Tuesday, 20 March 2012

John Lasseter - A Day In a Life + Animation Writing Tips

"Every single Pixar film, at one time or another, has been the worst movie ever put on film. But we know. We trust our process. We don't get scared and say, 'Oh, no, this film isn't working.'" 

- John Lasseter   

A Day in a Life 

Bringing Inanimate Objects to Life 

Monday, 19 March 2012

What Do You Do Less: Read, Write or Watch?

I look at my read/write/watch routine on a weekly basis and often identify a common thread:

I write more than I watch and watch more than I read. 

Writing overshadows them both by some way which I think it should. But have felt that reading less than watching could be a weakness and imbalance in my routine.

Should we be reading more than we watch? 

Balanced Reading 

I often read a script on my day off which is two days a week, but note, I do say 'often' because other things can get in the way and sometimes I miss the chance to get one script in a week.

My desk and writing environment with two whiteboards chock-full with notes screams "Writing! Writing! Writing!" whenever I am there or nearby.

But not so much "Reading! Reading! Reading!"

Of course, if we are to write well - we must read.

However, not to the extent that if you wanted to impress a producer - instead of doing so with your excellent script you reveal that you've read 250 screenplays this year.

The Art of Consistency 

I have come to the conclusion that reading the least out of writing and watching isn't a weakness or imbalance -

If it's consistent reading over time and has its own designated slot.

This comes from Danny Stack's advice that two scripts a week is an ideal standard regarding script writing for television; and Scott Myers, one script read a week for feature screenplay writing.

As a result, I now have a designated script reading slot whereas before I would often read a script on my day off from writing and with no fixed time or session.

Only forwards. 

How is your routine? What do you do less? Is there an element you value or neglect the most? 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Writing Update - 17/03/12

Two and a half months in and things are progressing nicely. Project Spacebound has a first draft and soon-to-be-announced Project Nightingale has an outline for its pilot episode.

I found myself working on the first draft of Project Spacebound for three days during the week. Then at weekends developing and doing the prep work for Project Nightingale.

I prefer prep work at the weekends because it's more relaxed and there's more time to give. Plus the prep work should be developing quicker than the script draft. So it worked out nicely.

Adapting to Change 

As previously mentioned, I have three projects set aside for the year and two of those have already begun. But I've decided not to bring the third one into the mix just yet. Again, like discovering the stacking projects method at the last moment, this decision was much the same.

I'm comfortable with two projects going at once and really enjoy it. But feel I need to gain experience with two projects and seeing how that goes first. Naturally, I need time to break in to this way of working and then can adapt to working with three projects later.


What I have found with working on more than one project at a time is that there is now double the abundance of ideas, notes and thoughts when I am away from the keyboard.

It has been a challenge and rush on days to note everything down, collate it and then give it the time it needs before writing commences and/or during. Sometimes I was certain I would forget stuff, as it's difficult stopping in the middle of your paid job to go write some stuff up - unless you can find a blind spot to hide in!

As for the actual writing and developing of two projects at once: I love it. There's nothing so satisfying and challenging than moving two projects forward each week and not just by a little bit but by substantial development and five-a-day script pages.

It's brilliant!

Rolling In The Deep 

Even whilst holding down a full time job it's still possible to develop and write a first draft of at least one project relatively quickly. If you plan, and your focus is strong, then you can breeze through.

Without focus, time management, understanding your own writing beats and the process - it will always be a struggle.

Getting to the first draft(s) is the important part.

I'm halfway there!

How are your projects going? Have any bragging rights with a recent completed draft? Almost there?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Teach Yourself Screenwriting

5th Edition (2011) 
This book has taught me a lot.

In fact, I taught myself screenwriting with the third edition before going to university to study it, as a result: wasn't taught anything new on the craft for the first two years.

Luckily, I wasn't going there to be taught the craft.

This is a great book for beginners and is there to prevent you from rushing into things and suffering the potential side effects:

  • Start writing a feature screenplay of Roman epic proportions: get stuck four pages in and give up. 
  • Jump straight into theory/methods from intermediate + material from Syd Field, Blake Snyder, Robert McKee, John Truby, etc: get a headache, overwhelmed, and possibly get writer's block before you even start. 
  • Religiously follow professional screenwriter blogs and websites for advice, how to info, craft insight, competitions, success stories, agents, spec sales, box office, and so on: feel worse off, more insecure, develop a severe migraine and/or inferiority complex. 
  • Sign up for a UK scriptwriting degree (likely - with no business sense in the programme): do some serious damage to your writing nerves, confidence, prospects and financial accounts. 

You must lay the foundations: that entails discovering whether this is something you want to do - by engaging with the basics and reality of it all. 

The less distractions - the better. 


"Keep it simple.

- Ray Frensham 

PS: You are either in it for the enjoyment or for the reward.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Help

By Tate Taylor.

Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett.

This screenplay has been on my to read list for a few months and caught my eye after seeing its trailer. It looked like an interesting and moving story of a black maid who spent her life serving others. To this: I wondered what hardships she must have faced and how did she get through it. So with interest and hopeful expectations. Did it deliver? The verdict is: Yes and no. Well, it depends...

The story takes place in South America in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement of the sixties and centres on black maid, Aibileen, in her fifties, as her dutiful and oppressed routine is disturbed when an aspiring author wants to enlist her to expose the hardships local maids face at the hands of their white employers. Aibileen is coy on stirring up trouble and doesn't want to rock the boat, although, raw feelings within her find the offer tempting.

The screenplay was enjoyable, often dramatic, good-humoured and touching. We warm to Aibileen and her story, being a sympathetic and tragic character: good natured, loving and emotionally troubled. The white families and employers exhibited an interesting dynamic at times and go some way to paint the picture of the oppressors, who are, ordinary people with troubles but of a privileged and luxurious kind in comparison. When introduced, the other black maids were heartfelt, compelling and a pleasure to journey with. The plot moves fairly quickly and dialogue does its job: evoking emotion, character, back story and the period.

Overall, it is a typical feel good story and one that you can enjoy, however, suffers from the Hollywood touch and disappoints somewhat in terms of realism and truth.

The story is about finding strength in bleak times and taking action against adversity. It's about the pursuit of equality and standing up in a minority. Weapon of choice: the written word. 

Did you enjoy the screenplay? Have any praise or disappointments to share? Technical observations? 

| Read The Help and other blog featured screenplays |

| Read other Script Reviews |

Monday, 5 March 2012

3 Hundred And 65: What Story Tweet Date Do You Have?

Love to be creative? Love to support a cause? Have a twitter account?

Then you can be one of the three hundred and sixty five authors contributing to this amazing project and campaign to raise money and awareness for The Teenage Cancer Trust.

The 3 hundred and 65 project is a public authored graphic novel where twitter users reserve a story tweet date and subsequently tweet a continuation of the story in 140 characters which artist Dave Kirkwood then turns into an illustration.

All story tweets and accompanying illustrations are published on the websitefacebook page and newly released app through iTunes for all to experience and enjoy.

The story project will run all year round, although, currently there are only a few months worth of unclaimed story tweet dates left. One of which could be yours. Hurry as they are going fast!

Even Stephen Fry knows this that's why he's picked Wednesday 23rd May as his story tweet date!

Lad - My Favourite Character 
The Story So Far 

You can read the story from the beginning online with The Story So Far... or get the free app for your iPhone/iPad. As well as the official story synopsis for the project.

Help do something important today and become part of this amazing project:
Twitter: @3hundredand65 #3hand65 @TeenageCancer 

The 3 hundred and 65 project blog is on the way for story contributors-to-be to discuss storylines and ideas and for other related news and content.

If you are on the fence and curious or would like to test run a few ideas and discuss the project, then head over to the unofficial 'fan' site and support group for readers and writers of the project.

Ain't nuthin' left to do but get involved!

PS: Saturday 5th May @yatesrobert

Images belong to Dominic Conlon & Dave Kirkwood.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Ira Glass on Creative Beginnings

"Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.... is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it and we get into it because we have good taste. But there's a gap. That for the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good. It's not that great. It's trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it's not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get passed that phase and a lot of people at that point they quit. 

And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste, and they could tell what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn't have the special thing that we wanted it to have and the thing I say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, going through it, right now, if you're just getting out of that phase you've got to know it's totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you're going to finish one story. Because it's only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And your work you're making will be as good as your ambitions. 

In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I've ever met. It takes a while. It's going to take you a while and it's normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that." 

~ From Ira Glass on Storytelling Part 3 ~

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 

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