Thursday 26 May 2011

I Have Several Projects at Various Stages of Development

Last Saturday I attended the Saturday Film School offered by Raindance.

Let me just start by saying that one might think that listening to the same person speak for most of the day could be tedious. Perhaps, but that was definitely not the case when I recently sat and listened to Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance, whilst he reminisced about his life and filmmaking.

I was sitting in an auditorium filled with other budding filmmakers, all hungry for his tips and know how on how to succeed in this cut-throat industry. There it was, one of the first things he said was why we would never succeed. He whittled it down to 3 reasons: lack of confidence, procrastination and our own weaknesses. They all ring true with me and I feel that I have now run out of excuses.

There was a good mixture of age groups and specialisations, some already making movies or getting started and others still looking for a way in; some open to anything that could help them gain extra insight and answers, others who sadly had it all figured out.

The first person I spoke to was a young girl sitting to my right. She had a love of filmmaking but had yet to join the industry and wasn't sure what role she wanted to have in it. She is a science graduate and her day job involves reading science articles and spotting mistakes in the theory. I hope she realises that she has a great skill and could offer herself as a researcher for sci-fi movies or science programmes. If she wants to write, well half of it is to read and she does it on a daily basis.

No Money No Problem
Once we were assured that money does not have to be an issue we became our only barriers. If you are now thinking, but my script has a aeroplane, I can't afford to hire one; I need a certain actor for it to work, I don't know him; whatever it is you think is a problem, then you are just searching for yet another excuse. If you are serious about it, passionate about it, there is always a way. You make do with what you have. Write that big script which will cost a million, why not? but also write the no budget script, the one you know can be filmed on your street, in your uncle's bungalow, at the local playground, the one that will only require your home made props and the available and very willing actors you've met along the way.

The award winning short Sign Language directed by Oscar Sharp and written by Stephen Follows is a great example of a no budget short.

The Big Announcement
Once you have decided this is definitely what you want to do with your life, it's time to make the big announcement. Tell the world what you want to be when you grow up. My announcement was made many years ago whilst still at Uni. When a lecturer enquired who we aspired to be I announced very boldly that I was going to be a famous Producer. Yes, I know, I still laugh and cringe at the thought of it. Even though it's still an area I would like to pursue, being a writer is what I'm in love with at the moment.

Life is what it is though, you can plan as much as you wish, but you never know where you will end and I've had a fantastic journey so far even if I'm yet to Produce a short.

I Have Several Projects at Various Stages of Development
That has to be one of the best lines delivered by Elliot and we will probably all remember it for a while. It says it all whilst saying nothing. What does it really mean? Is it not an easy way out when you are announcing to the world you are a writer, a director, an editor, yet you have nothing to show for it? Maybe some people will buy it and applaud you for it, but you also have to be true to yourself.
No one is out to get you, no one cares if you have many projects in the making or not, you are your worst judge and if you've made the announcement but have yet to take the first step then the only one you are letting down is yourself (unless you have a family to support and have quit your day job to become a writer).

We Make our Own Luck
Elliot also talked about luck and what we each call it. I believe luck doesn't happen, it's made. You don't get lucky by writing one script and then sitting and waiting to be discovered. You work bloody hard at it, work around your day job, push yourself, get your name out there, meet people and then after maybe a year or maybe ten years you get your reward, if you're lucky.

The Movie is a Lie
In the afternoon, we all enjoyed a session about Directing with Patrick Tucker and from that I learned the cinema is a lie - what we don't see on screen doesn't exist. It was a very interesting session in which he demonstrated various different shots and how they are best captured on camera, even if that means having to strike some very uncomfortable or even embarrassing poses. They might look odd in real life, but on screen appear natural.

At the end of the day, I felt refreshed and inspired, I was ready to get out there and make movies. It was time to network and meet all those like minded people whose minds had all been equally blown away. Where better to start then the pub next door filled with those same people.

I was glad to have met some fantastic people whom I hope to keep in touch with and who knows we could one day collaborate.

I wish all of those who attended the course good luck and keep smiling.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Always Read the Label

You know how people say always read the label, and then you do, but only when something goes wrong? Or you get those long boring booklets from your Bank saying they've changed your Terms of Contract and it gets filed away without a second thought? Or even the many times you've clicked on that little box agreeing to the site's Terms & Conditions, which you are certain are just like all the other hundreds that you also did not read? Well...

Earlier this year, my writing partner and I submitted a script to the BBC Laughing Stock competition. The deadline was looming and we were going through what was hopefully our last draft. The deadline was on a Monday, and it was the previous Wednesday. All that was left to do was a final read before moving on to the one page synopsis. I did a quick check of the rules and suddenly realised this would have to be posted. I had completely assumed that we could e-mail it without having actually read the guidelines in full! Our deadline was no longer Monday, it was Friday. We had one day to complete the synopsis and get the script printed ready for the Post Office Friday am. 
We made it, under pressure but it was delivered.

Some of you would hopefully learn from such an experience. Not I. Oh no.

This coming Saturday I am attending the Saturday Film School course offered by Raindance. I am very excited about it and have been looking forward to it since booking in early April. That was over a month ago. This evening I was asked the duration of the course and thought that I ought to check. As I read the course description I realised it was the first time I was reading that page, which thankfully was full of pleasant surprises, until I reached the end. The dreadful end - networking drinks.

Lately I have read a lot about networking and it seems everyone has some advice on how best to do it. As much as the thought of it makes me panic a little, I would still give it a chance. However, whenever I see the word networking, it seems to always be followed by the words business cards. This was no different. There it was at the very bottom of the course description. Shit!

The only business cards I have ever owned were some my grandmother ordered just for fun. The only information on them were my address and phone number; had she added an occupation, it would have to be student. I must have been 12. 

Yes, people have been talking about business cards, and I have been reading, taking it in, designing my card in my mind but never with a sense of urgency. I imagined that the minute I bought a ticket to an event that involved networking, I'd get them printed. Had I read the course description earlier, I would have realised that this is it!

The course is two days away and it seems impossible to get a sleek one, a la American Psycho printed. 
This time I will have to settle for the not so glamorous home-designed/ home-printed business cards, but by the end of the weekend I'll have placed my order. Who knows, it might even have a Watermark.

For those of you who have never seen American Psycho, or those who can't get enough of it, here is the business card scene.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

The Juggling Life for Me

April is over and I survived. What a month! It's been mad but it's also been a lot of fun.

On the first of the month I was off on a writing frenzy in an attempt to get a 100 page script written within the month. I was very excited about the fact that I was going to be writing my first feature, but not quite certain that I would actually complete it. It was going to be a challenge!

As a Stay at Home Mum to a 1yr old and a 3yr old, life is busy and writing has to be worked around them and their routines, but hopefully after being home for about 3 1/2 years I've mastered that and it was not going to be a deterrent.

My main worry was the fact that on top of having weekends taken up by friends and family, Mr Russell was going to be home for 12days at the end of the month, at which point we planned on spending the days out with the kids. Not to mention that I had to fit a party into all that which required planning, shopping for, cleaning and preparing. Yes, writing was going to be a problem.

If I ever was any good at juggling, which frankly I just about get by, it was time to put those skills to the test. I was determined not only to complete the script within the deadline, but to also be there for my family and enjoy some well deserved days off.


Set aside any other writing - I had just completed a 1st draft of a TV pilot, and even though it was fresh in my mind and I wanted to re-write it soon, I passed the ball to Taro, whom I was collaborating with. If I had any brain wave about anything not related to the main script, I would quickly jot it down somewhere and forget about it. There was no time for side-tracking.

Write whenever and wherever I could - I made use of the old-fashioned pen and paper on many occasions. I write faster than I type and it’s easy to cross out and start again, so it made sense. Plus, it can be used anywhere, even whilst sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for an over hyped child settle for the night. I would normally at this point play Angry Birds anyway, so why not write instead?

Set healthy goals - Once I had good solid descriptions for the next scene(s) down on paper, typing it up whilst adding flowers and dialogue was a lot faster and easier; without much thought I was churning out 5-10pages a day, well ahead of the 3-4page target. That was a huge motivator to keep me going at that pace and I love to compete, even if it's with myself. I suddenly had a new goal, to complete the script before the Easter break. Once that break came along, I knew writing would be hard and very stressful. I also wanted to enjoy it as a holiday rather than any other day.

Change my routine – I generally write better during the day when I’m still awake. Evenings are usually a time for relaxing in front of the TV, reading a book or tweaking a script. That works fine if I’m either working with no deadline or on a half hour programme or short, but for this challenge to work I needed more writing time. Mr Russell was very understanding and helped out by playing some games on the PS3 instead.

To Do Lists – Back in my working days I valued my To Do Lists. They were essential and I had them not only at work, but also at home. Lately however, I’ve been relying mostly on my memory, which I’m quite certain shrunk a little every time I got pregnant. So to get through busy periods, I get back to the organised, OCD me and get those To Do lists going.

Adjust to changes – Not far into April the Sun decided to visit. I love hot sunny days, I really do, but I had to re-think my routine. On a certain day, for example, I got the paddling pool out and let my eldest splash around. Not a problem, he could splash, the little one could nap and I could write. Perfect. I knew though that my niece who lives a few houses down was on half-term break and that both her and my son would love to play together, but it would mean that I couldn’t write. After trying hard not to give in, the mummy inside thought she was being unfair and to make matters worse, the Sun shinning in through the windows kept highlighting the need to get those clean. Minutes after giving in, my niece and son were over the moon splashing together whilst I cleaned the windows and my sis helped keep it all peaceful. That day, when all was quiet and the Sun was setting, I sat down and typed away.

It took focus, it took organisation and it took determination, but I got there. On the 20th of April, the night before Mr Russell started his annual leave and with 10days left until the end of the month, I typed FADE OUT. That was a great feeling. I had done it and now have a feature. An extremely rough draft, which will need some work to even make sense, but a 100 page script nonetheless (even if I do admit to being disappointed at the fact that it’s 100 pages exactly and not just that little longer).

Oh hello May, so what do you have in store for me? Some Sun and tequila? Oh, yes, some re-writes and possibly a couple of shorts. I hear ya, challenge accepted.

How do you go about juggling writing and other commitments? Please share your experiences and views.