Many thanks to Chris Ballangee, who has this question regarding conflict in scenes:

“I still have problems identifying exposition and the conflict in my own scenes. Somehow I still can’t always determine what the conflict is in each of my scenes. I only think that arguments between characters is exposition … Do you have concrete examples of the conflict that is not just an argument between two characters. This would really help me and probably some other writers.”

Chris is definitely not alone in thinking conflict automatically equals arguments between characters. This is because I’d wager MOST writers think scenes are principally about dialogue, which as we know is a HUGE problem for the spec pile and makes for highly theatrical, dialogue-led scripts.

We often hear the old screenwriting adage, “characters are not what they SAY but what they DO”, but writers  don’t always get what this means, or how to implement it.  So my advice is: think instead about how each scene takes your character towards a bigger goal, that “end point” in the story … Within that individual scene then, it has to have a point, ‎not via dialogue (though it obviously plays its part, where applicable), but ACTION.

Here are 3 examples of conflict within scenes and how they play out via ACTION, rather than dialogue:

1) GRAVITY (2013): Debris hits explorer

I picked GRAVITY to illustrate in the first instance because its central conflict is obvious: the story is about a character who must try and survive a space mission that’s gone horribly wrong. That’s it. No big secret. Ryan Stone must GET HOME: that’s the end point of the story and she must make her way through various obstacles in various scenes in order to do that.

So, ten minutes in, the catalyst: the Russians have shot down one of their own satellites which has accidentally set off a series of catastrophes, not least the destruction of space shuttle Explorer, as seen in the moving .gif above. Watch the clip, HERE. Here’s how it works out:

1. Houston: “Mission Abort”

2. “Stand down” – exposition re: debris

3. Debris hits / comms blackout with Houston

4. “Man down!” Third astronaut Sharif dies

5. Explorer is hit and spins

6. Hubble’s arm breaks off with Stone

7. Kowalski: “DETACH!”

8. Ryan Stone spins off into space / “I’ve lost visual on Dr. Stone“.

In terms of dialogue versus action, we should note screentime for this sequence is approximately 3 minutes; it’s slightly longer in terms of page count in the screenplay (hosted by Go Into The Story, HERE). This is not surprising considering there is a significant amount of exposition regarding the problem of the debris itself. This is warranted on the basis the “chain reaction” Houston talks about will sign posts the focus of the action and the adversity Stone faces in the REST of the movie. Also, don’t forget, whether 3 OR 6(ish) pages, the average SPEC screenplay rarely delivers a high octane sequence like this, even in TEN (or more) pages I’m afraid! What we can learn here is balancing exposition and action is tough, but it can pay dividends. 

MORE6 Things You Need To Know As A Screenwriter If You Want Your Scripts Made, plus find out more about writing and selling Thriller Screenplays like GRAVITY, HERE.

2) LIAR, LIAR (1997): Fletcher Versus The Pen

In comparison to GRAVITY, this sequence is not a high octane blast. Instead, it’s the exact opposite: one guy versus a pen of all things! Yet it’s still a great example of conflict in a scene that does not rely on two characters simply arguing. It should also be noted that like GRAVITY, Fletcher delivers sign posts via dialogue over what is going on, but crucially, these lines are MATCHED with physical happenings. Watch the clip HERE.

1. “I can beat this … it’s all a matter of willpower!”

2. “Focus!”

3. First try – failure.

4. Second try – failure.

5. Third try: “Rrrrrrrrroyal blue!”

6. Collapse in chair / exposition: “One lie and I can’t say it!”

7. “I’ll write it!” – but he can’t

8. Trash the desk / fight with own arm

9. The pen attacks!

10. Secretary comes running … Fletcher: “The goddamn pen is blue!

The sequence is approximately 2.5 mins long of screentime. I’ve written before the infamous “rrrrrrrrroyal blue” line does not seem to appear to be in the original screenplay, plus Jim Carrey is of course known for improvising and insisting on many, many takes so it’s difficult to know if ANY screenplay we can find online is remotely like the one they had on set. Even so, writers can still learn from this sequence, which is possibly the most famous from the whole movie and still manages to surprise us, when Fletcher’s head emerges from behind the desk. 

MORE: Movie Reversals: 6 Of The Best

3) NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994): The Death of the Cook

As openers go, the diner scene in NATURAL BORN KILLERS sets the tone for what comes next: a rip roaring, violent gorefest of a ride. But it’s The Death of The Cook Mabel at the END of that opening sequence in the diner (just one minute approx of screentime) that actually sets up the characters of Mickey and Mallory as a unit: they’re ruthless; they’re crazy-violent and they’re hopelessly in love … Wait a minute, WTF??

Watch the clip, HERE.

1. Mabel, the cook tries to escape. MALLORY: “No! There is no escaping here!” MICKEY: “Who’s the lucky one …?”

2. Mallory plays eeny meeny miny mo with Mabel and the Fat Cowboy

3. Mabel thinks she’s spared … but Mallory isn’t finished yet

4. MALLORY: “You … are … it!” Mickey kills Mabel.

5. Exposition, links to beginning of scene: Mallory tells customary sole survivor Fat Cowboy to tell the authorities who did the diner massacre. He obviously agrees.

6. Young love: “I love you Mickey! / I love you Mallory!”

Again, the versions of the screenplay available online vary, so it’s hard to know how much of this sequence was reimagined on set. That said, the end result shows writers that a helluva lot can be established in just over a minute of screentime and the subversion of a child’s game like eeeny meeny can have horrifying consequences. But it’s important to remember  Mickey and Mallory ARE children, fucked up violent children for sure, but children nonetheless … So this dialogue in conjunction with their propensity for extreme violence works beautifully.

MORE: Why dialogue is your ENEMY

Concluding …

As we can see from these three examples, conflict in an individual scene needs to serve a PURPOSE, which is serving up exposition and taking us, piece by piece, towards the resolution. Writers need to do this in such a way that it’s not OBVIOUS. This is why it’s a great idea to ensure we use action, rather than simply “talk” (arguments or not).

But as we can see from these three examples then, it’s fine to use talk as well (and can even be advisable as “sign posts”) but dialogue hardly ever stands on its own. That really is the secret of writing great conflict in scenes. Good luck!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Need more inspiration? Then check out my screenwriting books.

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1) “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” H.G. Wells

This is the thing. If you don’t go for it, you can never succeed. So don’t stay down. GET UP! MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet

2) “Failure is a greater teacher than success” Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Often writers will say to me they’ve “wasted” time on various rewrites and drafts and even entire stories, trying to find out what works. But let me be clear: learning what DOESN’T work is more valid than hitting the bullseye first time. You’re becoming a better writer by design, rather than accident. MORE: You are not wasting your time

3) “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” J.M. Barrie

That writer you admire, that’s where you want to be, doing what you want to do, having the life you dream of? S/he’s failed. Loads of times. ‘Cos that’s the way it works. MOREHow To Deal With Rejection – Virtual Writers Inc – Author Essentials

4) “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” Randy Pausch

I’ve said it over and over: you want something? Go get it. There is no other way and no short cut. MORE: How To Make Your Own Luck

5) “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” ― Samuel Beckett

Remember quote 3 in this list. Get better at failing, you get closer to success. Might sound screwy, but it’s true. MORE: It’s Not About Luck And It Totally Is

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6)“Life is full of screwups. You’re supposed to fail sometimes. It’s a required part of the human existance.” Sarah Dessen

I can’t promise you that you won’t fail … In fact, I can promise you that you probably WILL. But you’ve already got nothing. So you might as well give it a go, right? MORE: Build It And They Will Come: Lucy V’s Wager

7) “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou

See quote 6 now, but also appreciate that you can’t sell out for success. You have to be true to who you are, otherwise any success you create will taste bad and not be worth it. MORE: How To Give Them What They Want And Get What You Want

8) “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ― Truman Capote. 

In life, you gotta take the rough with the smooth. So stop focusing on the destination and enjoy the journey. MORE6 Ways YOU’RE Stopping Your Own Writing Success 

9) “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston S. Churchill

Professional writers know they will be rejected FAR more than they will ever be accepted, yet carry on regardless. This is not stupidity. This is necessity. MORE: 7 Things You Must Stop Doing If You Want To Be A Professional Writer

10) “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Paulo Coelho

Too many writers tell me they’re worried about eactions to their work. My answer is always, “You gotta get it finished and out there first.” So get going! MORESuccess is more perspiration than inspiration, but sometimes it’s the inspiration that fuels the perspiration

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11) “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Henry Ford

We all hear about the writers who hate notes and get nowhere because they listen to nobody, but there’s another kind of writer we don’t hear so much about … The type of writers who love notes and feedback SO MUCH they spend all their time ripping drafts to shreds and starting again. Though these two types of writer are on opposite ends of the scale, they end up in the same place. Now THAT’s ironic, Alanis. MORE: How Do I Become A Professional Scriptwriter?

12) “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” Ellen DeGeneres

Too many writers guard their work jealously to their chests and won’t share – ideas, expertise, even OPINIONS – for fear of getting stuff stolen or being taken advantage of. Yet you need to get YOURSELF out there and take risks, because this industry is about RELATIONSHIPS. Or you can sit in your bedroom in front of your computer moving words around on a page, convincing yourself you’re doing good work. Which is it to be? MORE: All about relationships and teamwork

13) “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” Amelia Earhart

OK ladies, here’s one for you: we gotta REPRESENT. Not because I think women are any better or worse than men at all this writing stuff, but because our numbers aren’t as high and we gotta carry the banner and shout louder, either LITERALLY, via our own voices, or via our characters. So get cracking! MORE: Women! Know Your Place (everywhere)

14) “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.” Thomas A. Edison

Remember quotes 2 and 5. Again. Seriously, I can’t underline this enough. And also, quit whining about rewriting stuff and thinking you can do it right first time or I’ll give you a punch. MORE: 5 Ways To Keep Up Stamina For Rewrites (And How To Know When It’s Done)

15) “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  Ed Sheeran

OK Ed Sheeran might not be a guy you’d expect on a list like this, but he’s got a point here. Writers are too often scared of offending people (see point 10), or excluding people from their target audiences, saying their work is “for everyone”. NEWSFLASH: your work is not for everyone. It can’t be for everyone. That’s NOT POSSIBLE. So find out WHO you are writing for because if you don’t know? No one else will either. MORE: Understanding Audience

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16) “It’s our choices … that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” JK Rowling

This is the thing. As the old adage goes, one (wo)man’s meat is another’s poison, so it doesn’t matter how great or talented or SUCCESSFUL you are, someone out there is going to think you suck. You can let that paralyse you, or you can get going and do whatever it is YOU want to do, dissenters be damned. MORE: Writers, Make A Choice

17)  “Everybody said, “Follow your heart”. I did, it got broken.” Agatha Christie

Writing will break your heart. Why? Because for every success you have, you have your hopes dashed tenfold. Get used to it. So make the successes count and DON’T hide your light under bushel. You’re not boasting, you’re celebrating. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. MORE: Ashton Kutcher’s 3 secrets for a great career

18) “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

No failure is fatal, you can always turn this around. And things are probably not as bad as you think they are. Seriously. When you’re really dejected, for whatever reason, do an Ian Rankin and take some time out – remember WHY you love writing, rediscover the joy. MORE: Failed? Then Make like Jennifer Lawrence … Here’s how 

19“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard

If you quit, you’ll never know how close you came. It really is as simple as that. MORE: The Habits Of Successful Writers

20) “Lucy: You learn more when you lose / Charlie Brown: Well then I must be the smartest person in world!!!” ― Charles M. Schulz

Writers ARE losers because they keep going when everybody else quit long ago … And that’s what makes them winners!!! MORE: 5 Ways To Stay Focused On Your Writing Dream

So keep on keeping on … what is the alternative? If you need even more inspiration, why not check out my screenwriting books.

See you on the other side!!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Video games don’t get much of a mention here on B2W, so I was interested to hear from Christina on her thoughts about gaming and literature, especially as they chime with our previous posts on transmedia. I agree mediums are NOT as far apart as writers might first think, which in turn enables a lot of NEW opportunities. Some good food for thought for Writer Wednesday … enjoy!

march-of-the-cards-6

With the world of paper books and print media crumbling all around us, it’s hard to believe that there will be an existing industry for publishing in a few years’ time.

Everywhere we look, the traditional paperback is being replaced with Kindles, smartphones and tablets. It’s no secret that these devices are also synonymous with the gaming craze that has taken the 21st century by storm – but the links between modern day gaming and literature are more intrinsic than we might think. Here are five reasons why:

1) Gaming goes back as far as Victorian literature

Back in the 19th century, big names such as Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll were storming the literary scene with their critically acclaimed novels such as Great Expectations and Alice in Wonderland. Both books covered a variety of themes, but one thing they had in common was gaming, whether it was a game of cards between Pip and Miss Havisham or the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. MORE: What Is Transmedia?

 2) Today’s console games are inspired by literature

In an article published at Euro Gamer, it was revealed that many of today’s modern day video games take inspiration from famous books. For example, the creators of Kentucky Route Zero cited Spanish literature as one of their influences.

Developers Jake Elliot and Tamas Kemenczy said: “Some of our first points of reference when sketching and imagining Kentucky Route Zero were in fiction – the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and the southern gothic of Flannery O’Connor.” MORE: The Transmedia Starter Kit

3) Films have been doing it for years

The parallels between films and video games are only too apparent, such as Angelina Jolie in TOMB RAIDER or Aaron Paul action flick NEED FOR SPEED. But it works in reverse too: for example, the popular horror franchise SAW brought out its own XBox game, so there’s no reason why books shouldn’t be inspiring their own video games. MORE: 5 Ways Transmedia Can Help Scriptwriters

4) It’s the future of gaming

While consoles continue to go from strength to strength, there has been a very noticeable increase in recent years of online gaming. Many of these games have become so popular thanks to their literary influences – Mr Smith Casino is already experimenting with themes that have been explored in some of the greatest novels of all time, such as Game of Thrones: the novel inspired the TV series that inspired the game! MORE: 5 Reasons Writers Should Consider A Transmedia Project

5) Authors are now writing about it

The turn of the century saw a plethora of futuristic books being released that deal with the theme of video games. While Iain M.Banks Player of Games set the tone in 1988, there were many other releases from 2000 onwards that heavily feature the effects of video games, check them out! MORE: 5 Indie Storytellers Who Are Doing It Right

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BIO: Christina Lewis is a freelance writer who specialises in all things literature from the classic to the contemporary. Her favourite authors are the Brontë sisters and Gabriel García Márquez, but she also has a secret passion for old-school gaming (which she would rather keep a secret!).

Pssssst …

Do you have a guest post idea on games/gaming and what this medium can offer writers? Then get in touch. Here are the B2W submission guidelines.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

In my previous post on transgender representation, I spoke to a range of people – writers, journalists, filmmakers, activists – most of them trans, to find out their thoughts on how transgender people are represented* in Comedy and Drama, on television and in film, at the moment.

*Pics inspired by this post from the BFI: 10 Great Transgender Films, check it out.

THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994)

To find out where we’re going, I asked people what they want to see next. This is what they said:

1) Jo Clifford, playwright/performer. Trans* characters who are just getting on with our lives. Where our ‘transness’ is not particularly an issue.

2) CN Lester, musician/writer/activistSome diversity! Some trans people aren’t men or women, and all of us have a lot more going on in our lives than ‘being trans’. I don’t want to see another character who spends all their time playing out cis cliches of trans lives – it’s as done as the ‘tragic gay coming out’ trope. Don’t focus on our genitals and don’t make us into a walking punchline. If your trans characters aren’t as rich and exciting as your cis characters, ask yourself why.

TRANSAMERICA (2005)

TRANSAMERICA (2005)

3) Morgan M Page, performance + video artist/writer/activist. One of the major problems of cis people writing trans characters is that we’re treated as islands. There’s only ever one of us, unconnected to any others. And this is just not the reality of our lives. What I want to see are explorations of trans social settings, in which there are many characters who are trans, who each have their own ambitions and compulsions. And that isn’t possible to do if the writing room only has cis people in it, because most cis people can only ever imagine a singular trans narrative. They can dress it up however the like, but it boils down to the same old, tired story in the end. It’s just these days that story is portrayed as touching and empowering, whereas twenty years ago, that story was lurid and sensational.

4) Elaine Gallagher, writer: I’d like to see trans* people portrayed as people, and not as vehicles for issues or the angst and misunderstanding of cis people, and not only in pieces about gender. Just as you see people of colour as characters in TV shows or films without comment on their race, I’d like to see, say, a trans woman working as a crime scene investigator or a political analyst. While there is drama in trans* situations and struggles and sacrifices, and that has to be part of their character to be valid, it can’t be the whole of the character, which it has been in everything I’ve mentioned above.

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BOYS DON’T CRY (1999)

5) Rose Marshall, community worker/activist: I think we need more non binary voices, more Queer people, more trans people of colour, more agender people, more trans masculine/men, to show both trans and non trans people there is no one way to be a human being. We need to be shown as people with capacity, with talents, skills, hopes and fears outside our gender, without shying away from the impact societal disapproval has on mental and emotional wellbeing. In other words, we need to be portrayed in the same rich and diverse way non trans people are seen.

6) Debbie Moon, writer. I feel like we’re seeing a lots of trans women in television and film, and not many trans men, so perhaps there’s a balance to redress there. There are also elements of the trans experience that aren’t yet appearing in fiction. For example, increasing availability of drug treatments is allowing trans teenagers to delay puberty until they’ve completed surgery and/or transition. This means that most of those transitioning in the next ten years will live their whole adult life as their corrected gender. The traditional ‘trans narrative’ that we know from movies – feeling unhappy, cross-dressing, agonising about whether to seek help, and finally transitioning in their 20’s or later – is basically defunct. Those decisions are being made not by adults now, but by teens and tweens. This is excellent for them – but writers have yet to catch up with that. That’s a whole range of new and exciting stories to tell!

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MA VIE EN ROSE (1997)

7) Caroline Clarke, Queer YA blogger. I feel there is a lot of ‘I was born in the wrong body’ type of stories where the vision of gender is very binary and where the characters wants to/will transition to the gender they feel on the inside. This is only one aspect of an identity within the transgender umbrella and I would very much like to see more shades of grey (aka non-binary characters and story lines) when it comes to gender as opposed to go from girl to boy or vice versa without nothing in-between. Gender identity is so much more than simply changing a person’s gender expression, the way they dress, the way they act.

I also want to see a lot more of light-hearted stories, maybe some comedy. We absolutely need to watch and hear about stories that shed light on how transgender people are perceived and how much misunderstanding and violence there is, but we also need to have stories featuring trans characters who just happen to be trans characters.

8) Fox Fisher, filmmaker. It’s about putting yourself out there and creating the content you want to see. [Lucky Tooth Films] are making a shift from empowering and fresh documentary to realistic fictional stories, both comedy and drama. I’ve been attending more acting auditions and many industry bigwigs are aware that it’s more about incidental trans* representation on TV and film (for example my friend Leng Monty, a transguy who was on Masterchef). I would like to see more trans* input into trans* characters during the development stage, as well as trans* people being cast in that role as well. I would also like to see more trans* people playing cis roles, which would be true progression.

Our documentary, featuring 7 stories of trans people living in the UK, is coming out on C4 this year, and we get to present it as well. Lewis Hancox (the other co-founder of My Genderation) is writing a lot of comedy at the moment and when he is commissioned, it will be a ‘coming of age’ story which everyone will be able to relate to.

The Trans* Comedy Award, which Clare Parker (trans-female comedian) helped organise, through the BBC, revealed a lot of interesting scripts and ideas. Lock Up Your Daughters’ short film, High Heels Aren’t Compulsory came out of that. The winning script for the competition, Boy Meets Girl, is nearing completion. It stars Rebecca Root, a trans-woman who is playing a trans* character.

Change really is on the up, although again, there is very little trans-male and non-binary representation in film and TV.

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PARIS IS BURNING (1990)

9) Lisa Williamson, writer. More transgender character (and actors) on our screens! I’ve very excited about the new BBC sitcom, also called Boy Meets Girl, which features a trans actor, Rebecca Root, in the main role. Although there has been a slow increase of trans characters on our TV and film screens, their storylines (with a few exceptions) tend to be one-note, or focus solely on ‘issues’ rather than everyday life. Putting a trans character at the centre of a rom-com is just one of the ways we can go about presenting a truer and less sensationalist representation of the trans experience. So more of that please!

10) Claire Parker, writer/stand-up/radio presenter. As the media becomes more aware of the trans narrative we are in danger of seeing a split in perceived acceptance. Traditional media loves pretty pretty sparkly people. This has always been an issue but when we look at a pretty man or women in the traditional sense you don’t tend to question the potency of their gender, just their eye candy potential.

With trans people coming into the media we will see the same thing happen. Unfortunately they will choose trans people who most closely resemble the gender they identify with, and the most beautiful. This disenfranchises the demonstrably trans and will send a signal that the media considers you less of a man/woman/GQ and by inference that you are more acceptable the more you look like Cisgendered people. A heterosexual love story with a demonstrable trans person playing the role would be a great start in moving away from stereotyping beauty/gender for starters.

11) Michael Richardson, writer. A lot of people mentioned “transface” – the practice of a non-trans actor playing a trans person, read more about this on B2W, HERE – as something they’d like to see the back of, and I agree. For me, representation is about changing hearts and mind and Children’s programming is where we really need to get things right. CBBC made a great start last year with the documentary, I Am Leo, about a 13 year old trans boy. I’d love to see gender explored and expanded in children’s Comedy and Drama, and incidental trans characters become par for the course.

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DID YOU SEE PART 1? The same experts here share their notable trans characters of recent years. Read it HERE.

BIO: Michael Lee Richardson is a writer and youth worker based in Glasgow. In 2013, his Young Adult comedy script, Real Life Experience – about a young trans man starting his last year of school and socialising as a boy for the first time – was ‘highly commended’ for the Trans Comedy Award. As a youth worker, he set up and runs Trans* Youth Glasgow.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

2014 was – according to TIME magazine – a ‘transgender tipping point’. Increased visibility of transgender people in the media – Laverne Cox, Laura Jane Grace, Paris Lees – brought the trans community into the spotlight.

Here in the UK, transgender characters are starting to become a staple of our rich diet of cops and docs, popping up as bit parts in Doctors, Holby and Casualty with increased regularity. Last year, Hollyoaks introduced a trans character, Blessing, and Paris Lees became the first openly trans person to play a trans person on UK television in a cameo on the show.

Executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins recently announced that he intended to introduce a trans character into EastEnders, the first in the soap’s history.

In film, Eric Schaeffer’s film Boy Meets Girl won Best Feature at The Iris Prize, the UK’s biggest LGBT film festival. Read more, HERE.

Inspired by Lucy’s 33 Experts posts, I spoke to a range of people, most of them trans, some of them with experience of writing trans characters, all of them with an interest in how trans people are represented onscreen, to find out their thoughts on transgender people on television and in film: where we are, and where we’re going.

To get an idea of where we are, I asked people who they thought were the most notable trans characters in film and television in recent years. This is what they said:

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1) Claire Parker, writer/stand-up/radio presenterWhile not a big fan of the show, I think Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street is the most notable recent trans character. I’ve always advocated that if you look at trans characterisation over time, a large percentage of the storylines have fallen into what I call the “four horsemen of the trans apocalypse”. In other words, the stereotypes of sex worker, murderer, victim and drug taker, or all of the above. Those stereotypes are not the case for most trans people. Hayley is a real life trans character, a woman (trans) existing and functioning in a cisgendered world where her story is everyday and matter of fact. Shopping, holidays, cinema, home life. Real life.

2) Morgan M Page, performance + video artist/writer/activist. “Most notable trans character” is a different question from “best trans character”. Obviously, in terms of notoriety, the lead on Amazon’s Transparent, or perhaps Unique on Glee. But both of those characters suffer from two major problems: firstly, they aren’t played by trans actors; and secondly, their storylines don’t really have much to do with actual trans people. Instead, their storylines revolve around the reactions cis people have to them. So they don’t even count as trans characters, because there’s nothing trans about them. Personally, I was impressed with Harmony Santana’s role as Vanessa in 2011 American independent drama Gun Hill Road. Similarly, Laverne Cox as Sophia on Orange is the New Black was a revelation.

3) Lisa Williamson, writer. I think I’ll have to go with Sophia Burset (played by Laverne Cox) in Orange is the New Black. Although her role is not large, her impact is and having a trans character played by a trans woman feature in such a popular mainstream show feels very significant. It also helps that off-screen Laverne speaks so wisely and eloquently about trans issues.

4) Debbie Moon, writer. There have been some really great trans characters over the last few years, so it’s a difficult decision, but I’m going to plump for Venus Van Dam, the trans sex worker who’s a recurring character on Sons of Anarchy. Her introduction was humorous, as a hired player in a scheme to blackmail a local businessman with incriminating photographs, but she was never played for laughs. In subsequent appearances, she’s been presented as a tough woman who’s lived a hard life and suffered abuse, but who remains compassionate, kind and determined to walk her own path, however hard. Yes, the trans sex worker is a cliche, but the writers (and actor Walton Goggins) have worked hard to make her a person.

Venus feels important to me because of her context. Though the female characters in Sons of Anarchy have always been surprisingly strong, a testosterone-driven crime drama set in a male-dominated subculture doesn’t feel like a natural place to find a sympathetic trans female. There are people watching and caring about Venus who would never watch Transparent or Orange Is the New Black, and that makes her an important step forward for representation – and a great character!

5) CN Lester, musician/writer/activistI have a feeling Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black is going to be a popular choice here – and is a total favourite of mine – but I’m going to say Bethany Black’s character Helen in Cucumber and Banana. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Bethany a couple of times, and I love that they got someone so smart and funny, and such an important community figure, to be the trans actress behind a relatable, real trans character.

6) Fox Fisher, filmmaker. In the UK, we are still working to increase this. Julie Hesmondhalgh who played Hayley on Coronation Street helped a lot of people because although it was a trans character played by a cis-gender person, she was very likeable and really helped to ‘normalise’ being trans, particularly for people like my mum, who is a long-time Corrie fan and took a bit of time to get to grips with my own transition. The guy who commissions Hollyoaks was telling me they had learned a lot from the Blessing trans plot-line and I am working with them to help find something more long-term, involving an actor who is very young right now. I think a focus on the youth is what’s required.

7) Rose Marshall, community worker/activist. I love the stuff produced by My Genderation because it reflects the wide diversity of the lived experiences of the trans community. People sharing their own stories is a powerful way to break down stereotypes. Also programmes like Transparent are really good at showing how a trans character fitted in to a family and that their ‘transness’ was not to be the most dysfunctional aspect of the family. Sophia in Orange is the New Black is a powerful voice for trans women of colour, and it was good to see her back story presented in a sympathetic way.

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8) Elaine Gallagher, writer: I don’t go out of my way to watch trans* people in film and television, in part because it is too close to home for me, so I am made aware of characters by comments elsewhere. I have seen Laverne Cox’s character in Orange is the New Black – who hasn’t? – and Jeffrey Tambor’s in Transparent. I have also heard about the cross-dressing villain in Boxtrolls, and thankfully before I saw the film, so I was able to avoid it. For me the standout recently has been the viewpoint character in the film Tomboy. The sensitivity with which their questioning of their gender was portrayed was wonderful.

9) Caroline Clarke, Queer YA blogger. The French film Tomboy is a fascinating study of gender. The director does not put a label on the main character Laure/Mikaël who could be trans or not. It focuses on who the character feels they are, as opposed to labels. The character of Max in The L Word was also fascinating. I think it’s a general misconception that L, G, B and T people all get along and understand each other’s sexuality and gender identity. Max was originally included in this group of lesbian and bisexual women on the assumption that he was a butch lesbian, but – after coming out – he was rejected by his girlfriend because ‘she didn’t want to date men’.

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10) Michael Richardson, writerOne of the best trans characters I’ve seen recently wasn’t on film or on television, but online, in the web series High Maintenance. If there’s a formula to the series, it’s the writers taking familiar characters and tropes and just turning them, ever so slightly. In Rachel, Dan Stevens plays a pot-smoking crossdresser. I think it’s what isn’t in there that resonates with me; his crossdressing isn’t played for laughs, and he isn’t crossdressing for sexual kicks but as something he does for comfort when he’s hanging around the house. When his wife arrives home to find him wearing a dress, I was so ready for her to be hysterical about it, because I’ve seen that story play out so many times. But she doesn’t – she’s only mad that he’s been smoking in the house!

11) Jo Clifford, playwright: Our absence. Far more noticeable, far more eloquent of the state of our culture, than our presence.

Next Time: 

Find out what our experts have to say about what they want to see next from trans characters! Read part 2, HERE.

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BIO: Michael Lee Richardson is a writer and youth worker based in Glasgow. In 2013, his Young Adult comedy script, Real Life Experience – about a young trans man starting his last year of school and socialising as a boy for the first time – was ‘highly commended’ for the Trans Comedy Award. As a youth worker, he set up and runs Trans* Youth Glasgow.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

It’s really easy to get down and think life is passing you by … Believe me, I’ve been there! Once upon a time I was absolutely CERTAIN there was no way I could ever publish a book, or help make a film … I was far too old and I had missed my chance. I had a job to do and kids to raise and no time for all that nonsense … I was twenty three and a grown up!!

Now, you might think I was just too young to get it, but fact is, there are writers older than I was back then thinking EXACTLY this. I hear all the time from writers, “It’s too late for me.” They’ll point to their jobs, careers, responsibilities, commitments as supposed proof they “can’t” write, or they “can’t” leave their mark on the literary or screenwriting world … They just don’t have the time!

But I’m reminded of a letter of I got from the great TV writer Jimmy McGovern that lit a fire under me. It was scribbled in (blue) biro on a piece of lined paper obviously ripped out of a notebook. It simply said,

“Lucy: if you want to write? You will write.”

He actually sent it to me when I’d written to him when I was about fourteen. I didn’t get it at first; I filed it in a box for safe keeping … I found it nearly a decade later, when I was moving house and about to give up my writing dreams (aged twenty three) and go work in a boarding school (yes, a boarding school … can you imagine??). THAT’s when I got it. Thanks Jimmy McG!

So, thanks to Essay Mama, here is the evidence it is NEVER too late for you, so get writing! Oh and if you like, you can buy my books HERE or click the pic below.

essay writing never too late to start writingV4-2

 

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

IMG_1404“The Package” is basically a set of notes that goes out with a feature screenplay, usually sent by a producer, either to help make the film or for some other reason (ie. secure distribution). As far as I know, there is no “industry standard” for these documents, but I’ve found they usually run between 5 and 10 pages, though I have seen much longer.

In my job as a script reader and script editor, I come across packages most often via funding and investment opportunities: filmmakers will come to the places I am reading for and ask for money, so will offer up the package basically to show they know what they are talking about and *can* deliver (this may seem like a no-brainer but this business is known for being flakey, so the more credibility someone can offer upfront when asking for £££, the better).

I am also hired to write package documents for filmmakers, so it made sense for me to write the package for ASSASSIN, as its associate producer. Packages are notoriously difficult to get hold of (oooh matron!), so I’m delighted to say the ASSASSIN package will be available for a limited time on the B2W Free Downloads page!

Remember, there is no “set way” for these documents to appear, but like spec TV series bibles, if you see enough of them like I do, we can usually see variations on the following in each one:

1) Logline/Short Pitch. Usually between 25 and 60 words and remember, Loglines Are Not Taglines!

2) One Page Pitch. These have really caught on in the last few years and usually describe Act 1 and Act 3 aka the set up and pay off, to “entice” the reader and make them WANT to read the screenplay … Read more about them HERE  and see a One Pager Ref Guide, HERE.

3) A Synopsis aka Extended Pitch is sometimes called a “sizzler” and is usually between 2 and 3 pages. If this is included in a particular package, it can be overkill to have the One Pager as well, so we omitted step 2 from ASSASSIN’s package. Read more about Extended Pitches, HERE.

4) Director’s vision / Producer Notes. One or both of these may be part of the package. These are often highly personal accounts and probably run from half a page to a page total. A Director’s Vision may talk about previous projects that have influenced his/her filmmaking; or if the film is not made yet, HOW s/he intends to make it. Contrary to popular belief, no GOOD producer gets involved with a project s/he does not believe in, so s/he may say why she has backed this particular project, or talk about certain story or thematic elements that attracted him/her to the project. Sometimes this includes information about budget, but generally speaking Producers will submit breakdowns and costings in other paperwork to investment schemes and companies I’ve noticed, so again it can be overkill to put it here as well. MORE: Money Talks – Film Budgets

5) Story Notes aka Storyworld aka something else. This part of the package may be text-based or visual, or both – it may also be titled all sorts of things, too! Sometimes packages will include “mood boards” which will be photos of certain elements – concept art, backgrounds, locations, costuming etc – that give an idea of the tone and style of the movie; in my experience, these are most common in packages of films NOT made yet. In movies that are made, there may be stills of certain important scenes or striking images from the film. Whatever the filmmakers decide to include, this section is probably 2 or 3 pages long. As ASSASSIN is ready for release, this element is not part of our package. MORE: All About Arena And World Building.

5) Film Facts. I’ve noticed this part of the package is more often included in films that are actually produced, than speculative. Film Facts more often than not will include information on filmmakers’ and cast’s previous productions, accolades and awards; who else is attached (ie. if the Executive Producer is someone of note); plus any elements (ie. thematic) that didn’t fit anywhere else. ASSASSIN has one of these pages in its package. MORE: Take Chris Jones’ GONE FISHING Film Production Seminar online, HERE.

6) Cast & Crew bios. Packages will most often only include the MAIN characters – and this is where NAMED TALENT really comes into its own!!!  Smaller and peripheral roles will generally not be included, again unless they are cameos by VERY famous/notable people. Included Crew is ALWAYS the director and “main” producer; plus the screenwriter (IF different to the director and/or s/he has good credits, not so much if the screenwriter has none I’ve noticed!), plus anyone else of note (ie. Director of Photography), especially if s/he has won awards or is notable in any other way, ie. as an industry thought leader or activist.

So …

In real terms, The Package is just another opportunity to sell your feature screenplay and/or film “off the page”. It’s essentially a showcase, “look what I CAN do” (or in produced films’ case, “HAVE done”) and work best when trying to secure finance and/or distribution. Filmmakers may send these documents out to potential investors, screen agencies, funding initiatives, casting agents, distributors or other people who can get the film made and/or sold, dependant on where the filmmakers are in the production journey.

For more on package documents that accompany feature screenplays, read Film Doctor’s excellent post, HERE.

Don’t forget …

… You can buy ASSASSIN from March 9th, 2015, HERE. For a limited time, you can also download the ASSASSIN package for a limited time, HERE – but remember, here there be SPOILERS! Enjoy!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

I get asked a LOT about by Bang2writers about named talent “attaching” to a spec screenplay to make it more marketable. Produced stuff makes this look easy, yet as spec screenwriters and filmmakers soon discover, it’s NOT. Here’s my 2p’s worth:

i) Star Power is real. Yes, yes it’s very easy to slag off the notion of “star power” or even argue the toss over who IS a star: Danny Dyer is the classic example. Yet regardless of what you think of Danny’s previous output, Danny has a MASSIVE fanbase of lovers AND haters (1 million Twitter followers now!!) and he has been consistently in work for over a decade. Plus in the last twelve months, thanks to EastEnders, Danny’s career is on the up and up: never forget actors’ popularity can surge upwards in ways we can’t always predict.

ii) Remember WHO your target audience is. The Kemp Brothers reuniting as a duo on screen for ASSASSIN is a huge pull for our movie. Why?

a) THE KRAYS was twenty five years ago (wow!), so creates a commercial hook as they’ve not been seen together for AGES.

b) The Kemps love working together as they mention in the ASSASSIN Making Of featurette (VIEW HERE) – so the fact they HAVEN’T appeared together on screen until now suggests they actively LIKE the screenplay and the roles they play (hint: they do!).

And lastly:

c) THE KRAYS is a much loved cult film. What’s not to like for us about The Kemps when looking at **that** attachment? Yes please!

So, I’m going to hand over to ASSASSIN’s JK Amalou now, who will offer some insights and food for thought on attaching top talent to your screenplay … you can read the first 2 here, or the article in full over at Guerilla Filmmaker Chris Jones’ blog, HERE. Over to you, JK!

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Attaching top talent to your screenplay doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your film made, but it certainly increases your chances. The questions asked in 99% of meetings with distributors, film financiers, and sales agents after you’ve pitched your screenplay or they have read your screenplay is: “Who is the director?” followed by “Who is in it? Come to think of it, it’s the SAME question your non-film industry mates ask when you tell them about a film you’ve loved!

So … how do you go about attaching top talent to your screenplay?

1) Screenplay, Screenplay, Screenplay!

If you’re an experienced and respected producer, you can attach top talent with a pitch or a synopsis. That’s because top actors know your work, trust you to deliver a great screenplay, find a great director, and raise finance for the project. It also helps that a top producer would know the stars personally.

Not so easy for a less well-funded producer with few contacts.

First and foremost, it’s all down to the screenplay. Considering that top actors receive many scripts or offers a year, your screenplay is the first step to close the deal. After all, Matthew McConaughey agreed to do DALLAS BUYERS CLUB for a fraction of his fee because he was passionate about the screenplay. Same with Jared Leto. When asked about his role, he said: “This was a really special movie. I think it was the role of a lifetime.” With that in mind, it’s of paramount importance that every effort is made to find and develop an exceptional screenplay.

2) Invest in A Top Casting Director

It might cost you and it might be a gamble but this is a business. Setting up a film is no different from setting up any other business so you need seed money. Of course, your investment might pay off or it might not.

A top casting director might have a connection to the star you’re after. If not, agents do listen to a respected casting director who raves about your screenplay. Yes, that old mantra again: without a great screenplay, nothing is going to ever happen. A top casting director is not going to send out an average screenplay. They also have their reputation to protect.

This is exactly how I got Danny Dyer for my film DEVIATION which we then followed up with ASSASSIN. Top Casting director Jeremy Zimmerman was instrumental in getting the screenplay to Danny’s agent and organising my first meeting with Danny.

Since then, Danny has gone from the indie film world’s favourite actor to mainstream stardom with Eastenders. I’m very proud of him as I have always said that he’s a very talented actor (and a very nice guy, too.) Needless to say, that his current fame has created great interest in ASSASSIN …

… Read the rest of JK’s article on Guerilla Filmmaker Chris Jones’ blog, HERE.

BIO: @jkamalou is a writer, producer, director. His film ASSASSIN is out on 9th March 2015, watch the trailer HERE and pre-order by clicking HERE or on the pics above.

Watch the Making Of ASSASSIN, a 5 min featurette, HERE.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

So we’re gearing up for ASSASSIN’s release next week (March 9th, 2015; pre-order HERE) and we’ve got some great stuff going up online. Here’s some .Gifs, created especially from the movie, exclusive to Bang2write – please share, far and wide!

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Damn he’s cold

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… But he’s got a softer side too

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Erm, you probably don’t want to ring that doorbell, fella

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The Brothers Grim

Don’t forget, you can watch ASSASSIN’s trailer HERE, as well as a a clip exclusive to Britflicks, HERE. Follow as @AssassinFilm on Twitter and LIKE the official FB page.

Grab the chance to win a copy of ASSASSIN via these two great contests:

FromPage2Screen Caption Comp (deadline Monday March 9th)

Britflicks Super Easy Q Comp (deadline Sunday March 15th)

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

I love this infographic from NinjaEssays.com – I started on a typewriter, aeons ago: it was an Olivetti Lettera 35! What was particularly annoying about typewriters (slipping into old folk mode now kids) was you had to hit the keys hard and there was always a chance of getting your fingers caught between them and ripping a cuticle back. Ouchy. Also, the ribbons were a pain in the ass and duplication (beyond photocopying!) was difficult: you could use carbon paper between two sheets, but the second copy always ended up wobbly. And no such thing as delete: it was tippex or bust! You youngsters have NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD, haha.

What do you use, to write?

Nowadays, I like to use good ol’ fashioned notebook and pen, so I was pleased to see some of my favourite writers (below) do the same! But for me, the notebook can’t be a lined one, oooooh no!!! I also have to write with a black pen too (NEVER blue! gag), plus the important bits I will highlight (usually pink, whoops sorry) … The highlights make sense to me, but probably not anyone else. I also like to doodle and you can usually find various sweary notes to self next to various asterisks. In short, my work is usually a colossal lo-fi mess, but I guess it helps ‘cos I’ve written a bunch of books now, check ‘em out HERE or click the pic below.

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More on this blog about writing tools:

Habits Of Successful Writers

Creative Ways To Edit Outside The Box

4 Tools That Could Save Your Writing Life

5 Tips For Editing Your Work

5 Career Strategies For Writers

5 Essential Apps For Writers by Patricia Shuler

10 Tips On Being A Productive Writer 

More in The B2W Free Downloads page

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

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