!

But apart from being a great opportunity to practice my pitching, this has forced me to finish a treatment for the script I’m pitching. Nothing like a deadline to get things moving.

I’m really looking forward to the pitch but also can’t wait to have it over…

Incidentally, this is the fourth year I’ve applied for this competition, and the first time I’ve been accepted. There are five writers chosen each year based on submitting a one-page idea (and the prize is pretty cool -€3,000!). In retrospect, none of the ideas I’ve submitted in the past have been all that strong on concept, so maybe this is what finally swung it this year.

The second project, Connecting Creativity, is a really interesting idea. Five Irish writers have been paired with American actors, and five American writers are working with actors over here. If you’re the writer, you have to talk to your actor via Skype and try to come up with a five-minute monologue for them based in some way on this conversation. Then in August, the actors will perform their pieces at a theatre in Dublin – the Irish ones in person and the Americans via Skype.

As you can imagine, this is fairly challenging as there’s no theme you have to stick up and no real guidelines other than basing the piece on your actor and your chat with them. I’ve already had a quick talk with my (very nice, friendly) actress Bridget, but I’ve a feeling it might take a few go’s to come up with a script! The golden thing about this project though, is the opportunity to gain experience working with an actor and in particular, to work with someone in another country.

Talking of scripts, I saw This is the End recently. This is a film which was about 50% improvised and I thought the quality of the comedy (possibly as a result) was really skewed. The scene where Rogen and company argue over the last Milky Way (minor, minor spoiler) was hilarious, yet I imagine it said nothing more than “They spat over the Milky Way and who gets to enjoy it” in the script. Or even, “Milky Way scene”. On the other hand, there are endless, talky sequences which manage to make a Hollywood Apocalypse seem boring.

There was a really good movie somewhere in there, it just wasn’t the one we were watching on screen. And I think this is partly because Seth Rogen wrote it (with Evan Goldberg), directed it, starred in it (with all his friends) and probably chose the music, arranged catering and did Jonah Hill’s hair. In a situation like that, you need perspective. Maybe he should have found some script editor who was a complete stranger to him and taken their thoughts on board.

I did enjoy This is the End but I have to agree with the sum-up delivered by the wise soul I saw it with (“it was REALLY self-indulgent”).

I’ll report back on the pitching terror next week…