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Film Producing in Wales

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Nobody Knows Anything

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I’ve had a short break from blogging, but am back with some sort of vengeance.  To kick off, a simple link to this excellent blog post, the first part of which refers to William Goldman‘s oft quoted line “Nobody knows anything“.  I seem to hear this all the time, and usually in reference to people in the film industry not quite doing their job properly, but very rarely is it used in the context that I think it was intended.  Jim Barratt, who seems like a thoroughly decent bloke, thankfully clears it up.

Back soon.

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Written by Matthew Redd

September 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Five Completely Unrelated Pieces of Information

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I haven’t had time to update this week, and as of tomorrow I’ll be offline for a while, so here’s a short post to keep the blog awake.

  • Screenwriters take note – if you have a feature screenplay, you’ve got a few days before the deadline of Final Draft’s Big Break contest, and if you have a TV script, then there’s a few weeks to polish it before the Peter Ustinov deadline.
  • Hollywood is awash with superhero films at the moment, but here‘s a trailer for one you won’t be seeing in cinemas, or anywhere else for that matter.  Digital is making anything possible.
  • From Hollywood to Wales, for Shannen Doherty at least.  Good luck to the Welsh filmmakers behind this – this project has been around for a while and it looks like it’s getting off the ground.
  • The Film Agency for Wales is still looking for applications to co-finance a short film scheme in Wales.  They have £50k on offer – I don’t know if they’ve had (m)any tenders, but let’s hope so, as Wales needs more than just It’s My Shout for short film directors to find their voice.

I’ll be back next week.

The Pilot Could Take Us Anywhere We Want

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Thanks to those of you who have said nice things to me regarding my acting. Shooting it wasn’t actually as much fun as I expected it to be – the people who do this sort of thing for real certainly have a unique talent, it’s really hard work. For our parody, the director Paul would give me a word, e.g. ‘holistic’, or a direction, like telling the director/vision mixer (I don’t know how they crew these things) that we’re going to change camera, and then I would just have to make up the words as we went along. I think I’ll try and stay off screen in the future, and leave the idea of a web series based on the character in a locked drawer.

Speaking of web series, the internet is now being used to pilot ideas cheaply, and it’s worth looking into if you’ve got ideas that you can shoot yourself. Before many television drama and comedy series are commissioned, a pilot will be shot and often broadcast in order to gauge if the series will work, and if it has an audience. It’s quite a different process in the UK compared with the USA, where Pilot Season is an annual event – this article is old, but it explains how it works over there. Now though, shooting digitally and broadcasting online, a low-budget web series is a great way to pilot an idea off your own back. An example is Svengali, written by Dean Cavanagh and starring Welsh actor Jonathan Lewis Owen. Have a look at the episodes – the format is very simple and easily shot on a microbudget. The writing and the performances have to sell the idea – there’s no production value (aside from celebrity cameos) to hide behind here.

If you’re interested in what makes a good pilot, it’s worth starting by looking at the script. Thanks to a link found on John August’s blog (coincidentally, check out John’s web series pilot The Remants), you can find a huge library of scripts for US pilots (some successful, and some not) by clicking here. There’s pilots for The Wire, Alias, and also the Heroes pilot, directed by David Semel.

Derek is definitely not going to end up in a pilot. Honest.

It’s a Hard Way to Earn an Easy Living

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If you’ve written a feature length screenplay and need some feedback to help you write the next draft, you’re in the right place.  I’m now offering script reports to writers for a very reasonable (some might say cheap) price.  All the information you might need is on my Script Reading Services page, and you can also email me with any other questions.

The masterclass on Abraham’s Point was really interesting.  The film’s writer/director, Wyndham Price, was extremely honest and open with everything, and many of the things he said really hit home with me.  He’s passionate about what he does, and it’s hard not to admire his persistance and dedication to film – he spoke about everything from struggling to make a living to his own self-doubt and personal frustration.  The panel discussions weren’t without humour either, mostly thanks to the chair Ed Thomas and also Wyndham’s own fondness for using expletives to illustrate a point.

The ‘hard way to earn an easy living’ line is often used in poker circles to describe the life of the professional gambler, but you can apply it to anyone trying to maintain a career in the ‘creative industries’, particularly film, as to many people outside of the industry, the media looks glamorous and not really ‘real work’ (and sometimes they might be right).  It ties in nicely with the old ‘time is money’ cliche as well, because in order to find the time to write or shoot short films, you’re probably going to have to work a day job and your spare time becomes so valuable because of its limitations.

If you’re an aspiring writer, you also need time to develop your own style, to mature as a writer and thus ‘find your voice’.  I wrote a screenplay when I was 18 – the only one I’ve ever written (it’s not very good, as you might imagine).  I think you need to live some life in order to have something to say, and at 18, I didn’t know an awful lot about anything.  Sometimes I doubt I know much about anything now, and it was reassuring to hear at the masterclass that I’m not the only one who feels that way.  In an industry that is so hard to break into, you need to do it because you love it, persevere and keep believing in yourself.  It might take a long time, so be prepared and be pro-active.

There should be another session with filmmakers in April, I’ll post details here when they’ve been announced.

To Perform Like Linford…

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… You’ve got to think like Linford, as the old television commercial used to say.  I’ve been updating the CV and emailing & ringing around friends and former colleagues.  Oh, and applying for a couple of jobs.  Hopefully something will come up sooner rather than later.

A couple of articles worth reading here, particularly if you’re a screenwriter.  The first is titled Is Breaking Into Hollywood So Tough? and it’s by Doug Chamberlin.  Doug gives us an interesting perspective on what aspiring professional screenwriters might be going through when considering the odds of success in Hollywood.   If you need to put a positive spin on any situation that you might be in, Doug is the man to do it for you.  Timely for me.

The second article is definitely worth reading if you’re a fan of Indiana Jones, or interested in the screenwriting process within Hollywood.   Titled The Raiders Story Conference, it’s a commentary from a popular blog on a transcript from a meeting that’s recently surfaced on the internet.  I haven’t read the transcript yet (and I’m not sure how safe the link to it is, to be honest,), but I’ve been reading the extracts and the notes on the extracts from the blogger, and it’s fascinating.  The thought processes behind the story and characters in Raiders are all here – it’s brilliant.

I am also optimistic for City’s playoff (or even automatic promotion) chances – if there’s one example of a positive mental attitude out there, it’s this man.  Bluebirds.

Written by Matthew Redd

March 10, 2009 at 5:51 pm

5 RESOURCES FOR THE NEW WELSH SCREENWRITER

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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