The Mentor or Teacher character role function can be vital, especially when a protagonist undergoes what I call a ‘transformative arc’ (ie. when a character undergoes a change or learning experience).

I’ve noted the following from produced and published content:

  • Mentors and teachers play a heavy part in the romance and comedy genres of novel writing; they tend to feature less in modern crime fiction, especially psychological Thrillers (aka ‘Grip Lit’) featuring a lone female protagonist who is ‘alone’ (and usually not a police officer or other authority figure).
  • Mentors and teachers are present in all screenwriting, both TV and movies (yet all spec scripts usually don’t utilise them)
  • On TV mentors & teachers are usually combined with other role functions (such as comic relief or even antagonist), but movies tend to have a very specific mentor/teacher role function in its own right
  • Mentors and teachers are most often male and/or otherwise a marginalised character, especially LGBT or BAME (though rarely both of these combined)
  • When women are mentors or teachers, they usually teach other women; they rarely teach men
  • In screenwriting, teachers and mentors are usually secondary characters and can be found in pretty much all genres, though Comedy, Thriller and Action-Adventure tend to feature them the most
  • Drama will also heavily feature mentors or teachers, though here they are just as likely to be ‘Change Agents’, especially protagonists, as well as secondary characters).

So I thought this infographic below was pretty cool as a reminder of this important role function, as well as the inspiration it offers. Check out the links after the graphic for more information on characterisation and how this role function works. Enjoy!

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As all longterm Bang2writers know, B2W is known for its commentary on effective and diverse characterisation, so many thanks to Tim Long from ScreenplayStory today, with some VERY enlightening thoughts — enjoy!

character drive

1) Empathy

As people we connect with other people through empathy. Empathy is our innate ability to sense other people’s emotions, as well as to imagine what someone else might be feeling. It’s our capacity to identify with the feelings and concerns other people have. In short, empathy moves us to share in another’s struggle, to really see the world through their eyes.

Here’s the thing, recognising emotion in others is a way we FEEL with other people. Empathy allows you to look at others and feel that they are like … well, you. In other words, in order for the audience to connect with your character, they have to connect with something in themselves that knows what your character is feeling. And that’s the power of empathy.

Take Clint Eastwood’s character in the film, Unforgiven. His wanting to provide a better life for his motherless children by doing one last killing and collecting a bounty, something he guiltily doesn’t do anymore, allows us to empathise with him. It allows us to relate to his character. MORE: How Do I Write A Great Character?

2) Distinction

Distinction is the idea of difference. It’s what makes your character different and unique to the audience. And it can come in many different forms. It can be a specific personality, a contradiction, a talent, an aspiration, or a character flaw, to name just a few.

In Unforgiven Eastwood’s character is a former outlaw and killer who was changed by marriage. Being a repentant murderer trying to do right by his children is a flaw and backstory that made him totally distinctive to us. It’s what draws us to him right from the get-go. MORE: 4 Tips To Write An Unusual Character

3) Drive

A character’s drive is the “why” behind their goal in the form of a personal motivation. It’s what causes the audience to invest in your character’s story.

As an example of this in play let’s go back to the film, Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood’s goal was to provide a better life for his motherless children by committing a bounty killing. So what’s the driving force behind that goal? What’s the thing that’s personally motivating him to attain that? What’s his why?

It’s a drive that’s both simple and thoughtful enough for us to invest in. Like all parents he wants his children to have a better life than he had. And a better life than they’re currently living, which is eking out a struggling existence on a tiny pig farm in the middle of nowhere. MORE: Top 7 Writing Tips For Great Characterisation

To sum up …

Distinction draws the audience in.

Empathy makes the audience relate.

Drive keeps the audience invested.

If your character has these three key elements your audience will not only invest in them wholeheartedly, but also in the narrative that makes up their journey. 

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BIO: Tim Long is a screenwriter who has sold, optioned, and pitched feature film projects at the studio level, and has had original screenplays in development with Academy Award ® winning and nominated producers. Mr. Long is also a nationally recognised story consultant, and taught screenwriting at the MFA level in a top ranked University film program. He’s currently Founder and C.E.O of PARABLE an online, interactive, story development courseware for screenwriters at ScreenplayStory.com. Follow him on Twitter as @ScreenplayStory.

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GENRE RESEARCH

Carrying on my Top 5 mistakes series, it always surprises me how some spec screenwriters will start blindly writing a genre, without researching it robustly. Look, I know it’s tempting to just dive in, but believe me when I say it SHOWS if you haven’t done your homework!!

So, be warned and stay away from:

1) Depressing Dramas

OK, first off I’m breaking my own rule by putting something on a drama in a genre post … but when so many spec screenwriters don’t understand the difference between drama and genre anyway, chances are you may be here looking for the answer to this question. So, first off: find out why there is a difference!!

Secondly, NEWSFLASH: no one in the world wants to watch your depressing drama. Life is miserable enough without watching a film on how EVERYTHING IS SHIT. Ugh, no thanks.

However the masochists amongst your audience (like moi) may want to watch a DEVASTATING drama for a carthartic experience. Don’t know what the difference is between ‘depressing’ and ‘devastating’?? FIND OUT!! MORE: Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays

2) Audience-less Comedies

Notice I don’t write “unfunny” – what is that? Who knows. Equally, what is ‘”funny”? Again – WHO KNOWS. It’s not about “funny”, it’s about AUDIENCE. Whomever your audience is, is who will find your story/characters funny.

So, you have to know WHAT you’re doing when it comes to comedy and just as importantly, WHY you’re doing it. This will help you pinpoint your audience, which always impresses producers … EVEN if they otherwise think you’re as funny as toothache.

After all, do you think the people who made MRS. BROWN’S BOYS were rolling in the aisles at that concept, or spotting a business opportunity for a particular audience? MORE: 8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Comedy Screenplay DEAD 

3)  It’s A “Horror/ Thriller”

Holy crap, this one is just like the monster that comes back … and back … and back! No. NoNoNoNoNoNo. Just, NO! MORE: What’s the difference between Horror & Thriller: Case Study – WIND CHILL (2007) 

4) Far Out Science Fiction

Look, I get it. Writers are so in love with their new Sci Fi world they want to shove loads of extra stuff in, especially in the arena. But if it doesn’t push the story forward, or fit seamlessly into your worldbuilding, then it will end up just CONFUSING the reader as they won’t know what is important and what’s not. True story! MORE: 8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Sci Fi Screenplay DEAD

5) Thrillers that are really dramas

Thrillers have specific conventions from concept level, through to page 1 and beyond. If you don’t know what those are, then chances are you’re writing a drama with some running about in. And guess what? That ain’t a Thriller. Find out those conventions, STAT! MORE: Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays

So remember: DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Breaking Into Script Reading – Back For 2017! 

How do IMy sell-out course, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING will be back for its THIRD year in 2017! If you’re interested in becoming a script reader, or finding out more how script readers may assess YOUR own writing – or both! – then this is the course for you. The course will run 11th-12th February and early bird tickets are on sale now. GET THEM HERE, or click the pic on the left. See you there!

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One thing Bang2writers always ask me about is ‘finding’ their writer’s voice – that way of communicating, that expression, that ‘thing’ that sets them apart from other writers. However, writer’s voice is notoriously hard to pin down, so when Daniela suggested an article on it, I was intrigued by her ideas … Enjoy!

vanilla writing

Right now, we’re going through a golden age of writing. There is just so much content that needs creating! This does have its own problem, however, because when people need something, a lot of others are going to stand up and say that they can do it!

This means there is a lot of noise out there. And if you want to be heard over the ruckus, it’s important that you find your own style. You need to convince others you’ve got that “spark” – this can mean the difference between being thought of as mediocre and being discovered.

Try the steps below and you should see your style emerge:

1) Identifying your style

The first to owning your own writing style is to identify it is that your writing style means it’s yours. That means it isn’t defined by your writing teacher, by the glossy magazines you read, or by your favorite author. It’s defined instead by what resides inside you.

To let it out you’ve got to stop trying to please everybody else. You’ve got to stop apologising for what and how you’re writing. Don’t cringe, don’t hesitate, and don’t hold back. Commit yourself fully to writing the truth that is inside of you!

If that happens to be about donkey sex, a masochistic spider baby, or your mother vomiting up razorblades, then so be it.

They are only words on a piece of paper. They do not impact reality and writing them down does not make those things more likely to happen. To believe otherwise is only magical thinking.

And so, release the inner animal, the ID, or whatever else you might want to call it. Don’t edit, just write. The editing will come later. Also, at this stage, remember that this is about you, not about engaging your reader.

MORE: 7 Ways Of Showcasing Your Writer’s Voice In Your Screenplay

2) It will be raw

There will be no doubt about this. Heck, it might not even be written in fully-formed grammatical sentences (my stuff rarely is).

What it will also be, however, is honest, shocking and, yes, possibly even deeply embarrassing. It may not even be very good. Truth be told, it doesn’t have to be. Not yet. You see, you’re not looking for good, you’re looking for sparks of greatness. You’re looking for an insight, a phrase, a paragraph, a statement, an idea that captures the gist of what you’re trying to say.

MORE: 5 Ways To Evaluate Your Feedback

Eat-Me-cupcakes-4

3) Keep what you want to

And what you dare to. Put aside the rest. Now, you’re going to start moulding the piece for your actual audience.

Take the bits you do like and start working on reconnecting them in a more coherent (and possibly more suitable) manner, while still trying to keep at least some of the style and ideas that you originally hit upon.

If you do this well, you’ll find that you’ll manage to keep some of that style that is your own, while still meeting the requirements of the brief that you were given.

If you find yourself faltering, don’t be afraid to look back to what you wrote before. Explore how you expressed emotions. Sense how those words are filled with your energy and try to export that to the new piece that you’re writing.

MORE: 20 Inspirational Quotes Writers Can Learn From (And Why) 

4) It will not be easy

Particularly writing like this in the beginning will not be easy, but that’s because most of us have been taught to write like other people, so finding our own style (much less owning it) will be difficult.

It’s like you’ve been blocking off the pathways to the REAL YOU.

Fortunately, if you engage in it long enough, you’ll get better and what you throw out there on the page will require less and less editing. You’ll find yourself becoming more and more productive.

As for the dark imagery, I found that for me it lessened after a while. It was like it had heaped up behind the barriers of how I was supposed to write and when I broke through that it all came flowing out.

Now, though it occasionally still sneaks in in there (like my masochistic spider baby and my razor-vomiting mother) this happens less often. And when it does, it’s more like a surgical shock that serves a purpose.

Will that be true of you? I can’t really say. There is only one way to find out, isn’t there? And besides, anything is better than just being another run-of-the mill writer working at the average-content mill.

So what have you got to lose?

MORE: How To Elevate Your Writing

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BIO: Daniela McVicker is an author, psychologist and educator. She believes that success depends on knowing the ideas that allow you to manage and master the universe of information. To know more about her catch up with her on Facebook and/or follow her on Twitter as @danielamcvick.

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“How to pitch” and “secrets of pitching” turn up in the B2W Google search results all the time – so my glam assistant Olivia Brennan went out and asked Erik from Stage 32 for his top tips on this subject. There’s some great insights and common sense advice here, plus answers to the most frequently asked Qs B2W gets asked regularly. Thanks Erik – and over to you, Olivia!

Pitching tips

I recently had the opportunity to find out exactly what producers and executives are looking for during a Pitch.

Erik over at Stage 32 was kind enough to shed light on the do’s and don’ts and what you can do to better your chances of getting a yes over a no.

If you haven’t heard of Stage 32 (click here) then be sure to check out their amazing pitching opportunities they offer writers all over the world. Stage 32 are an incredibly helpful and supportive community that many of our Bang2Write members have already experienced.

1) What can I expect during a pitch?

A pitch is really an opportunity to have a conversation about your idea. Don’t get thrown off if the executive wants to interject, roll with it and tie-in their questions back to your story. Your character arc needs to be the main focus, rather than the story beats. Ideally try and keep your pitch between 4 – 6 minutes, it leaves time for questions from the executives which is very important. You need to be able to sum up the character’s story – what’s the BIG theme? Make it clear what your message is and WHY they have to tell your story.

Erik’s Tip 1: “Remember what you’re there to do, to tell a good story. Do not spend your pitch talking about marketing, budget or your target audience, that’s THEIR job not yours.” MORE: 7 Things Agents, Producers & Filmmakers Can Tell From Your Pitch 

2) I have too many ideas, how do I choose what to pitch?

Go with the project you are most passionate about. Do not start your pitch offering all your current ideas and ask the executive to choose. Do your research about who your pitching too and how you work relates to their specific needs/genre, pick your strongest material and what you feel most confident about.

Erik’s Tip 2: “ The end goal is to make it into the room with these executives, they will be putting their name behind you as they send you to other meetings. This whole business is based on recommendations. You need to be approachable, personable and engaging. You have to be more than just a writer.” MORE: Top 10 Pitching FAQs at LondonSWF

3) How can I prepare for my pitch?

The best way to be prepared for anything is to practice, practice, practice. You need to KNOW what you’re pitching – WHO the characters are, WHAT the story is, WHERE it takes place. Get used to telling your story through any means possible, for example through a writers’ group or friend.

Erik Tip 3:It’s got to be a conversation. Get used to telling your story and make use of talking it out to whoever will listen. Keep it engaging and make it a conversation.’ MORE: 14 Things I Learnt Pitching In Hollywood

4) My idea/ script isn’t 100% finished, is it still worth pitching?

As long as the story is complete pitch the 2nd draft, but NEVER pitch the first draft. If you don’t have a full script then don’t risk it, execution is everything. However, if you find yourself at a networking event/film festival, be brave and do an ‘elevator pitch’. Tell them it’s not finished but you do have an outline. Send them the outline or treatment, and work on your full draft for a week as they read the outline.

Erik Tip 4:You must know the ending to anything you pitch, it needs to be clean and presentable. Look for the best-case scenario, if they love it then a lot of people will be reading your material. Make sure every first impression of your material is a WOW.” MORE: Can I Pitch My Unfinished Projects?

5) What are the most common mistakes made during a pitch and how can we avoid them?

Executives will have their opinions and notes about your work and that is a GOOD sign. It means they’re engaged, they’re hooked into your project and conversation. Go with it, even if you think it’s an awful idea. If you cut off their suggestions, they won’t want to ask any more questions.

For written pitches and script requests (if you’re one of the lucky ones) don’t miss out on opportunities due to lazy grammar, labelling or spelling. Always read through before pressing send. You only get one chance at a first impression!

Erik Tip 5: “Film is a collaborative process, always be open to opinions. Up until the scene is shot, there will be changes. Be professional and prepared for that.” MORE: 5 Pitching Tips (Includes A Model Pitch)

6) My pitch didn’t go as well as I’d hoped and got a pass on my pitch. What do you suggest my next move is?

Look at your feedback, what is the executive trying to tell you? They aren’t necessarily talking about your script, it could be changes you need to make about your pitch. Remember, don’t take one executives opinion as gospel. You need to pitch to a few, and if their feedback shares similar notes then that’s when you need to be making some corrections.

Erik Tip 6: “ Refocus, is the problem the script or the pitch? 9 times out of 10, it’s the pitch.” MORE: 6 Things To Remember When Dealing With Writing Feedback

7) I got a script request, but some time has passed and heard nothing. Shall I assume the worst of is there still hope?

Executives have a lot of reading that needs to be done, but be patient. It’s okay to check in, drop an email and offer them a shorter alternative to read, ie. your outline/treatment that will jig their memory.

This is not an excuse to hammer the executive with emails. They want to know you’re somebody they can work with. Show a level of professionalism, it will help you stand out.

Erik Tip 7: “By offering a shorter alternative you are keeping your name in their orbit, refreshing their memory. Make it an easy document to read as they will be more likely to read it. Even if it isn’t a full script, it’s still a writing sample. It showcases your talent. Again, read through before pressing send.” MOREWhen To Follow Up On Your Submission

So, there you have it! All the tips you’d ever need to know to make sure your next pitching experience will be a great one. Now get writing and start practicing!
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IMG_8071BIO: Hello, my name is Olivia Brennan, a 25 year old who was first inspired by the power of film when I cowered behind a cushion watching JAWS, aged 6. Ever since, it’s been my mission to understand what ingredients make a great film and why we all love films so much, even loving to hate the bad ones! I work as a Freelance Writer, Blogger & Assistant Script Editor. Check out my blog HERE or Facebook Page The Final Frontier. Feel free to follow me on twitter as @LivSFB and say hi!

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SCENE TIP

Too often, spec screenwriters think “craft = format”. No. NoNoNoNoNoNo!

Format involves the “look” of the page and is the VERY LEAST you should do, Bang2writers. What’s more, you can get on top of the latest expectations and preferences in format by script readers and their bosses very easily, by checking online lists The B2W Format 1 Stop Shop, or The Top 5 Format Mistakes in this very series.

So, if Format is the ‘done thing’ (aka WHAT you do), Craft is HOW you do it – ie. the actual storytelling. Le duh!

So, what are the top 5 mistakes in Craft? Chew on these: 

1) Overly Long Scenes

I read somewhere – I forget where – that screenwriters should allow for the following:

  • ‘ordinary’ scenes = UP TO 1 page
  • ‘extraordinary’ scenes = UP TO 3 pages

Obviously you don’t want to stick to these rigidly (there are NO RULES, people!) but I think it acts as a good general rule of thumb to keep our scenes in line, no? MORE: Are You Making Any Of These 20 Killer Errors In Your Screenplay’s Scenes?

2) Chains of dialogue

Repeat after me, everyone: characters are not what they SAY, but what they DO. Don’t really get what this means? Okkkkkk … Basically it comes down to this:

Do not place TALK at the heart of every scene, or allow it to TELL US STUFF about the story or characters too much. 

So, instead invest in your VISUALS. You do this via scene description.

3) “False Movement”

Aka BAD scene description. When you have characters doing random actions that aren’t really part of the story, like waving arms, moving eyebrows, sitting down, standing up or walking to and from windows, this is FALSE MOVEMENT. This does not push the story forward OR reveal character, it becomes filler. This then leads to static scenes. So don’t do it!

4) Bad structure

Whether you’re writing a two, ten, thirty, sixty or ninety pager, you’re gonna need a beginning, a middle and an end. But you don’t want your script to end up as a “Bunch of Stuff Happening” (B.O.S.H).

Instead, your structure – whether you use 3 Acts, 5 Acts, 22 Steps, Save The Cat, WHATEVER – needs to represent the idea of your character getting over obstacles. We want a sense of ESCALATION. That’s the point. Your character/s should be climbing walls, each bigger than the last.

5) Indiscernible character role functions

Whilst most spec screenwriters realise characters need motivation, they frequently forget characters need ROLE FUNCTIONS as well:

  • A protagonist wants something for some reason.
  • An antagonist gets in the way of that, for some reason.
  • Each secondary HELPS or HINDERS the protagonist in that goal.

The secondary role functions are where it frequently gets murky. Writers too often want to reinvent the wheel, especially when they confuse archetype and stereotype. So know the difference. Twist your characters, make them left of the middle, NOT out of the left field.

BONUS!

Not hitting the ground running

Too often, spec screenwriters think they have to introduce the characters first, THEN kick off the story. Nope. You kick off the story and chuck the character in the deep end (even if you begin with slowburn techniques!) – this way, the WAY our character deals with what is going on is how we GET TO KNOW HIM/HER. Neat, eh? MORE: 10 Tips For The Perfect Ten (Pages) 

Breaking Into Script Reading – Back For 2017! 

How do IMy sell-out course, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING will be back for its THIRD year in 2017! If you’re interested in becoming a script reader, or finding out more how script readers may assess YOUR own writing – or both! – then this is the course for you. The course will run 11th-12th February and early bird tickets are on sale now. GET THEM HERE, or click the pic on the left. See you there!

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As a screenwriter, you face a variety of challenges. You want your work to reflect your creativity and your talents. You also want your work catch the attention of a good literary agent so that you might actually make some money for your efforts.

looking for an agent

This means that you have to take marketability into consideration as well as creativity. Check out these essential, screenplay elements that literary agents are looking for in your submissions:

1) Fit Into One Genre (Hyphens Are Okay)

Some of the best movies in history have defied categorization. They might include elements of action, history, comedy, romance, and drama. Maybe some day, you will write that critically acclaimed award winning script. Unfortunately, each of those films there are hundreds if not thousands of rejected screenplays.

These movies are often complicated to cast and to film. They are difficult to market, and often result in slow ticket sales. If you want to get the attention of an agent, write a script that can be categorized in a single or hyphenated, e.g., Action-comedy, genre.

2) Ready For Action

Don’t come to a literary agent with a screenplay that needs lots of editing and polishing. It should be as close to ready for action as possible. The agent should be able to read your pitch, and then scan your script to ensure that it matches what you’ve promised. They should not have to worry about quality or sending it back to you for multiple rewrites.

3) Write a Vehicle

A vehicle is a movie that is written with a single, dominant role. Actors love vehicles because they are often their opportunity to display their abilities. By starring in a vehicle, an actor can increase their likelihood of winning an award, get more attention from the public and from movie studios, and demand more money on future projects. You’ll get bonus points if the role is particularly touching or inspirational.

Studios like vehicles because they can use them to push who they see as the next up and coming actor. Literary agents like vehicles because they can sell your screenplay as being perfect for a specific performer, or a specific type of performer.

4) There Are Few Complicating Elements

Literary agents work very hard. They often put in an excess of 12 hours per day, and are in constant sell and close mode. They also want to make money as quickly as possible. If you want to catch the attention of a literary agent, make sure that your script has the fewest amount of elements in place that make selling your screenplay difficult.

In other words, take out any elements that will result in a bloated budget, complicated casting, or a complex storyline. These include:

  • Scripts with multiple storylines
  • Scripts that require ensemble casts
  • Screenplays that are directed to niche audiences
  • Screenplays that would result in high production costs
  • Screenplays with no viable sequels or merchandising options

Conclusion:

Put some effort into making your screenplay marketable and into making the literary agent’s job just a little bit easier. In return, they may just serve as the person who connects you with the studio who is willing to produce your work.

More About Agents On B2W:

How To Get An Agent

29 Ways NOT To Submit To An Agent by BFLA’s Carole Blake

29 Ways To Find An Agent by Harry Bingham

Top 5 Submission Mistakes

Download The Submissions Checklist from The B2W Resources Page

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BIO: Jonathan Emmen is a student and an inspired blogger from Copenhagen. Currently, he studies screenwriting and video production. His passion is writing and he finds inspiration in travelling, books and movies. You can follow him on @JonnyEmmen.

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Many thanks to Diana Voxerbrant from The Story Desk today for this insight into interning at Working Title … Some great pointers here, I think number 5 is my favourite 😉 Enjoy!

The screenwriter proxy

Are you a film student looking to land a prestigious work placement or internship?

When I studied screenwriting I was so used to rejection, that when Working Title replied, I almost thought it was a joke. These were the people who produced my heroes The Coen Brother’s films (and countless other blockbusters).

After the initial shock faded, a plan hatched: To rise through the ranks of the company like Tim Robbins character did  in The Hudsucker Proxy. THE SCREENWRITER PROXY!!

Here are a few things I learned during my experience:

1) Treat your cover letter like you would your scripts

Rewrite it at least a gazillion times, get feedback on it, stay professional. I managed to get the email address of the head of development at WT through a friend who had worked for them –  use every little advantage you can possibly get your hands on. MORE: This post, 5 Steps To Writing The Perfect Cover Letter For Your Novel still has good advice for work placement and intern opps! 

2) Adaptations are what it’s all about

Whether it is a book, a historical event or a video game – if there are people who are already interested in it, that means there is a market for it.  Half of the scripts I read at WT were some sort of adaptations. Every day I had to gather news clips and suggest ways of adapting those to film. I realised, that original ideas are a bigger risk, and when loads of money is involved, producers don’t like risk. MOREKiller Premises: All In The Execution? 6 Movies, 3 Concepts (CASE STUDY) 

3) Be helpful (make coffee)

The main reason why they got you in was that they thought you might be useful to them. Making hot beverages is an easy way to help and connect with busy co-workers. I completely failed at this task because I kept forgetting where the canteen was and was too ashamed to ask again. So basically, don’t do what I did. MORE: What NOT To Do When Meeting Agents, Producers, Directors & Other Writers 

4) Not everything on the development plate is mind-blowing

I was expecting the people who worked in the office to be alien robots and the screenplays I read to be printed in gold by magic fairies. But you know what? Every single person there was human and the scripts were, albeit better than other companies I have read for, still in development. This means that even those getting paid by Working Title, are works in progress, just like yours or mine! MORE: How To Make It As A Writer (AKA This Shit Ain’t Accidental) 

5) Don’t get knocked up!

Yeah, so just a month after the work placement had been agreed upon… I found out I was pregnant. By the time I was scheduled to start, I was suffering from constant nausea and more importantly, I was bat shit hormonal crazy. I’m usually a pretty resilient lady, but when I was pregnant everything scared me. Even the tube ride to Baker Street.

Please, aspiring writers, do use contraception. There are few things that can bring your creative career to a halt as quickly as a baby. MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet 

So …

As you might have guessed, I did not rise to the top like Tim Robbins in that Coen Bro’s film. Instead, I might have been the worst intern Working Title has ever had. But I DID learn from both my successes and my mistakes – like a true champ does.

Plus, I still have the email address to the head of development … and a synopsis that might just blow her mind.

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Bio: Swedish mind, Polish heart, based in London. Diana Voxerbrant is a member of The Story Desk and a strong believer in collaboration, deadlines and profanity. She writes sarcastic dialogue and suspense, set in a current multinational Europe. You can connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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So Julian Fellowes appeared at the recent LondonSWF Launch Event. I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it, but always Team LSF has us covered! LondonSWF videoed Julian’s fascinating and inspiring chat with Nik Powell, as well as the Q&A with the audience.

So, in typical B2W tradition, here’s 10 things I took away from Julian’s chat – you can watch the video yourself, HERE, or click the pics in this post.

Julian Fellowes 1

1) Relationships are KEY

Julian is unequivocal here, when he says his relationships are what got him hired for GOSFORD PARK, which was a game-changer in his career. Not only did he get hired because the producer had seen a spec screenplay of his, but director Robert Altman stood by him when the studio got antsy and wanted to bring in another writer.

SO: Make sure you get out there, like Julian and create those all-important relationships to get AND stay on jobs. MORE: Talent is great BUT relationships get you hired

2) You have to be brave

Julian also states the importance of being brave. He says there’s always a chance of making a fool of yourself … Or perhaps your work is GREAT, but nobody watches it. These things happen and you can’t allow these fears to hold you back.

SO: Stay strong and keep moving forwards! MORE: How To Make It As A Writer (AKA This Shit Ain’t Accidental!) 

3) … BUT self awareness is paramount

At the same time however, being brave should not be on a par as being foolhardy. As Julian rightly says, self awareness – as long as it’s REALISTIC – can help us get stuff done. Nik chimed in here too with a good tidbit of advice: “Have a plan in pencil, but carry a rubber”!

SO: Have a strategy. Doesn’t mean you can’t adapt or even change it as you go along! MORE: 5 Career Strategies For Writers

4) Recognise your opportunities

Julian describes how he “fell randomly” into screenwriting, because they’d spent all the money and needed “six scripts written for nothing” on a project … and this supposedly dubious honour fell to him.  The rest, as they say, is history!

SO: Don’t be afraid of hard work. If it’s worth doing, go for it. MORE: 33 Industry Insiders On Success, Dreams And Failure 

5) Success is for others to define

Lots of new and even seasoned writers think they’ll know when they’ve “made it” as a writer. But what does this REALLY mean? Julian has a great notion here of saying others will define your success, don’t worry about it. I agree!

SO: Keep on moving forwards with your writing. What else is there? MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet 

6) Writer’s block? No time for that

I love Julian’s stance on this and it echoes what I’ve thought for a long time. If you BELIEVE writer’s block is possible, it will get you. So keep on writing. Even if it’s rubbish, at least you aren’t doing NOTHING!

SO: Ditto point 5 – keep on going! NO. MATTER. WHAT. MORE: 19 Tips On Overcoming Writer’s Block From Famous Authors 

Julian Fellowes 2

7) Character motivation needs EMPATHY

Julian discussed the idea of character arcs needing change, which he was largely ambivalent about – which, longterm Bang2writers know, B2W is of the same opinion.

He was however very strong on the idea that we need to EMPATHISE with characters – their actions have to be “forgivable”, whatever that means. Note how the term “likeable” didn’t come up!

SO: Forget “likeable”, think EMPATHY when it comes to characters’ motivations. MORE: Is “Good” Characterisation Really About Change? 

8) You have to let go sometimes …

And this is okay! … As Julian rightly says, you have to learn when something is NOT going to happen. But if you let that project go, you can move on. It was when he accepted one project wasn’t going to happen that DOWNTON ABBEY became a possibility.

SO: You can’t move on and grab the next opportunity if you keep hold of the last one. True story! MORE: If You Love Your Story? Let It Go

9) Listen to actors

Being an ex-actor, Julian obviously has a lot of time for them and he was very complimentary about them and how they can actively HELP writers. “Ignore actors at your peril,” he said, “They have a real instinct for what is ‘sayable’ and ‘unsayable’.

SO: spec screenwriters might be thinking “That’s alright for Julian Fellowes, but I don’t have any actors!!” Well, why not stage your a script reading? Here’s 7 Steps To Stage A Script Reading – As Julian says, it can only help you!

10) Drama is conflict

It amused me when Julian said he got loads of letters from Downton fans saying, “Please make X character happy!” Borrowing from the author Graham Greene, Julian asserts that happy characters are boring characters to write AND watch. We NEED conflict – aka unhappiness to *some* degree – otherwise audiences will turn off in their droves!

SO: Writers are the ultimate sadists to their characters – even when there’s a happy ever after – otherwise there’s no point to the story! MORE: Top 8 Questions For Kickass Characterisation

BONUS!!

It’s never too late!

Bang2writers tell me all the time they fear they’re “running out of time”. But Julian has a brilliant SECOND career as a screenwriter and only started in his middle age. As he says of GOSFORD PARK,  “I was this fat, bald actor nearly fifty, suddenly writing a Hollywood film!” This could be any one of us, IF we keep going and keep ourselves open.

SO: It’s NEVER too late to start writing your masterpiece … here’s why.

B2W Discount for LondonSWF!

global_430821152Three days …
One hundred and fifty speakers …
One thousand delegates …YOUR career!

Use discount code BANG-16X at the checkout in EventbriteTO GET YOUR TICKET NOW, CLICK HERE.

London Screenwriters’ Festival is now 2-4th September 2016 and the biggest gathering of screenwriters anywhere in the world! Over the three days of the London Screenwriters’ Festival, over one hundred seminars, workshops and networking events for professional screenwriters.

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Following on from my Top 5 Social Media Mistakes, today’s tips focus on REAL LIFE networking, both in creating relationships with others (and doing your research), as well as investing in yourself.

This post was written by Alison C. Wroblewski, Script Development Associate at CrowdSource Studios, a new screenwriting competition. Follow them as @Crowdsourcestu and check out their website, HERE.

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I hate networking. If there was anything I could change about the film industry, it would be that. But, unfortunately, networking is vital in getting known and recognised. Because I know what it is to be an introvert in an industry of extroverts, here are a couple of tricks for easy networking.

1) Don’t be afraid to talk and ask questions

I finally have accepted that I don’t have all the answers, nor do I know everyone. In order expand my own knowledge and meet people, I have to ask questions no matter how stupid they may seem. They can be as innocuous as, “what is the difference between visual effects (VFX) and special effects (SFX)?” to “how did you get your role at X company?” By starting a conversation, you create a dialogue and; therefore, a professional relationship.

TOP TIP: So, talk! Don’t be afraid to approach people! You never know who you’ll meet. And if you make a complete fool of yourself, the worst that can happen is you’ve made an impression. MOREWhy Writer Luck Is More Than Throwing Spaghetti At The Wall 

2) Never forget business cards

It may come off as pretentious to whip out little pieces of cardboard, but why else did you order them? It doesn’t come across as pretentious. It comes across as prepared, and the person you hand the card to has no excuse to forget you or your name. Just make sure to get their contact information, too.

If you are lucky enough to receive a business card, always email them with a “pleasure to meet you” note or the like to establish a relationship.

TOP TIP: Whip it out! Stock your wallet with business cards and hand them out. At the very least, the sooner you run out, the sooner you can redesign your card. MORE: 7 Writing Reminders

3) Go to any and every event you can

You heard it here first: no one is going to even know to hire you if you stay home and not go out schmoozing. I know it can be quite an undertaking to drag yourself to an event after a long day at work, but I have never regretted meeting someone new even if I have dreaded going out.

If you see a meet up or party for filmmakers, you know that you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people, and even if going out isn’t your thing, events are never short of creative material. As a writer/producer, I have heard countless gems that have weaved their way into scripts, stories, and short films.

TOP TIP: So strap on your party shoes and rub elbows! MORE: The Dos & Don’ts of Networking At Events Like LondonSWF

4) Don’t be afraid of social media, but don’t be reckless!

The world is getting much smaller with the use of social media. If you can effectively maneuver in the labyrinth of the internet, the world is your oyster. Social media has a deep impact when putting together a new project whether it’s collaborating, crowdsourcing, or crowdfunding.

However, always make sure if someone wants to hire you via Twitter/Facebook, etc, you vet them and research the other side. Some people out there use the computer screen as a shield to take advantage of people or manipulate. Trust your gut when this happens.

TOP TIP: Get clicking and researching! MORE3 Quick, Useful And FREE Ways For Writers to Stay Up-To-Date 

5) Be prepared to invest in yourself

The film industry is not a cheap one, and it is a long term investment whether it’s working on set for free, giving your time, or paying for copious amounts of coffee.

Being a production assistant (P.A.) is far from glamorous, but there is no better way to get your feet wet than “learning by doing.” When starting out, don’t shun work just because it’s for free if you can get an education. You’re learning tips, tricks, what to do, and what not to do.

If you’re a writer, screenplay competitions are a great way of getting exposure.

For example, CrowdSource Studios, the company I work for as Script Development Associate, is hosting a screenplay competition through mid-August. Check them out here and take a chance on yourself.

TOP TIP: The more you invest in yourself, the more it will pay off.

I hope these quick tips and tricks help you network in an industry that is all about presence and exposure. Good luck out there, fellow filmmakers.

Thanks Alison and everyone at CrowdSource Studios

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST