“You Can Write, But You Can’t Edit… Edit… Edit…”

December 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm (Editing, Equipment/Resources, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

That’s a lyric from a track by Regina Spektor, who is probably my favourite artist at the moment. She’s amazing! If you’ve never heard her before, you should check her out on spotify or something immediately. Here’s one of her songs on youtube…

See what I mean?

Anyways! The reason I’m going on about Regina is because Stu and I (and a few of our chums, including Phil “Nosferatu” Mcardle and Josh Liandu of Our Future Glory) went to see her live at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. She was phenomenal. Favourite songs on the night included “Apres Moi”, “Poor Little Rich Boy”, “Samson” and “Us”. To be honest though, she performed them all excellently, and her band (consisting of a drummer, violinist and cellist) were all top-notch musicians.

However, back to reality today in the office – we’re just editing a panto that we filmed for the Dundee Social Work the other night. We’ve filmed it the last three times so we’re pretty used to it by now. Okay, it’s not exactly living the Hollywood dream, but doing these kind of things is what keeps us going financially so we can’t complain! It’s an idea if you’re interested in film-making to have a go at filming live events for money. The experience of cutting things together afterwards can help you learn a lot about editing, which, if you’re making films on a low budget and doing everything yourself, is really going to come in handy. Also, the money can go towards important equipment/resources you’ll need for making your first few films.

That’s all I’ve got for you today! But stay tuned for some far more useful blogs in the near future…

L.

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Surprise, Surprise!

October 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm (Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Happy Wednesday!

How’s it going out there, peeps? Today it’s bright and sunny here in Dundee, which is most unusual. But enough with the tedious formalities! Here’s part 6 of my notes from the writersroom seminar…

SURPRISE

When you are writing a screenplay, you want to write something that is fresh and original, but there are only a finite number of basic plots that you can work with (I’m going to do a blog on these basic plots later too) so you need to know what’s different about your version. What unique perspective are you bringing to the story? What’s your original touch? How are you going to surprise the audience?

When you watch a movie, or read a great story, there should be a sense that the ending was totally inevitable, but at the same time unpredictable. What I mean by this, is that, once the dust clears, you should be able to look back and see that it was obvious the story would end like this. Everything should “add up”.

A good example of this would be the movie “The Sixth Sense”, by M. Night Shyamalan. The story is about a child psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) who is working with a young boy that claims he can see ghosts.

If you haven’t watched it, don’t read any more as there is about to be a terrible spoiler…

…at the end of the movie, it’s revealed that Bruce Willis’ character (the main character throughout the film) is actually a ghost. This is a great plot twist in the movie, as, when you look back over the film, you can see that it really was quite obvious, but not (to my mind anyway) predictable. Now, not all stories need to end with such a mind-blowing twist to be a success, but they do need to come to a satisfactory resolution that has been built up over the course of the plot. Many movies start off strong, but lose it at the ending. This is usually because the writer simply hasn’t done enough to suggest this kind of conclusion to their story.

An example of a movie that (in my opinion) utterly fails in this principle, is the film, “Vanilla Sky”.

Don’t be fooled by the great trailer. This movie uses the technique that children are taught never to use in writing class, the “and then I woke up” lazy-ass ending. The writer has created all these confusing yet interesting situations/circumstances and twists in the plot, but then, instead of rewarding the faithful viewer with a great resolution that explains everything, they cop out by saying it was all a dream. Awful stuff.

So, that’s all for this section. Many of you may disagree with my thoughts on “The Sixth Sense” and “Vanilla Sky” (as there is potentially some case to be made in suggesting that Vanilla Sky does, in fact, point towards its ending), but hopefully you can see the principle behind what I mean anyway.

L.

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Show Me Emotion, Tra La La La La….

October 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm (News, Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Hey!

We’re back after a nice long weekend, and, sadly, I’m now a year older. Yup, a lot can happen in a weekend. Today we were going to be out filming a silly fake trailer for a superhero film, but there was too much rain. Hopefully we’ll have it done before the end of the week and we can post it for your entertainment.

In the meantime, here’s the next part (part 5) from the writersroom seminar the other week…

EMOTION

When you’re writing a screenplay, it needs to matter at a human level. What I mean by that is that the characters and their individual stories need to be more important than the “concept” behind the film. This obviously links in with what we were saying about character in the last blog, but refers more to the journey that you take your characters through than the characters themselves.

A good way to do this is by showing the vulnerabilities in your characters – the chinks in their armour. A great example of this is the film “Leon”, which is one of my favourite movies of all time…

The main character is a cold-blooded assassin, who cares about no-one and lives a life of solitude, but everything changes when he decides to save the life of his next-door neighbour – a young girl. As the film goes on we get more and more glimpses into the true vulnerability of Leon’s character, and the emotional journey he goes through. If you’ve not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.

Essentially, the best scripts/movies (really, the best stories) should generate a physical response as you read/watch them – whether it be laughing out loud at the jokes, getting goosebumps at the revelations, holding back a tear at the sad bits, looking cautiously around the room at the scary bits, involuntary gripping of the armrests during a tense scene, or, best of all, combinations of all of these things and more. You can’t get any of this if the audience don’t care about the characters, and there’s no point aspiring to anything less than this. If this is not your goal, you’re wasting your time, and if it is, then check your scripts back afterwards and be sure you’re generating the feeling you want your readers to feel.

Peace for now!

L.

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If You Want To Make It As A Writer, You’ve Got To Have Character(s)

October 22, 2009 at 10:00 am (Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Yo! Welcome back! This is part 4 of my notes from the writersroom seminar. Check out the other parts in our last three blogs. 🙂 Today we’re talking about…

CHARACTER

One of my favourite TV shows ever is “The Shield”, a police drama about a police station that is right in the middle of LA gangland. The main character, Vic Mackey (a corrupt cop), is an incredibly interesting character. Not at all a likeable person, but SO entertaining to watch. You’re always wondering what he’s going to do next. Here’s a scene to show you what I mean, but be warned, it’s pretty gross and the language isn’t suitable for kids. Mackey is the bald one…

Whenever you’re writing a character, you really need to make them compelling on an emotional level. No amount of fiddling with the other details of your script will help if you don’t have compelling characters.

There’s no real way of being “taught” how to do this, but you can examine the characters you’ve written and if you can’t connect with them, or they seem dry, or stereotypical, or if they all seem to have the same “voice”, then you know you need to work on them some more. They need to be somebody that you want to spend time with, not necessarily somebody that you like, but somebody who makes you want to know what they’re going to do next and what’s going to happen to them.

Part of this is making sure that you take your characters on an “active journey”, and by this, I mean that the character is motivated by desires or needs, and that they face obstacles or come up against dilemmas that get in the way of these desires. How they deal with these situations is how you reveal the nature of your characters and make them identifiable.

Another part of it is making sure you don’t play into the trap of using stereotypical characters, but instead create them as individuals. The last thing that Paul Ashton (of the writersroom) said about character that really, really struck me was, “what does your character see when they look at the world?” It seems so simple, but if you can get your head into the character, and think about how they view the world/people around them, you can think about how they see it differently from everybody else. This will make it easier to write for them – they will become more “alive”, interesting and individual.

That’s all for today, peeps. Catch you tomorrow.

L.

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The Plot That Sucked

October 21, 2009 at 10:59 am (Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Hello faithful blog readers!

Back again today with part 3 of the notes from the writersroom seminar. Today’s should be fairly brief…

COHERENCE

Your script needs to have a strong plot that holds everything together. This should be fairly obvious to anyone who’s an aspiring screenwriter, but there are so many people who get it wrong! You can have lots of great ideas, good scenes, etc., but you still need a clear plot that connects these things and also comes to a satisfactory resolution.

One example of a film which (in my opinion) fails to accomplish this, is “The Boat That Rocked” by great writer Richard Curtis. It’s full of great little scenes and moments that can be comedic, touching, or even heartbreaking. As a whole, however, it is very unsatisfying. The overall central plot is extremely weak, and there are too many little plots all happening at once, with no real resolution or sense of story.

It’s very easy to get carried away when you’re “in the zone” and to try to do too much, but you need to beware of being distracted from the focus of your story. You may write a scene that you really like, but, if it’s not moving the plot along, does it really need to be there?

Lastly, you need to know the world, tone and genre of your script, then make sure that you are faithful to this throughout. What kind of story is it? This harks back to the stuff about format from part one of these blogs, but again – your audience needs to know what they are watching, and to “get it” very quickly. There’s nothing wrong with writing in a specific genre, the trick is learning how to be original and surprising within that world.

Alright. That’s all for part 3. Catch you later!

L.

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Stuck "In The Middle."

October 20, 2009 at 10:28 am (Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Good day to you.

Here’s part two of my notes from the writersroom session last week…

GET THE STORY GOING

When you’re writing a script, you need to “hit the ground running”. When readers are going through a script for the first time, they make a decision based on the first ten pages. This is because television isn’t like cinema; if people lose interest they will simply turn over or turn off. Obviously the script has to be just as engaging after these first ten pages, but if you spend too long setting up the story, or introducing characters, people won’t bother waiting to see what happens.

I attended another writer’s seminar, not that long ago, that was taught by the successful playwright, Colin Teevan. He spoke about the same thing, and called it “the ticking clock”. You shouldn’t have a story that begins on page seven. It should already have started by page one! You need to find out where your “ticking clock” begins and ends, so that your story doesn’t start too late or finish too soon.

The best thing to do is to start off “in the middle” of something, and show your characters in action. You can give backstory and character depth, but do it as the story moves, not before. Also, you should beware of doing too much backstory and exposition (explaining things). The audience is much more intelligent than they are often given credit for, and don’t like to have everything spelled out to them.

To show you what I mean, here’s a clip of the opening scene from “The Matrix”…

This is a great example of “hitting the ground running.” We begin with a phonecall between two unknown people, and are simultaneously aware that another, separate party is running a trace on their call. In this first conversation, one of the characters talks about how they are going to kill someone, and the other talks about the potential importance of this person. Suddenly, they become suspicious of a trace and end the call, and we immediately see that the police have traced the call and are about to bust down a door. An incredible action sequence follows.

There has been no explanation, no backstory, you know nothing about any of the characters. Who are they? What are their intentions? How are they able to do these remarkable things? Why is the woman being hunted? Who were they talking about on the phone? The audience have been hooked right into what’s going on. Straight away, you’re “in the middle of something.”

I hope you found some of that interesting/helpful. There’ll be more from my notes on the writersroom seminar tomorrow.

L.

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Back to "Work"

April 29, 2009 at 2:27 pm (News, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Hello again, faithful readers (yes, both of you)! 🙂

We’re back from a week off, which mainly involved lots of going for coffees, playing video games, catching up on Prison Break and hitting the pubs. Essentially it was just like any other week in the office.

This week we’ve been busy setting up meetings and getting ready for our next projects with the Social Work and the NHS, but we still made time to chat about some personal issues….

…and last night we went to see Wolverine for “research purposes”. It was enjoyable, but not great. Go see it for yourself and tell us what you think!

L.

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Shall Nimoy Return?

April 7, 2009 at 12:41 pm (News, Reviews) (, , , , , )

Hey raiders of the lost blogs,

First things first, has anyone seen the trailer for the new Star Trek film. I’ve never been known to get excited at the thought of a new Star Trek film but I saw the trailer at the cinema the other day. It looks pretty darn good I have to say.

That being said, lets get down to the good stuff. Who wants to see another sketch? Ok ok, here’s one that you will only have seen if you’ve already checked out the manaliveblog channel on youtube.

More sketches on the way people so check us out at least once a week for something cool.

Stu

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"That’s my wife!"

February 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm (News, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

I was just looking back over our blogs and realised that I never actually got round to posting our first entry to the “Done in 60 Seconds” competition!

So here it is, a re-make of the 1920s classic, “NOSFERATU”.

NOSFERATU

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If you’ve never seen or heard of “NOSFERATU”, then I can’t honestly say you’ve missed out (even though it was groundbreaking at the time and still succeeds in giving people the creeps), but here’s a weird video from youtube that contains some clips of the original set to a track by the band “Mogwai”.

That’s all from me today!

L.

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