Friday 28 October 2011

LSWF DAY 1 - A Mini Adventure

And so it begins! I'm home from a great 1st day at the London Screenwriters' Festival.

Today has been a short day for me, so I made the most of it. After walking around the building for half an hour, completely lost, I finally found my bearings and the main room where Chris Jones, the festival director, was saying a final word and welcome.

From that point on, there were about four sessions taking place at the same time, a tough choice at times. The first session I headed for was Cut! Cut! Cut! with Ellin Stein. It was an interesting session where we all got a chance to read a few pages of someone else's script and together understand what did or didn't work and why.

An hour later and I was headed to my script surgery session with The Doctor - Paul Gallagher. The Euroscript clinic set up at the festival was fantastic. Paul was really good at helping me view Dead End Job, the latest sitcom Taro and I have been writing together, from a different perspective. Together we talked about what worked, what didn't and all the different options, including a change in character gender. I have much work to do on it now and extra preparation for my speedpitching session on Sunday.

After lunch I had the luck of getting into the very popular session with Edgar Wright. That's right, Edgar Wright! A funny and inspiring man, who's making it happen. Not long after he had his 1st feature A Fistful of Fingers started showing at the Prince Charles cinema, he met Matt Lucas and David Walliams. After watching his movie, they asked him to work with them as director. He ended up directing TV and not long after got involved with Spaced. He started talks with Simon Pegg about Shaun of the Dead in 1999, and it took another 3 years after they wrapped on Spaced to get it made. Meanwhile, Danny Boyle made 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead was going to be re-made, a set-back but thankfully not a deterrent. I could go on and on. But let's just say, I'm a fan! Towards the end of his session Joe Cornish walked in to join the audience, and I caught a glimpse of the man I would be watching next.

Many of you may have heard of Joe Cornish from his appearances on TV and radio with Adam Buxton. Together they did The Adam and Joe Show which was always very funny. During his session, Joe talked mainly about his debut feature Attack the Block. Not being down with the kids, he had to do extensive research into how they spoke, acted, lived and also how they relate to others in different situations. He also talked about different type of monster movies and decided he wanted to do one where they scare you due to volume, rather than looks. It was interesting to hear about all the research that went into the movie before he even wrote it all down. We then got to hear a little about Tintin and his involvement in it as well as working with Stephen Spielberg. Overall Joe came across as a very humble person, which made him even more likeable and admirable.

Sadly I had to leave before the end of that session missing out on the rest of the day and the networking drinks, but that's ok, I'll be back for more tomorrow. For now I'll be carving some pumpkins.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Getting Ready for the LSWF

I am getting ready to attend the London Screenwriters’ Festival and intend to make the most of it. There are many things that can be done in advance of the Festival to make sure you are as prepared as possible.

Here is what I’ve done so far:

Private Network – The minute I purchased my ticket, I got invited to join a private network where I could interact and chat to other festival-goers months before the event. I joined the network, added my details, and most importantly made sure I added friends and got involved in some of the behind the scenes activities. New people join daily and it’s never too late to join. The network will keep on going after the festival, so it’s somewhere to catch up with all those new contacts you made and those you missed!

Speedpitching – I filled in the form and signed up, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to pitch my TV Comedy to three different producers, agents, and commissioners. In anticipation of the event, many people have shared their knowledge and links towards pitching best practice, so there’s no excuse not to be prepared.

Euroscript Clinic – I have signed up and have booked a free session where my script (the same TV Comedy) will be thoroughly analysed by a script doctor. The surgery is a 50minutes one-on-one session with your own script doctor who can either talk to you about an existing project or even just about your writing career – so get booking!

Business Cards – All ordered in good time, just anxiously waiting for the postman to bring them. From what I’ve read numerous times, these are a must, so make sure you have some!

So now what? Yes, practice that pitch over and over and over and some more.

If you haven’t got your ticket yet, they are almost gone, so hurry up! You can click here for a £30 off discount code.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

The Unknown Beast - Writing Horror for the First Time

Horror is a genre I’ve never thought of writing before. I’m easily scared and often close my eyes whilst watching a horror movie.

Recently though, the London Screenwriters’ Festival announced a logline competition. The objective was to write a logline for a Horror film in 140 characters on Twitter and the winner would get a ticket to the festival.
A free ticket is always welcome, so I thought I’d give it a go. Each person could enter up to three loglines, and boy did I find it HARD. Most of the ones I thought of either already existed or just sounded funny rather than scary. In the end, I just about managed to come up with two, and much to my surprise, one of them made it to the 25 shortlisted loglines!

This was it: When a magic lamp is discovered in a small town, all of their deepest wishes are about to come true with deadly consequences

This was my other entry (a rather gory one): When a legless man due for surgery discovers his Doctor's secret toy collection, he must escape or become Jack in the Box”

In order to come up with the loglines, I thought of entire stories and characters. So even though all I have for now is a logline, a little voice inside is considering developing it into an outline and treatment and take it from there.

Following on from that, another competition came up. This time it was the chance to write a “Campfire Story”, in other words, a scary tale. I thought I’d give it a go. Even though it’s not a genre I’m used to, it sounded like it could be fun and exciting to write it up. But I was stuck. I came up with many ideas, wrote a couple of outlines, but nothing seemed to be working too well.

I decided to think of the films I’ve seen and what’s generally the story. Many of them seem to have the same ‘idea’ – Victim is stuck somewhere with no escape and is trying to find a way out (a house/ a room/ a forest/ a spaceship…) besides that there is something or someone threatening them within, hindering their escape. Here are some examples:
  • The Descent – stuck in a cave, trying to find a way out, to make things worse, something is after them.
  • Blair Witch/ Predator – lost in a forest, trying to find a way out, to make things worse, something is after them.
  • Alien / Jason X – stuck on a spacecraft, trying to find a way out, to make things worse, something is after them.
  • Evil Dead / Panic Room – stuck in a house, trying to find a way out, to make things worse, something is after them.

There are many variations of the above and it’s not true for every horror, but it works for me as a first time horror writer. It seemed like a good place to start.

Next, I had to figure out, who or what is the threat:
  • Alien
  • Animal
  • Mutation
  • Supernatural
  • Human Being

Again, the above isn’t an exhaustive list and the “monster” could be a combination of some. As you’ve probably realised by now, I am no expert in horror.

Trying to figure out which one to go with, I was asked what scares me the most, and after some thought, I concluded that people do.

The above alone was not enough, I kept thinking of stories that already exist, and then I remembered reading again and again that many ideas are the same, you just need to re-invent them. When I first read this, I started to imagine various fairy tales from different perspectives, and in fact, that’s exactly what’s been done in movies such as Shrek and The Hunter.

I was suddenly on a roll and started to re-imagine several fairy tales and nursery rhymes. I had my story.

It still wasn’t enough though and again I was stuck. I knew the beginning and the end, but how to get from A to B? After writing about three different versions, none of which were quite working, I realised I was forgetting to set my limits. As Linda Aronson (writer of the 21stCentury Screenwriter) suggests, find the restrictions of the assignment.

So I started over. I looked back at what I had and why they didn’t work and started from scratch. I limited my location, number of characters and props. Suddenly it fell into place. With one contained location, rather than several, it all became neater and more focused. I could focus on the characters and the story rather than the action. Not only was the end result a tighter, punchier script, it is now also a low-budget script.

I am not convinced the result is a true horror, or if it’s at all scary, but it is definitely dark and there is something very creepy about the ‘monster’.