Now, you may not have noticed, because I don’t mention it much (AHEM), but I love X Men for the sake of the rather lush Wolverine (I know, I’m the shy, retiring type. Hi Hugh, if you’re in the UK, let’s do lunch #totallyaeuphemism).
Anyway, Lindy Electronics noticed we like science fiction and X Men over here and would like all us Bang2writers to know they have a free to enter competition at the moment to celebrate the release of X MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST on DVD. Unfortunately you can’t win sexy time with Wolverine, but the grand prize is a rather nice trip to London, including a helicopter ride and there’s ten runners up prizes of DVDs of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. Gotta be worth a punt – CLICK HERE to enter, or the pic of Wolverine on the left. The deadline’s not until 5th December 2014, FYI. GOOD LUCK!
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Look, a social media presence these days is non-negotiable for a writer. There’s no getting away from that. When agents, producers, filmmakers and potential collaborators may Google you to check you out – and they will – then you HAVE to ensure you have a good shop window.
BUT I also get that some people would rather stick pins in their eyes than go online and engage with strangers, even if they *are* fellow writers. Plus if you have limited time to write – and god knows we ALL do – then it can seem like dangerous procrastination. Or maybe you’re just not interested. That’s cool. There’s some much chatter online and it’s not for everybody.
But here’s the thing. You CAN still make and maintain a low maintenance social media presence and make it work for you AS A WRITER:
Set Up Time: 5 minutes
Upkeep Time: “set and forget” / occasional
About.me is the simplest and social media hack you can make as a writer, because not only is it easy and quick to set up – you have a lovely, shiny looking profile in minutes! – you can also put as much as you like ON it and INTO it. There’s an app version, plus you can make lists and streamline them with friends and followers from Twitter, Facebook and so on. You can also send messages there and find others. Alternatively, you can simply use it as a kind of online business card, like I do. A lot of writers will list their About.me link on their ACTUAL business cards now, rather than clutter them up with multiple social media links. You can view my About.Me profile/ join me on there, HERE.
Set Up Time: About 20 minutes
Upkeep Time: Whatever you want, but answer 3-5 questions a month seems a good idea in order to score followers, upvotes, etc, so roughly an hour or two
Remember Yahoo Answers and how it was full of angry cranks telling one another off? Well Quora is a bit like Yahoo Answers, but actually good. What I love about Quora is it is basically unfettered access to other people’s opinions on STUFF: you follow various topics – like writing and screenwriting, but also life stuff too, like parenting; being a teenager; education; politics; religion; society; social media! etc – and then you can read people’s answers to various questions posed by other users. Sure, some answers are a bit knee-jerk/shouty/totes wrong, but that’s ALSO good, especially if you’re trying to put yourself in a character’s place who you personally DISAGREE with.
I’ve actually been on Quora and reading people’s answers for writing research for over two years, but never answered any questions myself until this week. I’m not sure what the hell happened but I’ve managed to clock up over 15 answers in about four days, so be warned: it CAN be addictive! Here’s MY QUORA PROFILE.
Set Up Time: 1-3 hours
Upkeep Time: check every month; as little/much as you like in-between
LinkedIn gets a lot of stick, especially on Twitter and from those who don’t really “get it”, but I can honestly say that I would miss out on a sizeable chunk of revenue each year if it weren’t for this site; the majority of my paid speaking engagements (especially workshops) come through LinkedIn, for example. I’ve even been invited abroad a couple of times, what’s not to like! And what’s more, this has happened for me since I set up my profile yeeeeears ago, long before my books or London Screenwriters Festival.
So I can confirm that other people ARE looking for writers and related professionals on LinkedIn – if you’ re getting no traction here, maybe it’s the way you’re (not) using it. If you want to use LinkedIn effectively to look for work, I recommend investing some time – two or three hours – setting up your CV on there TODAY!
Just make sure you:
- Include a photo of yourself (definitely don’t leave it blank; and not a logo either! The personal touch seems to work better on LinkedIn, especially if you can include a pic of yourself AT work. Try to stay away from casual or funny pics, keep those for Facebook)
- Fill in as much information as possible, but keep it relevant and most importantly, concise. DON’T waffle
- Add links to other profiles and places people can find you, like your blog or Twitter account or similar
- Have 2 or 3 recommendations on there if you can; start to get these by writing recommendations for others. Don’t write comedy or negative recommendations. Don’t be dishonest either and recommend people you don’t like or don’t know
- Get endorsements for the work you do; again, do this by endorsing others. Do this truthfully and genuinely, don’t randomly push buttons in the hope of currying favour and don’t go overboard and stalk people, either!
- Connect to everyone who is a) approachable b) involved in the work you do/ the industry you want to get into ie. do NOT add complete strangers at random for the sake of numbers and don’t appeal desperately to others to connect either
- Use the introduction function: if you see one of your existing links knows someone you want to link with, ask them to introduce you … but understand that some people will not do this if they don’t know you personally, or have never read your work etc. Don’t take it to heart
- Use the private message function to say hello to your contacts / build relationships with them. Never use it to send massive group messages about your crowd funding campaign or similar, it’s the first way to get deleted. And never ever ever use it to try and send queries to people unless you know them and/or know it’s OK. It’s always better to send query emails, off social media.
FYI – keep your Linkedin profile up to date!!!
I can’t stress the above enough. Log in every month or so to ensure it’s not looking stale. There are groups in LinkedIn btw, some if them are great (like my group, Bang2writers! Find them HERE), but some of them are full of weirdos … plus there are the inevitable keyboard warriors, of which LinkedIn appears to have a particularly bizarre, try-hard kind. But you can ignore the groups if you want. You don’t need to write status updates on your profile or share content constantly, just every now and again.
Lastly, I think LinkedIn is way more interesting, better laid out and easier to negotiate on apps than the web-version; the iPad app for example makes LinkedIn literally a better experience by about 200 per cent. I also use LinkedIn for Blackberry too which sends notifications to your hub just like emails and text messages which is handy, though it appears to have a lag of between ten minutes and two hours real time I’ve noticed. HERE I AM ON LINKEDIN.
Set Up Time: 3 hours PLUS (initial); beyond whatever you like, but try and pin at least 3-6 pins a week
Upkeep Time: check regularly, try not fall down the rabbit hole EVERY time you log in! (Harder than it sounds)
Pinterest has a reputation for being for people who want to drink wine and look at pictures of crafts and cakes they’ll never make. Whilst this is definitely true – I know I use Pinterest for EXACTLY this purpose! – what’s brilliant about this platform is how RELEVANT it is becoming for screenwriters and filmmakers. Why? Well, it’s obvious: we work in a VISUAL INDUSTRY, so I’m finding I’m getting more and more Pinterest boards sent to me as a “mood boards” on projects, plus it can also act as a great, visual bookmarks collection for collaborators, especially on films, but really on writing of ANY kind.
Signing up to Pinterest couldn’t be easier as you can sign in using Facebook, yet lots of people will join and then DON’T create any boards or follow any people, so just freak out and leave. Here’s an eHow tutorial.
On Pinterest, now? Here’s my advice:
i) Have 3 of your own boards initially. For one of them, pick something obvious and that’s popular on Pinterest, to get followers of your own: recipes always have great traffic; as do clothes, house decoration and DIY. Even if you’re not really interested in these things, some of the BIGGEST brands and people on Pinterest. You can always delete it later.
ii) Theme your boards. Make sure people know WHAT you’re interested in. My boards are all about representation, filmmaking, books, novel writing, inspirational stuff, teenagers/young adults and WTF? stuff. Oh, just like this site and my tweets!
iii) Send to Twitter and Facebook. Every time you pin, tick the box for Twitter and Facebook UNLESS you’re pinning for a huge amount of time; you don’t want to clutter up your other TLs too much. In these cases, stick to sending pins that you know your other followers on those platforms are interested in.
There’s loads opf other stuff about Pinterest too that’s worth knowing, but that’s enough to start you off right now. HERE ARE ALL MY BOARDS.
Again, there’s an app for Pinterest and I LOVE IT waaaaay better than the desktop version, especially the one for iPad, though there are ones for android phones too.
By the way, I’m assuming you’re on Twitter LIKE I AM, that’s a no-brainer as a writer. There’s so many advantages to using this platform such as the obvious like writing tips, contests, script leads and pick me ups, not to mention the ability to follow industry pros like producers, directors, agents and so on. It can also act as a useful microcosm of the industry, providing you’re following the right people and right topics/hashtags. (The same can be said of Facebook and Google+, though perhaps to a lesser extent).
So, frankly you would have to be out of your tree (or maybe even an actual tree) to NOT see the benefits of Twitter as a writer. Remember, social media is not procrastination if you’re using it properly, FOR WORK. You don’t have to spend hundreds of hours on it and you don’t have to let it take over you life or away from your writing.
BUT do know: you don’t actually even have to BE on Twitter, just as long as you’re ON IT … Connect other social media accounts to it (like Pinterest, as I outline above), or use auto-retweeters like Round Team and increase your visibility that way! HAVE FUN!
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Some down to earth, practical tips from Russ today for new writers: is this you? What I like about Russ’ advice is it gives new writers ACTIONABLE steps to get started! So take some pointers from a guy who’s been there and done that! Thanks Russ
(NOT a new writer? Then I’d love to hear YOUR tips in post like this, but for writers at your level – check out the guest post submission details HERE). Enjoy!
Got an idea for a script? Want to become a writer? Well, here are my top 10 tips for any newbie writers.
OK, so I don’t actually have anything produced/published (yet …!), so why listen to a novice writer such as myself? I have no credits so surely advice from someone else would be better? Perhaps, but despite not having had anything produced, I have spent just about every night for the last two years writing or reading and researching blogs and advice etc on the internet. I have sweat blood and tears, had numerous arguments with my wife over the time I’ve spent and my waistline has significantly increased as my gym trips decrease. Basically all of my spare time I write, or learn the mastery of screenplay writing.
But there are so many things that a new writer should be aware of, right from the start. Things that they will find out one way or another, but if I had known the below early on? I would have saved a LOT of time!
So this list is not for experienced writers, but purely for those with an idea in their head; a concept and are desperate to get started, or see if they’re on the right track. OK, here goes:
1) Get the right software
If I known this from the start, then I wouldn’t have had to spend several hours having to retype everything from a Word document into the proper software. Starting out, I researched the format required. All messages were fairly consistent: “make sure it is Courier 12 point”. I also read several produced scripts to see how the format looked and actively went on my mission to replicate that style using Word for my first screenplay.
But I can’t stress enough. DO NOT USE WORD.
Basically any agent or production company won’t bother reading your script past page one. It doesn’t look professional, so they won’t think you are professional. And trust me, using Word actually takes AGES to get the formatting sorted.
So what’s the answer? Several packages are available. Final Draft is popular but there is a cost associated. Therefore for newbie writers I recommend Celtx. It’s free and easy to use (numerous demonstrations on their website and YouTube). And it makes the script look professional. So don’t start out using Word. You will literally be wasting precious hours. MORE: Screenwriting Software: Which Is Best (Paid For & Free)
2) Join Twitter and get following!
I originally joined Twitter to follow football-related information and banter for my beloved Newcastle United. Now I’m now using Twitter more to follow writers, agents, production companies, competitions etc. You’ll find out great tips and advice, as well as potential new opportunities from BBC and Channel Four and the like. MORE: A Twit’s Guide To Twitter, plus How NOT To Do Social Media
3) Read, Research and read some more
There are literally hundreds of great blogs to sign up to that all offer great advice. Most of them are genuinely keen to develop and help writers, so you will find you can ask them any questions you want. @Bang2write is fantastic and so is @SoFluid. For example, I recently asked B2W how you would go about writing a car scene. The feedback was invaluable. And of course, start reading scripts that are available. MORE: Top 25 Screenwriting Blogs – list from @writingspark
4) Know your screenplay format inside out
Use your research to find out the correct way to format scripts. Scene headings (slug lines) are written in a certain way, characters should be in capitals when introducing them etc. Remember too that script format can go in “fashions” like anything else and if you’re unsure, ask script readers their opinion or check out their blogs on what’s annoying to read. MORE: The B2W Format One Stop Shop
5) It’s not about dialogue, it’s about ACTION
This is something I still struggle with, but it’s essential for a good script. Don’t have a character say something if they can act it instead. For example, don’t have a character say they are angry; have him aggressively smash a plate against a wall. Don’t have a character say he is upset; have him react to the situation, perhaps inappropriately, to signify something is wrong (SUBTEXT – W0000T!) . MORE: A Little Less Description, A Little More Action Please
6) Stay in the PRESENT
Everything should be in the present tense. Danny eats. Danny walks. Danny throws the brick. And try to avoid using ‘ing’. E.g. instead of Danny is walking to the shops, use Danny walks to the shops. And try to use better words that walk. Danny strolls. Danny races. Danny struts. MORE: 10 Ways To Revitalise Your Scene Description
7) Don’t write about characters’ feelings
A screenplay is not a novel. So don’t write something like – Danny is annoyed that the woman pushed in. He had been in the queue first and feels he should be served first. I learnt this in no uncertain terms from a certain reader I had. Apparently actors hate it and so does everyone else. Instead, write something like:
A woman barges in the queue. Danny glowers at her, but she pretends not to notice.
8) Expect Rejection
To be honest I would love some rejection. At the minute I’m not even getting that! But that will change. It’s a tough world and competition is fierce. You may think you have the next best thing, but expect rejection. Don’t let it put you off. Let it spur you on to write something even better! MORE: How To Deal With Rejection from @virtualwriters, plus When Is A Rejection A Rejection If I Don’t Hear Anything?
9) Get Feedback!
This is essential for any writer, of any experience, but it is crucial for a first time writer. After I had written my first script, I thought “Hollywood here we come” … Then I got it professionally reviewed and it was torn to shreds. 50% of the report was about general writing ‘errors’ which I have actively addressed in every script thereafter; 50% was on the story. Why it didn’t work. Why it was flawed. But how it could be improved.
So get feedback, because your script will improve. But a word of warning. Be prepared for criticism. I usually flash over the report looking for the praise, and giving myself a pat on the back while ignoring the rest of the report (the majority of it!) because quite frankly, I don’t like hearing anything other than “it’s brilliant”. But a day later I go back and read the report in full. I take on board every comment made and start to make major reconstructive work to my script. The script becomes far stronger as a result, as new and better ideas begin to flow. MORE: 5 Ways To Use Feedback Effectively
10) Write some more …
A lot of agents and the like want to see your CV. Simply writing one screenplay won’t impress them anywhere near as much as one which says you have written three. It shows you have determination and are a serious writer. But it also gives them more to choose from. MORE: I’ve Written A Screenplay. Now What?
For every agent accepting unsolicited material for film, I’ve noticed there seems to be at least six who accept manuscripts. And it’s a decent claim to fame to say you’ve written a book. It takes a long time mind, but the satisfaction upon completion is huge. MORE: I’ve Written A Book. Now What?
Like this? Then check out 9 Wake Up Calls For New Screenwriters by Mo Studdard
BIO: Russ Nelson is a keen writer who has completed two feature films and a novel and
has started working on a new 6 part drama. His goal for 2015 is to secure representation and he’s currently in talks with a no is in discussions with a NE indie prodco regarding one of his features, JUDGE, JURY & EXECUTIONER. Follow him on Twitter as @geordieruss1981.
Please press the buttons at the bottom to share the page on your social media profiles and/or check out my books. Thanks!
Action/Adventure is one of my favourite genres of Hollywood movies (sci fi or not), and it would appear Bang2writers share this love too, because I get a LOT of spec screenplays in this type of vein, especially dealing with such issues as extreme weather or climate issues; giant monsters or meteorites; sometimes all of these things and more. And why the hell not? If you like this type of movie – and I do – it’s a great way of showcasing how BIG you can think as a writer AND deliver. What’s not to like???
Now I’m a big fan of the movie PACIFIC RIM, as I’ve written before. But far be it a so-called “guilty pleasure”, I think it’s actually written WELL in terms of characterisation and I’m going to explain why. Plus, apparently it was a spec. But first, the obligatory disclaimers to keep keyboard warriors off my back. So, if:
… Action/Adventure or PACIFIC RIM is the kind of movie you DON’T like?
… Or you want to go on and on (and on and on) about Mako Mori being the ONLY female character? (Go HERE instead, seriously, PLEASE – Ta).
… Or you want to accuse me of being a “Del Toro apologist” like last time (cuz oooh yeah, entertaining millions of people is a BAD THING apparently)?
Then seriously, move along peeps, NOTHING TO SEE HERE. You won’t like this post. Uh-uh. You have been warned … off you go. Thanks!
Right. Aaaah the rest of you are still here, great.
So, let’s put characterisation in PACIFIC RIM under the microscope … but probably not for the reasons you’ve thought about already and let’s face it, half the interwebs already because it’s just far TOO EASY to slag off stuff in general, it really is the past time of the moment!.
Instead, for me, I think what’s most interesting in Travis Beacham’s writing in PACIFIC RIM is not the vulnerability (note: NOT self pity) in the main “hero” Raleigh (though that is indeed, interesting); nor is it the authoritative and sometimes wry comebacks of main man Pentecost; nor is it the fact Mako is strong, clever and layered without ever once being sassy or sexualised; nor is it the somewhat tortured observations of Herc about his son (and antagonistic force) Chuck … AND it’s not even the comedic value of peripheral characters like Hannibal Chau (which by the way even after several viewings is still funny ‘cos you JUST KNOW what’s coming).
No, what keeps me watching this movie is the two secondary characters of Gottleib and Newton (aka Newt, nice ALIENS ref there AND a science one, double impact RESPEC’).
Both scientists then, both Gottleib and Newt are very obvious embodiments of not only scientific principles (Gottleib is a physicist; Newt a biologist) but more importantly, emotional principles: raging versus easy-going; uptight versus free spirit; introvert versus extrovert; English versus American; restrained versus flamboyant … Even old versus new, because Gottleib represents the traditional model of science, whereas Newt gets down and dirty, who acts not only as the cool brainiac, but the voice of the audience, too: “Numbers are the closest we can get to the handwriting of GOD!” / “Dude, what?!?!”).
“I TOLD YOU … No Kaiju entrails on my side of the laboratory!”
Beacham contrasts Gottleib and Newt every step of the way because there’s no real story “need” at grass roots level for there to be TWO scientists; certainly had Beacham come to Bang2write with an early draft of Pacific Rim, one of the first notes I might have given could have been, “do we need two scientists? Why not merge these guys?” After all, in a story world of giant robots and monsters and technical mumbo jumbo, our principal concern is not only kicking Kaiju ass, the precedent has already been set by the likes of Bay … Audiences don’t necessarily care about story or character arc, if they have spectacle and bags of it. Not because they’re stupid, but we want to be entertained! We don’t want a goddamn sermon, we wanna kick back and did I mention we’re KICKING KAIJU ASS!?!
But ultimately, PACIFIC RIM gets away with two scientists because of that contrast at grass roots level, as just as importantly, there’s SIMILARITIES between the two men too:
1) In terms of role, the scientists create not just a comic relief function, but also an antagonist function; in other words, they add specifically to the conflict IN the situation. This might be by fighting like children; or it might because despite Gottleib playing by the book, Newt is a Maverick. However as part of their (shared) arc, BOTH men must realise they can only truly help the cause against the Kaiju if they work TOGETHER. MORE: A tale of two psychopaths – more on characterisation and contrast
2) Regarding expositional function, both scientists perform very important story functions. I’m not giving specific spoilers, so let’s say the scientists at different points in the narrative make important realisations that help overcome the world’s Kaiju problem, but crucially, for very different reasons relating to their own scientific AND emotional approaches, whether that’s physics/biology, or playing it by the book versus being brave. MORE: How does exposition work?
3) Both scientists have tragic back stories, yet never speak of this once: we do however SEE that shared experience – albeit only in a FLASH, so quick you might miss it – and so central to them both that we can’t even be sure which glimpse of the boy of the past in each of them is which. But that’s the point of that single moment: it’s what bonds them, even if it set them off on entirely different paths. Did you see it? MORE: How a tragic back story can screw up your character
“You owe me a Kaiju brain, you one-eyed BITCH.”
So It’s very easy to say both Gottleib and Newt are “stereotypes” or “tropey” cuz they both draw on the age-old notion of the “mad scientist”. But the crtcs who accuse Gottleib and Newt of being stereotypical are not only underestimating the writing in both characters’ contrast AND similarity (as I’ve outlined in this post); said critics are also misunderstanding the notion of ARCHETYPE. If looking up the definition of “archetype”, you will find:
noun; plural noun: archetypes
1. a very typical example of a certain person or thing.
“he was the archetype of the old-style football club chairman”
Compare the above then, with:
noun; plural noun: stereotypes
1. A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
“the stereotype of the woman as the carer”
Just by the very nature of the existence of both Gottleib and Newt, we can see the notion of “mad scientist” is NOT fixed here in PACIFIC RIM; neither man is SIMPLIFIED either! Beacham has gone out of his way to ensure both are compared and contrasted. In other words then, whilst they might be TYPICAL, they are not mere “stock characters” (an accusation bandied about by so much movie commentary in fact, it has in itself become a stereotype – LE DUH).
So, whilst the character work in PACIFIC RIM may not be subtle, neither is a film that’s ultimately about Giant Monsters fighting Giant Robots!! On this basis we can see the mad scientist then is an archetype, every bit as much as a hero, villain, love interest or whatever. The words “mad scientist” are melded together, just as much as our two guys are in this movie. The key: Gottleib and Newt are not JUST mad scientists; they have motivations that drive them, even if that’s just trying to outdo each other (spoiler: it’s not), which in turn acts a catalyst for the plot, which is a HELLUVA LOT HARDER THAN IT LOOKS BY THE WAY!
As a last point, it’s not difficult to see why mad scientists turn up in science fiction, either (the clue is in the genre’s name!). Plus our culture insists that the gifted geniuses of our planet, the ones who change the world, the ones who go where others fear to tread in the name of progress, science or saving strangers the world over, will do WHATEVER IT TAKES … And if that means doing something unhinged and dangerous? FINE. Newt even brags something along the lines of:
“If I’m not dead, I won; and if I AM dead? Well I still won.”
I’d LOVE to see more action/adventure and Sci Fi spec scripts in the pile with the kind of secondary characters PACIFIC RIM has in spades, but especially Gottleib and Newt. Very often the spec scripts I read in this genre take themselves far too seriously, or try too hard reinventing the wheel, or both … Yet looking at the likes of movies like this, especially since the birth of CGI twentyish years ago, show the larger than life movie has larger than life characters, especially when it comes to comic relief.
So where’s yours?
As we all know, it’s much easier to complain than it is to create, so I’m going to look at a few disabled characters and stories dealing with disability. For full disclosure, I’m disabled, so might have some different perspectives to an able-bodied person; in a non ‘inspiration porn’ kinda way, which Lucy & her posse bangs on (HAHA) about here in this Storify about so-called “Inspiration Porn”.
Let’s start with someone who a lot of people will recognise, even if they don’t identify him as ‘disabled’; Tyrion Lannister.
Played by Peter Dinklage, who was born with achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism, Tyrion Lannister is, what some may refer to as, a ‘little person’.
What Tyrion lacks in stature, he makes up for in personality; likely intentionally. While I don’t have dwarfism, I am a ‘little person’ and I understand the need to shout to be heard, both metaphorically and literally! Like a lot of little people and indeed wheelchair users like myself, Tyrion will be used to being spoken over. So, how do you combat this? You make yourself really difficult to ignore!
Tyrion is definitely memorable and, I would argue, one of the favourites of the huge GoT cast. Probably because Tyrion is so real; he demonstrates the internal struggles a lot of disabled people experience: self-loathing, doubt at his [in]abilities, anger at his inability to achieve simple, taken-for-granted tasks, and society’s preconceived ideas towards him as a dwarf:
Tyrion is acknowledging the world will always see him first and foremost as a dwarf, so uses this as armour against the prejudices he faces. It’s like he’s saying, “Yeah, I’m disabled, so??”, which puts those trying to insult his disability at a disadvantage. I’d say Tyrion was a good example of characterisation, in that he is neither represented as inspiration porn, nor is he bitter and twisted, with suicidal thoughts every few seconds. Yes, Tyrion doubts himself and his abilities but, rather than focusing on his disability in a negative way, he uses it to his advantage. MORE: What Is A Hero?
2) Bolivar Trask – X-Men: Days of Future Past
Another character Dinklage has recently played, this time on the big screen. Last portrayed by African-American actor Bill Duke, in X-Men: The Last Stand, this incarnation caused quite a stir. Surely, by recasting this character from a black 6 foot 2 man to a white little person, director Bryan Singer, along with his casting team, were trying to say something about disability, right?
Maybe, but it isn’t obvious, as Trask’s disability is not mentioned once throughout the film, which I think this is BRILLIANT. Why does a character’s disability have to be highlighted? Why can’t they just be?? While my disability motivates me in some of my actions, it doesn’t dictate my whole entire life; I’m a person too. I loved the fact the Trask was just some clever bloke who built some big robot things, played by an talented actor who, seemingly, wasn’t cast because of his disability.
However, many viewers didn’t like the fact Trask’s disability wasn’t referred to, arguing it had to impact on his personality, ie. his hate for the mutant race. I think this is problematic, as it assumes Trask hates mutants “’cos he is one, and therefore hates himself.” YIKES!
But, maybe there is truth to this: in an interview with Screenrant.com, Dinklage himself discusses how he wanted to play Trask, stating the character has “[Strove] all his life for a certain respect and attention.” Both Tyrion and Trask are used to being treated as lesser beings and, literally overlooked. Either way, I’m still pleased to see a disabled character who isn’t immediately pointed at by a champion of State-The-Obvious shouting ‘LOOK, A LITTLE GUY’.
All this said, it’s important to note that while some may read Trask as anti-mutant because he is one, others will be him as just a brainy dude, who happens to be played by a small dude and that’s fine. Neither reading is wrong or right, as different images mean different things to different people and there SHOULD be room for such multiple readings in good characterisation. MORE: Diversity Versus Reality: Representation in X MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
3) Will Traynor – Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
In Me Before You, Will becomes paralysed after an accident and Louisa, who has no prior experience of caring, takes on the role of his carer/enabler/PA. Will experiences depression following his accident and decides to end his life at Dignitas – the Swiss group that specialises in assisting the terminally ill to die.
As much as I love this book, I find some of its ideas regarding disability and love problematic. First, it would appear Lou was hired as Will’s ‘last chance’ (or at least his family’s final attempt to get him to change his mind). Lou is coerced into helping Will find a reason to live (basically, showing him what he’d be missing). Yet Will has made his mind up and, while he admits to Lou that he’s had some of the best times of his life with her, he still doesn’t want to live. Cue Louisa, who’s fallen in love with Will, asking him to live for her …
To me, this reads as Louisa becoming the poster girl for the ableist assumption that, if a disabled person finds love, they’ll not only be FINE, they’ll be ‘saved’ … This will mean Will’s depression will miraculously be lifted because he is loved. Yet mental illness (and indeed, other more physical illnesses/disabilities), cannot be cured/fought by love. However, Lou assumes her love will be enough to make Will change his mind and relinquish that last bit of control he has left over his life: how, when and where he dies.
Now, control is often a huge thing for disabled people: I believe I get very obsessive about certain things as a way of compensating for the fact I can’t control other stuff. Thus, by taking this control away from Will, I think his family and Lou are disabling him further, while placing their needs way above his, ie:
“You don’t need to die, because you’re loved, and that makes up for the fact you’ll be in constant pain and discomfort for the rest of your life.”
Via Twitter, I asked author Jojo Moyes five short questions (read the Storify, HERE), including whether quality of life is connected to romance. While Moyes said no, it wasn’t about romance, she did say it was about love. Unfortunately this still doesn’t quite work for me: if we’re not loved, we have no quality of life? And if we are loved, that makes everything fine and dandy? Nope. Sorry!
But regardless of how problematic I find that assumption (or indeed the fact I still love the book, remember!), we’ve still got a story in which a disabled man wants to die in the first place. Yawn. Why can’t we have a fictional paraplegic who doesn’t want to die, for a change?? They do exist! MORE:3 Issues With Casting That Great (Disabled) Character
4) Stephen Hawking - The Theory of Everything
This film isn’t released for another two months, so I can’t comment on specifics, just using Hawking as an example of a character played by an able bodied actor (Eddie Redmayne: swoon!).
There has been serious debate on twitter surrounding able-bodied actors playing disabled characters. First things first, it is physically and emotionally more possible for an able-bodied person to play someone who becomes disabled, than for a disabled person to act abled. I think it’d be morally wrong, plus impractical, for a director to cast a disabled person, then ask them to act not disabled for a bit. Thus, in such cases, it’s unavoidable and the right decision.
Yet, I wish more disabled people were cast — and not just because they’re disabled. Yes, I’d like to see a greater number of disabled characters on screen, addressing more disability-specific stories and yes, I’d like these characters to be played by disabled people. But we need more disabled actors cast because they’re great actors, and because they were better for that role, not because a disabled actor was needed “to show what XYZ disability looks like”.
We need more stories about disabled people doing normal, mundane, things, like going to school/uni, working (“You have a JOB?”), raising a family, living. We have Coronation Street‘s Izzy Armstrong (Cherylee Houston), who doesn’t seem to have been cast because she’s disabled, as it’s rare her disability is at the forefront of any plotlines. The only time her disability became pivotal was when Izzy and her boyfriend Gary were trying for a baby and, due to Izzy’s condition (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), she was unable to carry to full term. This led to a huge storyline concerning surrogacy, and no longer became about Izzy’s disability, but her fight to be a mother, something that can affect anyone!
If you want to cast a disabled actor? GREAT! But don’t do so just because they’re disabled. Cast a disabled actor because they’re right for that role. If you can’t hire a disabled actor, or your character is someone who becomes disabled, then make it clear you’ve done your research, by speaking to people with that specific disability; maybe even include them in press releases and interviews, etc. At least this way, audiences know that even if you haven’t cast a disabled person, you’re doing as much as you can to represent the true nature of their disability. Finally, don’t represent your disabled character as bitter, lonely, in need of love as the ANSWER PUHLEASE! Show a bit of diversity, yeah? MORE: What is “inspiration porn”?
BIO: Katie Newstead aka @SciPhiKat is a 2nd-year PhD student at The University of Exeter, studying ageing femininities and the mother-daughter relationship in the fairy tale film. She co-admins @EverydayAbleism and @bdcmuseum, where she regularly volunteers as an archivist. She met David Tennant and shared actual words with him in June, 2014.
So this week, Twitter broke two pieces of news. Sheffield Theatres here in the UK are pledging to have an equal split of male and female roles in plays developed in-house: their artistic director (a man, by the way) says it’s “not just about numbers, but also about the scope and range of parts female actors get to play”.
It would be fair to say a minor avalanche of tweets erupted in my TL and @ box at both announcements. I didn’t engage with many of them (it’s submissions week for @Londonswf and there was not time), but overall it would appear Sheffield Theatres were largely hailed as progressive heroes (heroines?); and in comparison, the makers of True Detective were largely condemned as complete assholes who are waaaay too male AND white (incidentally, series director Justin Lin is not white, but why let facts get in the way of a little Twage? Moving on).
Look, I’m not some apologist asshole who says the status quo is just fine ‘cos it suits me. For one thing, it DOESN’T suit me, especially as a woman working IN the film industry. Also, you’d have to have never READ THIS BLOG in your entire life to think that. Le DUH.
So, it’s true: on the one hand, the amount of talk dedicated to raising the profile of female roles and characters is excellent atm. When I started blogging about this in earnest in 2009, I was lucky if I found half a dozen links to support my point … Now? I’m literally spoilt for choice, as you can see here on my “Girls On Film (And Beyond)” Pinterest board. It would seem Feminism is very much “in” and what’s more, it’s not just the audience talking about it, but the industry too and just about every celeb you care to mention. What’s not to like?
Well, the amount of spectacularly missing the point, for starters, which can usually be summed up in feminist commentary as:
“There should be more female characters in [X produced thing]!”
Remember, we’re all agreed: we need more (and better!) female characters and we need them NOW. However, I am still getting frustrated with the notion that to create “better” stories we automatically “just” need to ADD MORE WOMEN. Women are not tea bags. You don’t just add us to a movie and somehow miraculously make that movie better *just like that*.
WHOA, wait a second. How can adding more female characters NOT make better stories??
Well, you know when you start learning to write essays and you go off at a tangent and your English teacher writes “STAY ON POINT” in red in the margins? That’s what feminist critique needs to learn to do when it comes to specific movies and the female characters they are supposedly “missing”. Let me illustrate.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a kickass movie: I really enjoyed it. Pretty much everyone who watched it (that I know and have spoken to about it, anyway) agrees it’s exciting, it’s interesting, it’s got heart. Certainly when I watched it I was GLUED to the screen; the woman I went to see it with (a non-screenwriter, btw) was talking for DAYS about it, saying it had made her question loads of things she had previously taken for granted, including the automatic assumption we would be on humans’ side if there was an inter-species war.
WOW. Needless to say, the above is some mean feat of storytelling. What’s more, as many new and seasoned writers alike are fond of saying (and I include myself on this), just changing ONE audience member’s opinion makes our job “worth it”. On top of that, one of the screenwriters Amanda Silver is herself a woman (and yes, seeing a woman’s name at the end credits of a mega blockbuster movie will ALWAYS give me a thrill).
Yet, for much of the scriptchat online, it would appear some feminist commentators think Amanda Silver simply FORGOT she is herself female and didn’t write any “major” female characters into DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES because, you know, maybe she was doing her nails or something at the time? NYC Mag writer Kyle Buchanan – another feminist man, presumably - appears to suggest this very idea (if not the nails part, to be fair):
“Do I think that the DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES filmmakers made a conscious decision to minimise and exclude female characters? Quite the contrary: I think they didn’t even realize they were doing it.”
Now Buchanan *does* admit DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is otherwise as kickass I think it is, but here we have the very typical audience response / assumption that Hollywood apparently doesn’t know what it’s doing, or that filmakers – even when they ARE women themselves!! – don’t realise female characters **can** exist in blockbuster storyworlds. Read the rest of Buchanan’s article, HERE.
C’mon guys. Not only is this assumption tossed about the web incessantly by self-appointed progressive media watchmen (& women!), I raise you the idea Amanda Silver (and her co-writer Rick Jaffe for that matter) knew EXACTLY what they was doing in DAWN … And NOT because Silver is some kind of traitor to the female race; or because she was selling out to a patriachal notion that says “men don’t watch female characters”.
Instead, I’d wager actual, real money it’s because Silver set out to construct a very specific TYPE of story! Here’s why:
1) Apes live in a patriarchal society
First things first: the obvious. The main apes in this story, chimps and gorillas, are patriarchal. That is a fact. The notion apes would suddenly go, “Oh hey, let’s have some female apes at this table” seems a bit unlikely. BUT GUESS WHAT – female apes ARE still present in DAWN. Caesar’s mate / queen ape Cornelia plays an integral part in the story played out, not just of the catalyst pneumonia she has; but also the birth of Caesar’s new son; OR the fact she will the difficult decisions she faces once Caesar is (apparently) despatched. That’s a lot of shit (aka conflict) for a secondary character to deal with, yet she deals with it all with grace and a total lack of hysteria. But hey, she doesn’t have any real dialogue (because she’s an ape), so I guess she’s a NOT REAL CHARACTER, right? GNASH.
2) DAWN is a male-centric story
In this dystopian future, it would appear men are in charge of the small communities of humans left. This is not a major stretch and works as a kind of microcosm of our current society. In addition, the humans are represented mostly by Dreyfus, a Captain Ahab type; along with Malcolm (our “new blood”, who doesn’t want a war), plus his partner Ellie and Malcolm’s teenage son, Alexander. Throughout the piece, all the problems on the humans’ side come from Dreyfus (or his “representative as antagonist” when he is not there, a secondary character called Carver, who is the catalyst for events when he shoots a “teenager” ape in the woods). In contrast then, all the solutions come from Malcolm – as we expect – who can only create those solutions with Ellie’s help! On this basis then, Malcolm can only be part of the solution; he is not THE solution, meaning Silver and Jaffa’s characterisation neatly sidesteps the tedious “Great White Hope” issue, present in far too action/adventure stories like DAWN.
In other words then, DAWN is a male-centric story, the exact opposite of THIS definition of the female-centric story:
So, by its very nature, Ellie is obviously subordinate, BUT she helps Malcolm in the following ways, thus performing an integral role in events regardless:
i) Ellie is a peacemaker (note: NOT a facilitator of male emotion), thus helping to not only talk down the apes, but Dreyfus too and most strikingly, Malcolm himself when he does not believe he is a leader (perhaps underscoring the notion “behind every great man there is a great woman”?).
ii) Despite Malcolm’s assertion that Ellie must leave at a certain time should he not come back from the ape’s camp, she does not; instead, she stands her ground, despite her own fear, meaning she is brave, but refreshingly, she never once starts karate-kicking anyone for once and nor does she wear a leather catsuit.
iii) It’s Ellie’s prior medical knowledge that saves Caesar’s mate, Cornelia from pneumonia, thus earning his trust and by proxy, the rest of the apes’
iv) Ellie is the one who realises intuitively Caesar has stuff to work through regarding his past (signposted for the audience via the name of his son, “Blue Eyes”, the same as Caesar’s mother the first movie), so insists they take him back to the apartment he lived in as a young ape with Will, before the pandemic.
v) Ellie “stands in” for Malcolm in the resolution as Alexander’s protector; even though she is not his mother, she will take up the role and in a completely non-hysterical or “Mom Warrior” type of way – she is doing what needs to be done, because why the hell wouldn’t you?
3) So why not more Ellies?
By the way, perhaps now is a good time to mention I had a completely to different response to Ellie than I did Frieda Pinto’s character Caroline from the first APES movie. Ellie is not the voice of any male conscience like Caroline seems to be, or even the voice of reason (too role functions often placed on female characters in male-centric stories, ‘cos y’know, WOMEN ARE SO MUCH MORE SENSIBLE THAN MEN, Hollywood apparently reckons).
Instead Ellie is gloriously matter of fact, without being completely heartless. When Alexander discovers that Ellie has a dead child (as indeed most people do, in the post-pandemic landscape), he asks what he name was; Ellie simply says, “Sarah.” From there is possibly the strongest moment of the entire movie, when Alexander says “I’m sorry” and Ellie just nods, as if to say, we all are.
This kind of character work is GLORIOUSLY understated and concretes Ellie as a character of worth and substance. This is something feminist critique is supposed to want, yet brushes over in most commentary I read about this film.
But OK, you didn’t see that; your response is your response. But if you want to know “why not more Ellies” – as articles like the Vulture piece seem to suggest – here’s why, from a screenwriting POV:
In any type of story, as a writer you do not seek to fill it full of characters – female OR male – with role functions that deviate from whatever theme or mission statement that story has. It’s extremely unlikely you would fill a male-centric story like DAWN about Alpha Males finding their way in the world – ape or human – with a bunch of quiet, reflective and composed characters like Ellie.
But if you think making female characters subordinate in role function in male-centric blockbuster stories is a new thing or that *somehow* a female-centric blockbuster in the action/adventure territory would somehow be magically different, then I suggest you are sorely mistaken. Let’s take a look at possibly THE most renowned female-centric action/adventure blockbuster ever, which is 1986′s ALIENS.
ALIENS of course places Ripley at the heart of the narrative; the story is told from her perspective. That said, most of the supporting cast is male (whether marines or not), with only a handful of female characters, just like DAWN. Check this out:
i) Newt might be female, but she is a cypher. Her ONLY purpose in the movie is to motivate Ripley to save her (on the basis of Ripley’s backstory that her daughter died of old age before Ripley returns home after events of the first movie. Of course, you could make the same argument for Cornelia being a cypher too, though I disagree based on the various ADULT choices she makes I’ve already outlined; Newt in comparison has no real choices to make).
ii) There are two peripheral marines by my count: Dietrich, a medic, who is snaffled and cocooned in the first nest sequence, so has just a few lines (and an impressive scream I might add); the pilot of the dropship who despite living to *almost* the end is another peripheral character. No difference to how peripheral females are treated in current male-centric blockbusters, then!
iii) Interestingly, the monster in the story is female. Traditionally, creatures like The Blob were basically gender-less, or creatures like Frankenstein’s Monster symbolic of male violence, so the notion of a “Queen Alien” was truly groundbreaking thirty years ago, hence the popularity of “Get away from her, you BITCH!!” Strikingly, Ripley must despatch her (and protect Newt) in a “classic way” via brute strength, the the robotic loader. This is a great example of taking something new (female monster) yet still doing what the audience wants, which is KICK ITS ASS.
iii) And then of course there’s Vasquez …
A secondary character rather than peripheral like Dietrich or the dropship pilot, Vasquez is the ultimate kickass character, female or not … She has no “girly trappings” whatsoever, figuratively or literally! Hudson even says, “Hey Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man?” to which she replies: “No. Have you?”
So despite being female then, if Vasquez had been the only one left by the end of the story (instead of Ripley, characterised as MOM warrior, remember), Vasquez would have probably lobbed a bomb in, blasting Newt and called it a mercy killing, no? So, there is NO contrast between Vasquez and the rest of the marines on the basis of gender alone. She was groundbreaking at the time and won awards because no one had done really done that before.
But now it’s thirty years later.
The notion of contrast has become more and more difficult in the last three decades, because we’ve essentially RUN OUT of “new characters” that no one has seen before. A female character like Vasquez who can do anything the fellas can, the exact way they can has been done: she is no longer an archetype! Cue the rise then of the kickass hottie, instead. LE SIGH.
Yet one thing that hasn’t changed is the NEED for contrast between characters. Without contrast, ensembles of characters bleed together and we need to know who stands for what in the story, very quickly. Blockbuster movies then may choose to minimise female characters in male-centric stories on this basis: it’s immediately obvious who those female characters are. So ironically, it could feasibly be argued reduced female involvement in male-centric movements is because those female characters are to signpost that character’s SIGNIFICANCE and IMPORTANCE to the narrative, NOT because she is disposable.
Look, no one is arguing movies that actively reduce female involvement in male-centric movies down to simply “the girl character” are anything other than BAD. But when a character is layered and interesting (read: not automatically sexualised) like Ellie, the fact she is perhaps one of the only female characters draws our eye to her; her gender becomes a type of catalyst that hopefully makes us realise which her actions are integral to the plot. More on this, next.
4) DAWN is all about (male-centric*) juxtaposition
Note I wrote “male-centric juxtaposition” in the subheading of this section, by the way. Finding one’s way in the world as I’ve already mentioned is something every single one of us goes through, male OR female – but arguably, there is at least some gender divide on HOW that occurs, even if that only means navigating the bullshit gender stereotypes and binary expectations society places on every single one of us.
So, it’s very easy to see the theme of juxtaposition in DAWN: just as Ellie’s involvement is integral in turning the grave situation around, a line is drawn in the sand between the humans and the apes, but also between humans (Dreyfus versus Malcolm) and apes too (Caesar versus Koba). This not difficult to understand, because part of the issue here is STRENGTH, both literal and figurative: Dreyfus wants to BLAST the problem aka the apes, or the “animals” as he calls them; instead, Malcolm wants to negotiate. There’s a difference between brains and brawn ie. book/tech smarts; or streets smarts and sheer brute strength, illustrated throughout the society of BOTH humans and the apes throughout the movie, which is summed neatly in the great scene when Malcolm attempts to go into the apes’ (seemingly deserted) camp, only to be confronted by THAT Gorilla:
However, the most telling and interesting juxtaposition in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is between Alexander and Blue Eyes.
We start the movie with Caesar and Blue Eyes hunting; from there, Caesar ends up having to save his son. In comparison to Caesar, Blue Eyes is a melancholy young ape who perhaps lacks confidence; he doesn’t know his place in the apes’ world yet. Blue Eyes is unsure of who he is, which is further signposted by the birth of his new brother, a potential usurper. Whilst all of us have to deal with this worry, male OR female, this element of the story is synonymous with the male-centric view of the characters and storyworld in *this* movie, as we assume *one day* Blue Eyes will take over from his father.
In contrast, Alexander LITERALLY doesn’t know his place in the world, or even if he will have one in the future. Malcolm’s concerns for his son stretch beyond this too and at one point in the movie, he even says something along the lines of Alexander “seeing too many terrible things, too young”. Everyone in this apocalyptic landscape has lost family and friends in the pandemic, not to mention their society, livelihoods, homes and hopes, so Alexander is symbolic of this.
However, even with the above juxtaposition, Blue Eyes and Alexander have very strong similarities too: they’re both quietly intelligent; they’re both slighter than their fathers; they’re both asked to come down on the side of right or wrong and most obviously, those “terrible things” Malcom mentions Alexander *has* seen before the story begins, Blue Eyes LITERALLY sees in the battles against the humans in the actual movie.
And now, take a second look at the actual pictures in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: more on why, next.
5) If you actually look, females ARE in the movie!
Check out the peripheral characters in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and you will see many, many females – especially human, especially children – in the shots!
Regardless of whether you believe in film theory guff like fe/male centric stories, this simple act of inclusion of females on the periphery proves the writers and filmmakers didn’t simply “forget” to write female characters into the story … Instead, they made a CONSIDERED STORY CHOICE about which ones to carry the main story, based on the above points.
Sure, there could have been some *more* females in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, but then guess what – it would have been a DIFFERENT STORY! So why not just WRITE that different story instead of shoe-horning women into THIS one?
The problem is not DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, or other [well written!] male-centric stories **like** it, old or new. The minimising of the NUMBER of female characters in male-centric stories is not even a new thing and nor does it automatically point to the notion filmmakers are misogynists or clueless. The problem is not male-centric stories, even.
The real issue is simply thus:
There are TOO MANY male-centric stories!
So STOP trying to shoe-horn women into male-centric stories and start writing woman-centric stories as well.
We’re counting on you, screenwriters.
You have just completed writing the world’s greatest screenplay. Congrats! Now it’s time to show it to the world and prepare to cash that million dollar check that assuredly is coming your way.
Hold on tiger. Before any production company, or producer, is going to read your unsolicited script, you are going to have to entice them with a little literary foreplay. We call this a logline.
A logline is defined as one sentence that provides enough information about the protagonist, antagonist, setting, genre, and story that the reader can fully grasp what the film will be. The logline must be intriguing and capture the reader’s interest so that they want, no, must know more. All in under 40 words!
Writing loglines is a skill that must be practiced and honed by all screenwriters. Here are four steps to writing a legitimate logline that will get your screenplay noticed, thus saving it from languishing on your computer hard drive.
1) Start with the Set-up
You need to tell the reader what the general world of your screenplay is and what the inciting incident is that thrusts us (and your protagonist) into the story.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to begin your logline with the words “when,” “after,” or “as.” Here are two examples:
ZEN AND THE ART OF LAWN CARE. After hiring an eccentric gardener to care for the dilapidated gardens of her estate …
DECOMPRESS. When a middle-aged, divorced father is downsized from the career he has had for decades …
Now check out the rest of the logline, below.
2) Promote your Protagonist
We established the set up in just a few words, now tell the reader who your protagonist is and what they have to accomplish in the second and third act. This is also the time to describe who opposes them and what is at stake (the jeopardy).
ZEN AND THE ART OF LAWN CARE. After hiring an eccentric gardener to care for the dilapidated gardens of her estate, a widow discovers that his meticulous care is restoring more than just the flora, and her heart blooms as well.
DECOMPRESS. When a middle-aged, divorced father is downsized from the career he has had for decades, he retreats to a beach rental for solace to think about his future, only to be interrupted by a couple who love to drink and a sexy local bartender.
3) Answer 4 Questions
When preparing to write your logline you must be able to answer four questions about your film. If you can’t, then you won’t be able to properly pitch your script to a potential producer and the fact is, your script is probably not good enough to do so anyway.
- Who is your main character?
- What is he or she trying to accomplish?
- Who is trying to stop him or her?
- What happens if he or she fails?
4) Use Dynamic Words
You have only 35 – 40 words, make every one count. You must use words that are visual and dynamic to describe your character and the scene. Verbs such as “battle,” “grapples,” “jousts,” “duels,” “spars,” “scraps,” “clashes,” are better than the more pedestrian “fights,” “opposes,” or “contends with.”
Your words should be exciting!
Ironically, it takes longer to describe what a logline is and how to write a good one (528 words!) than a logline is ever allowed to be.
Being able to write an outstanding logline is not only an art, but a sign of a true wordsmith. It shows potential buyers that you understand your story as well as the craft of screenwriting and can ply your trade professionally. Your logline should be part of every query letter you send out to pitch your script.
This article is only a basic overview of how to write a logline. Just as you should be reading professionally written scripts to perfect your skills of writing a screenplay, the study and reading about the art of loglines will help you hone your craft and could be the difference between your script receiving that million dollar purchase, or being one of millions of scripts that are never read.
Your logline will be the first words a producer reads about your script; don’t you think it would be wise to take the time to craft something worthy of the masterpiece you just completed?
BIO: Douglas King is a professional writer and author of Loglines: The Long and Short on Writing Strong Loglines, available now on Amazon. You can read his daily logline posts on Twitter as @LoglinesRUs or on his blog, HERE.
I first came across Phil Peel’s work as part of my 2012/13 “Pitch Me” comp and enjoyed his screenplay, PHOEBE LANGTRY, a huge deal. I was also privileged to help edit his fab, fun (yet grossly titled!) comedy short film, JOHN LENNON’S TURD (you can read Phil’s own guest post on B2W about the film, HERE).
So when producer Jason Attar contacted me asking if I knew any screenplays or screenwriters worth a punt on, I had no hesitation recommending Phil! Now Jason’s back, looking for MORE great writers for his new writing initiative, so I thought it would be a great idea for him to give a real life insight into what UK producers think about when considering screenplays and optioning them. Don’t forget to check out Jason’s script call at the bottom, or click the pic below for more. Over to Jason … Enjoy!
You lucky scribes! Writing is the very centre of a film’s universe and everyone is looking for the next big thing … So it should be easy to get your hit-in-waiting picked up, shouldn’t it?
Well, no. There are a lot of scripts out there and the sheer volume of material means that whilst the natural law that the cream will rise to the top should apply, in practice it generally gets lost in the milk, so to speak.
I’ve recently optioned a new screenplay by Phillip Peel which I hope will be the first feature film for Our Lot Studios. Lucy V Hay of this fine site introduced Phil’s work to me and I thought it might be useful to explain why Phillip’s script hit the WRITE spot for me.
1) Phil’s writing
The main characters in Phil’s screenplay are young women who bond and become heroes: this appealed, as it has feisty females who are not prepared to be pushed around and who will look great on screen. It also has Jack the Ripper as the evil ghost returning to exact revenge on our heroines. I think this will play very well with an audience, who seem to lap up this era and the mystery as to who Jack actually was. The script also reads very well with the A and B plots flowing nicely with the pace and overall story. It also has a sense of fun with off the cuff remarks from characters. This gives the script a knowing sense that it is a fun film; it is not trying to be a worthy Oscar nominee. MORE: Writing The Low Budget Screenplay, plus Thinking Like A Producer
Phil’s screenplay is a quirky horror, so this genre has a good chance of selling, but it is not a gorefest either.
It will appeal to a variety of audiences from the young looking for a jolt to a slightly more sophisticated audience who fancy something a bit trashy. MORE: All About Audience: Who Is Your Screenplay FOR?
Phil’s screenplay is focussed: it can be filmed in one location and does not require lots of performers. Money may be boring & prosaic (and from a creative point of view a passion-killer) but the cost of production is obviously massively important to me as a producer. My absolute top production budget is £500,000 and really I’m aiming at £350,000. Even the most brilliantly-written cast-of-thousands epic would be an absolute non-starter. There may be studios out there who would jump at such a project, but not me. I’m looking to make clever, creative low budget films with new talent, NOT Hollywood blockbusters with big name stars. MORE: Money Talks – All About Film Budgets
Making a film is a collaborative process and getting the initial draft script is only the beginning of the broader creative development of the project. I know this can be difficult to accept as a writer, but it is the same for everyone involved. Most people making films do so because they feel passionate about the project and the industry; what’s more, they each have their own vision for the end result or their part within it.
With the above in mind, Our Lot Studios is no different and, in fact, we actively want to extend that involvement to our members and spread that passion! We will be opening up the production process to our online community who will be able to get involved in the decision making process and have a real impact on the features that we will produce. Phillip gets this – he really understands what we’re trying to achieve and how this will impact on the next stages of script development. MORE: 3 More Reasons To Write A Low Budget, Marketable Screenplay
Does any of this ring any creative bells? Then SEE BELOW!
Check out the Our Lot Studios New Screenwriter 2014 competition.
We’re looking for new writers to submit their honed treatments which we’ll read and shortlist. We will then ask for the full scripts of the selected treatments for the final round of judging and one person will win £500.
So, if you have a great script, sign up to the website using code OLSB3 and we will send you the entry criteria and t&c’s. It’s open to UK residents who are at least eighteen and it closes on 5th of October 2014.
Good luck and we hope we can work with you in the future!
Many thanks, Jason Attar of Our Lot Studios
As a Devon dweller, I can SO relate to Liam’s points here – but as I always say, you DON’T have to live in London to make a screenwriting career in the UK, so here’s his top 5 tips for the long distance screenwriter! Enjoy …
I live in a part of rural Ireland where life is less like The Quiet Man and more like Deliverance. Here, writing isn’t a particularly celebrated profession; tell locals you’re a writer and you’re apt to get cock-eyed looks before they resume advising you about how to slope your slurry floor.
Writers breaking in from outside the big centres isn’t unusual, but there’s a section of writers who are so far away from everything that getting breaks is ridiculously difficult: they run farms, hold down multiple jobs or are otherwise unable to get to those hives of writing activity.
Making inroads without actually using roads is tough, but these tips should make it that little bit easier.
1) ALL Technology Is Your Friend
Technology has connected everybody, but using that for your benefit is tricky.
The temptation is to rely solely on social media. It’s a powerful tool – a web-series I wrote is set to be produced off the back of a connection made via a Facebook appeal – but if it’s all you’re using, you’re missing out.
Never underestimate the value of phone calls and postage. Most places, unless stated otherwise, will respond to written queries purely because they’re tangible; and once someone answers the phone, you’ll have 30 seconds to craft an in with them that you didn’t have before you dialled.
LESSON 1: Working online’s easy, especially when submitting overseas, but networking is about personal connections. That extra effort for the right company could make all the difference. MORE: Using technology to connect and make relationships, plus Chris Jones with Talent Is Great, But It’s Relationships That Get You Hired
2) Combine Your Apps
If you’re living in the sticks, chances are your budget’s pretty tight. This tip is vital if you have to work on a shoestring.
Most people have both laptops and smartphones, and getting them working together is a lifesaver. On laptops, combining free screenwriting apps can replicate most of what mainstream software does – for example,Trelby exports multiple file types, while Celtx has better dialogue functions, and both are cross-compatible.
On phones, mobile screenwriting apps and note-taking software like Evernote allow you to construct scenes and even whole scripts on the go. Combine these with your email client and storage apps like Dropbox, and it’s possible to spot a writing job, apply for it, then write and send the script without ever being near your computer. Another handy app is your camera – I recently connected with a producer by snapping an advertisement they’d put up in my local post office.
LESSON 2: If you can’t afford the stuff the pros use, find another way around so you can concentrate on the writing first. MORE: 5 Essential Apps For Writers
3) Write Faster!
A busy home life in a remote area is always time-consuming, so snatch LITERALLY every minute you can to write.
A scene. A line of dialogue. Getting these down chips away at the overall time finishing your work takes. It’s also way less daunting than blocking five hours out of your day to write, which can descend into an unsatisfying procrastination session.
Think of them like mini-deadlines; you have that long to get your idea across, and no time for dawdling. It strips out all the padding most writers put in during long sessions, making the rewrite much simpler when the time to get to grips with it becomes available.
This goes hand-in-hand with Tip 1; the more people you connect with, the wider your presence.
On the downside, collaborating means working for free with someone who’s got a totally different style and personality to you, with no certainty of the outcome. On the upside, they’re similarly driven to you and do their thing in an area you otherwise wouldn’t reach. Also, should they gain traction in the industry down the line, then they’re more likely to help you out based on your past relationship.
It’s a crap shoot, but if it goes well, you’ll gain an ally who’s opinion you trust, which is like finding gold in a garden hose.
LESSON 4: Any obstacle is easier to get over with help from a friend. If there’s a gap in your skills or your plan, don’t be afraid to have someone else fill it for you. MORE: All about relationships and teamwork
5) Remember, You’re Unique
Most pundits on pitching will tell you that it’s not just your story that industry bods want to hear about; it’s YOUR story – who you are, why you’re interesting.
To mainstream industry workers, where you come from is not unlike being from another planet, and that’s an asset in every room you pitch in. Even if you don’t sell your script, selling yourself makes you more memorable should you ever come back.
Another advantage of living outside the mainstream is that it gives you a unique voice. An off-shoot of writing what you know is letting what you know influence you when writing what you don’t. Your situation and the style you’ve developed from it will set your work apart, which is essential for getting you where you need to go.
LESSON 5: Selling yourself is as important as selling your writing; if your backgrounds different, use that to your advantage during pitching. MORE: “Success is more perspiration than inspiration, but sometimes the inspiration fuels the perspiration” – a great video on the LondonSWF blog
- Jenny Kane on Top 10 Tips For New Screenwriters by Russ Nelson
- Kelly on Top 10 Tips For New Screenwriters by Russ Nelson
- DanatTLFN on Top 10 Tips For New Screenwriters by Russ Nelson
- How To Rewrite A Screenplay | The Ultimate Screenwriting Rewrite & Problem Solving Guide | The Screenwriting Spark on 5 Ways To Keep Up Stamina For Rewrites (And How To Know When It’s Done) by Holly Hudson
- How To Rewrite A Screenplay | The Ultimate Screenwriting Rewrite & Problem Solving Guide | The Screenwriting Spark on Screenplay Tips # 7: Rewriting & Feedback