Make It Happen

Film Producing in Wales

Archive for November 2008

The End of the Beginning

with 2 comments

We’re in the final week of pre-production on ‘Avoiding Christian Bale’, the microbudget comedy that I’m co-producing alongside Vivien Muller-Rommel. I haven’t mentioned this in the blog before as I’m a strong believer in not jinxing things, but now it’s out there in the blogosphere.

It’s been a lot of work and long hours, but it’s a very exciting time to be working in this office. Everything is coming together and a lot is happening at once. Tomorrow, the small cast will be in the studio downstairs in rehearsals, various contracts should be finalised and a courier will deliver some crates of fizzy drinks from one of our kind sponsors. It’s all go.

The script was written by Paul Howard Allen, who is also directing. Paul has made a couple of shorts, including this and this, but ‘ACB’ is his first feature. It’s a big learning curve not just for Paul, but for everyone, and there’s definitely a good team spirit already. The film’s being produced through Vivien’s own company 33Story, with the support of Boomerang, but there’s a strong representation from Tornado, with Antony being the executive producer and Nia the script supervisor. See Nia’s blog post on the NFTS course she attended if that’s a job that interests you.

In case you’re wondering what the title is all about, it comes from the rhyming slang for failing university degrees that pops up in the script. The two male characters rhyme ‘fail’ with ‘Christian Bale’, and thus the title. In more Dark Knight star-related trivia, both Christian and I were born in the same quiet Welsh town.

We start shooting on Monday.

Written by Matthew Redd

November 25, 2008 at 4:10 pm

5 RESOURCES FOR THE NEW WELSH SCREENWRITER

with 2 comments

You want to be a screenwriter. You’ve read Story and The Writer’s Journey and you’ve watched hundreds of films over the years. You’re even finding the time to write in between shifts in the day job and you’re pretty close to finishing the first draft of your Magnum Opus. Here’s a few online resources that might come in useful.

FINAL DRAFT

Before you send out your screenplay to anyone, it needs to be properly formatted. There are free programs out there that will do this, but Final Draft is one of the best and widely used around the world. Getting the formatting right is essential, and this program is incredibly easy to use and relatively inexpensive. If you’re looking to save money, trawl the web for free alternatives – just makes sure you’ve got it right.

SIMPLY SCRIPTS

Watching films isn’t enough – if you’re serious about being a screenwriter then you need to understand the craft of the script itself. It will make you a better writer. If you can spare the few hours needed to read two feature scripts a week, you’ll read over a hundred in a year and you what you learn will be invaluable. Read as much as you can, from produced Hollywood blockbusters to spec scripts that other aspiring writers are penning in their bedrooms in Wales. This is a good site to start with, but as usual, a quick google will find various scripts and usually for free. Try to avoid transcripts (scripts written by fans from watching the film), and stick to the genuine articles.

FILMSHED

Before you send your script to the Film Agency for feedback (you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression), or spend your hard earned cash on a professional opinion, it’s a good idea to get the input of other people in a similar position to yourself. Filmshed’s forum is frequented by a variety of people in Wales, many of whom will read your script and give you feedback. Some opinions will need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and some will be right on the money.

DANNY STACK

This blog is a great place to learn about what life is like as a working screenwriter living in the UK. If you’re a ‘people person’ and need constant company, maybe the writer’s life isn’t for you. Pick up some great tips on writing and the lifestyle it brings, and find out about news that might be useful to you.

YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION

Sometimes, it’s hard to actually sit down and just write. The internet, while full of useful resources and a great place to kick off research, can be an incredible distraction from doing what your meant to be doing – writing. You’ve fired up the computer and you’ve opened up the writing program to type up the scene that’s been in your head for days, but just before you type, you might just check your email, facebook, BBC news, sausage dog owners’ forum, or YouTube for yet another viewing of that hilarious video of Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007. Turn off the internet and write. You’ll be amazed how much you get done.

I hope this is useful. Get in touch if there’s other resources you’d like to share.

Written by Matthew Redd

November 21, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Pitch Perfect

leave a comment »

When I was studying for my MA, the Screen Academy ran a pitching competition with three equal first prizes of an all expenses paid trip to the Cannes Film Festival. Entrants were required to pitch a film idea to an industry panel and also explain why they felt they would benefit from the experience of going to Cannes. The second part didn’t seem like it would be too difficult – the first part, though, would be the nerve-wracking bit.

Pitching, like networking, is one of those necessary evils of the creative industries, and as writer or producer, you’ll find yourself pitching ideas to various people a lot of the time. The good news, though, is that you can learn to do it. Here’s a few things I’d consider to be words of wisdom that I’ve had passed on to me.

There’s no Winner and Loser

If you’re in a meeting with someone who is taking the time to listen to your pitch, it’s either win/win or lose/lose. You’re not competing against each other. The person listening to your pitch is most likely going to want to like your project just as much as you do – nobody wants to waste their time. Be confident and enthusiastic and have belief in your project, because they’re going to want to believe in it, too.

Know Your Audience

Who are you pitching to? What do they want from your meeting with them? What sort of projects are they interested in? If you do your research, you hopefully won’t be wasting their time, or yours. Tailoring your pitch for the situation is essential, but be true to your story/project. Pitching something that you think your audience wants (instead of what your project really is) might lead to problems if a relationship develops around the project.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it definitely makes progress. You’re only going to get better at it if you do it, so pitch your projects whenever you get the chance, as long as you think it’s appropriate.

I’m no expert on pitching. This bloke is, though, and google is your friend.

So what about the competition? Well, I pitched ‘Bangkok Jigsaw’, a thriller about a Welsh lawyer who flies to Thailand to investigate the murder of his backpacker daughter. With hindsight, I’m amazed I didn’t get tongue-tied and call the film ‘Bangkok Chickboy’, which seems to roll off the tongue quite easily. I wasn’t deterred by the fact that I’d made up the plot the night before, and tried to be as confident as I could.

The idea seemed to impress this nice man and this lovely lady, and a few weeks later I was on a plane headed for France with a wallet full of business cards and a brain full of big ideas.

Written by Matthew Redd

November 14, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Use The Short, Luke

leave a comment »

This is a trailer for a short film that was written and directed by Matt Freeth.

Matt and I have known each other for ten years, having met while we were both studying film at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Despite some great staff, the course didn’t really capture my imagination and while Matt went off to direct music videos, I ended up in the exhibitions sector of the film industry, which means I was an usher in a multiplex. I then launched a music business, which I’m sure I’ll mention again in future posts.

This is Matt’s first short film with a decent budget, backed by the UK Film Council’s Digital Shorts scheme. There’s no scheme like this in Wales (though that might change in the near future) and the demise of Sgrin has left It’s My Shout as the only company producing a range of shorts each year. In Wales, the Film Agency’s remit is to support features and not short film, which is intended to increase the range of feature films being developed and produced here, and ultimately foster Welsh talent. While short film is a great way to learn your trade, there’s a very limited market for the film as a product, despite the digital revolution and new channels of internet distribution.

I don’t have a problem with the Film Agency’s position on short film, and as the agency’s work continues, I’m certain its policies and work will have a lasting positive effect on the Welsh film industry. But I’m glad that short film schemes do exist in the UK, and that the talent of a close friend of mine is being nurtured by one. Check out the trailer.

Written by Matthew Redd

November 7, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Just Do It

leave a comment »

Yesterday, I met David Semel, a producer and director working in Hollywood. I was with four other aspiring producers and writers, and together we spent close to three hours talking about David’s work, our own work and the industry. It’s not often that someone who has directed episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, Buffy, and the pilot of Heroes is sat opposite you, and I tried to make the most of the opportunity.

Sometimes, I think that when I meet people like this, or attend courses or events, something is going to strike me like a bolt of lightning and I’m suddenly going to realise how my career is going to pan out. Of course, this hasn’t happened (yet), but there’s one piece of advice that I always seem to hear.

“Just do it.”

David was telling us about a group of filmmakers who are out there, doing it. We talked about the changes in technology – both the digital versus film debate and the future of distribution and television drama formats. We listened to the casting choices behind ‘Heroes’, how agents package projects and the TV drama pitching quagmire. We discussed Welsh identity, the language and Wales on film. As always, the importance of networking (and how hard it can be to do) was high on the agenda.

While meeting David was enjoyable and even inspiring, there was no bolt of lightning. You can read as many books, attend as many courses and meet as many people working in the industry as you can, but ultimately, you just have to do it. Write screenplays, shoot films, edit footage. There’s no excuse anymore – a basic camera setup and home computer editing suite has never been more affordable. Learn your trade and hone your talent.

Possibly the most important thing that David said was that “good work will shine through”. Get out there and do some good work. Just do it.

Written by Matthew Redd

November 4, 2008 at 1:15 pm

One Down

leave a comment »

Hello.

This blog is essentially a back up of all my posts that appear here.

It’s thoughts about my work and the industry I’m working in, as well as a few personal things that might come up.  Visit the original blog and see what Antony, Nia and Sean have to say.  Hopefully it’s of interest.

Written by Matthew Redd

November 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Office Stuff

Tagged with ,