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Reflections on Running a Screenplay Competition

I am proud to have facilitated the Screenwriting Community within IMIS for the last year.

This Community was set up to offer something powerful for Screenwriters, with a focus on skills and opportunities.

It has become clear to me over this time how much this initiative is needed, particularly as an alternative hub to current big-hitters such as the BFI and BAFTA. How does a Screenwriter with little or no connections – but with a really original well-written project – breakthrough? Our purpose is to tackle that question head on.

Screenwriters have to navigate a mass of “opportunities,” many of which have strong brand recognition, that offer hope – but little else. A profit-making cottage industry of middlemen have come to dominate the space and this is why I feel non-profits such as IMIS can really make their presence felt and start to facilitate exciting writers, scripts and projects.

In an industry and culture that has yet to fall out of love with reboots, remakes and franchises – “copyright exploitation” to give it its technical, somewhat sinister, term – we aim to identify, and provide platforms for, the truly original voices of the future, with a singular passion. We want to spark a new golden age of British Cinema, which is why @IMISWriters uses the hashtag #britishfilmrenaissance

In the last year, amongst others, the Screenwriting Community has hosted events led by Leah Middleton, agent at Marjacq, Rick Harvey, MA Course Director at Raindance, workshopping theme and others. We always aim to give Screenwriters practical tools to advance their writing and career, while eschewing hollow platitudes.

The Table Read Event was a continuation of that purpose and was meant to provide a platform for and feedback to a select number of promising scripts with an unerring focus on encouraging originality and driving excellence in the craft side of screenwriting.

With “craft” in mind, I also want to provide some general feedback to everyone on some of the major trends which cropped up from the 70 entries we received.

(And by the way, as a Screenwriter, I’m sure I have made all of these mistakes and many more, besides!)

What to Do and What Not to Do:

Format

This was undoubtedly the most noticeable issue.

A mandatory industry standard layout has evolved, the purpose of which is to help the reader focus on the story elements of each script consistently. It dictates, for example, that the font be 12-point Courier, with a whole set of very specific rules around spacing, indents and elements.

As there is an important reason for this format, my recommendation is simple – write in industry standard always. To help you in this, use software such as Final Draft or Celtx so you minimise the chance of any errors. Your individuality should be in the story, not the layout.

Rules

Not story rules, but screenplay rules. A series of ‘best practice’ conventions have sprung up around writing a screenplay, which, if not followed, can be equally distracting for the reader. A few examples:

Passive vs Active Voice

Screenplays should be written in “Active Voice,” where the subject is the person that performs an action, usually in present tense. This is the most immediate way of writing – important, because screenplays rely more on action and less on description than other mediums.

Passive Voice version: He is slapped by her.

A reader reads that sentence “he IS slappED BY HER” – this formulation JOLTs the reader out of the spell you are casting.

Active Voice version: She slaps him.

As a general rule, avoid the verb ‘to be’ and -ing words as much as you can.

Believe me, you can tell a professional-standard script from this alone, in the first few sentences.

Action Description

As a general rule, you only describe what the viewer can see and hear, because of the nature of the medium. Some writers wrote, “she feels” or “he remembers.” There is no way we can know what someone “feels” unless you describe the physical effect of that, or what he “remembers,” unless you include a flashback, or they talk about it, or it otherwise produces an observable physical effect.

Character Intro

First time is in CAPS. Again, you cannot describe their personality directly, you can only describe what we can see and hear. And what is seen and heard should mainly be that which indicates the kind of character they are.

Someone who fidgets may indicate a nervous person. This will also create a useful Active Question – in the audience’s head – why is this person fidgeting? Let’s find out…

“We”

This is a particular bugbear of Robert McKee’s and once you notice it, it, again, becomes a distraction for the reader. When you write “we see” or “we hear” in the action description, you put the reader in the story, you break the “fourth wall.” Find another way, don’t break the spell.

Titles

Maybe this is my personal taste, but I love clever titles, specifically ones which have a double meaning, one of which relates to some kind of theme. If a script is called “Penny” because it is about a protagonist called “Penny,” this usually does not bode well, unless “penny” also relates to some kind of story, let’s say about money or luck. But there are notable exceptions to this in the film world, such as “Carrie,”. Like I say, this could be my personal taste.

Story

Of course, there are all sorts of rules, conventions, principles and theories about how to write the story part of the screenplay, too. This is much more subjective, so all I have to say about this is in the scripts I read, where there was a sense of surprise – a great twist, or an intrinsically poetic approach, or dialogue pregnant with subtext it pushed a script to the top of the pile. This is where you can subvert audience expectation and/or cast a magical spell.

Summary

In order for the spell to stay, the format and conventions need to be adhered to dogmatically. This is so that it is in the story itself that you set your voice free and take us on a journey that will move us emotionally and transport us to another realm.

It was a pleasure to read these scripts and I hope that we run another event such as this one, soon. We want to make London a global centre of excellence for Screenwriting. #britishfilmrenaissance. Join us.

The Event

On February the 21st at Zero One, Soho we hosted a table read of the winning scripts, which enjoyed a very positive reaction from the audience and the participants. Bringing together quality writers and actors is only one stage in the process, but we hope to have facilitated the future production of these scripts into stunningly realised projects. The winners again:

  1. No Man’s Land by Tom Canning
  2. The Big One by Michael Lavers
  3. The Pact by Olu Alakija
  4. Psalm of the Sawist by Asia Nichols
  5. The Talk by Jonathan Hughes

Our sincere thanks also to the Actors who came down and brought these scripts to life and to Zero One for their support.

Advisory Council 2017 Nomination Reminder

IMIS will be holding an election for members to the Advisory Council this summer and we invite all eligible members to nominate other members to serve the membership. The rules of who can nominate and vote are listed in the link below.

Nominations are due by Monday, 22nd May 2017 at 17:00 BST.

The BKSTS Relaunches as the International Moving Image Society

London, UK, 7 November 2016

The British Kinematograph Sound and Television Society (BKSTS) is celebrating its 85th anniversary by rebranding and relaunching itself as the International Moving Image Society (IMIS).  The Society has seen the evolving nature of the industry and has decided this new brand is better aligned to address current changes in the industry as well as future developments.

The Society is not only looking towards encompassing traditional formats like feature films, television, short films, commercials, and music promos but also non-traditional formats such as virtual reality, interactive mediums, gaming, mobile video, web series and more.

In addition, the Society has laid out it’s aims to inspire, train, educate, and connect all members of the industry, whether at entry or professional level, around the world.  The Society plans on accomplishing this through its new website www.societyinmotion.com where it will develop original content for every phase of development from conception, through production, and all the way through exhibition and archiving.  Further, the Society plans to offer new seminars and events open to members and the public, training courses, opportunities for online and in-person networking, and expand its accreditation programme.  The Society aims on building a strong alliance with other societies, guilds and associations, both in the UK and around the world, in order to fulfil its mission.

The Society is best known for its series of monthly lectures covering all aspects of the industry ranging from technical to creative.  The Society has also had a rich history of providing wall charts that illustrate best-management practices for areas of the industry as well as technical resources.  The Society is a partner to Cinema Technology Magazine with members who regularly contribute to the publication.

 

About the BKSTS

The BKSTS is a non-profit member-based organisation that was formed in the late 1920s as the ‘London Branch’ of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (now known as SMPTE) until 1930 when it split to form its own organisation.  In 1931 the Society began by accrediting the London Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) in 1932.  It has grown and evolved over time to meet the changes of the industry such as the shift from employment to freelancing as well as film to digital.  It is in this respect that the Society has decided to evolve itself again into the International Moving Image Society.  The Society has members in over 20 countries and plans to expand its base to many more.

Events

Selling Your Feature Film: Using a Proof of Concept

Come join us as writer/director Dwayne Gumbs will present the importance of having a proof of concept in order to sell your feature film script to investors. He will screen ‘Holy Beef’, a proof of concept for his feature film currently in development.

‘Holy Beef’ was funded through Film London’s London Calling scheme and was in official selection at the BFI London Film Festival 2018 and the London Short Film Festival 2019. As such, the project has also been supported by Film London as part of their Microwave scheme for first time feature filmmakers.

Dwayne will:

  • Talk about when and why the proof of concept became vital to his feature project
  • Give an idea of how to create a feasible and engaging a ‘short version’ of a substantial feature idea
  • Share his experiences of the benefits the proof of concept has brought with it and what it means for the future of his project

Come along to this gem of an event, meet new people and get some insight into the ins and outs of the journey from proof of concept to feature production.

About Dwayne Gumbs:

Dwayne’s passion for writing found an outlet as a child through Grime. Having grown up in East London when the culture was emerging, his hobbies included MCing, DJing and music production – a connection he’s maintained to this day. In 2008 he founded Diverse Voices Entertainment, a unique entity for young people to express themselves and access opportunities in the arts which would otherwise not be available to them. He has written and directed many live shows and short films, all co-created with these young people.

Dwayne collaborated with Iain Simpson on the Film London funded grime comedy short ‘Holy Beef’, a proof of concept for a feature in development, ‘Running Out of Grime’, which was also developed through Film London’s Microwave scheme.

Dwayne is passionate about creating positive depictions of a young generation too often portrayed negatively on screen. Whilst the London film industry is definitely broadening the range of stories being told, he still feels there is an unaddressed gap in the ‘Urban Film’ market, which is not a fair representation of the vibrant and positive inner city London life he experienced growing up, nor the true nature of today’s youth.

BVE 2019

Come join us for free at this year’s BVE at the ExCeL Centre London, booth K67. Creative minds, tech professionals and business leaders can see the biggest brands, newest kit, cutting edge tech and visionary speakers. And collaborate to create beautifully told stories, seamless workflow solutions and future proofed strategies that transform our industry.

 

REGISTER HERE

 

About BVE:

BVE is the largest broadcast, production and media and tech exhibition in the UK attracting over 12,000 creative professionals, business leaders and tech professionals every year.

BVE 2019 is giving you access to:

  • 300+ brands exhibiting the latest technologies with exclusive offers at the show
  • 100+ free to attend and industry accredited seminars
  • 200+ industry experts providing you with best practice industry insight
  • Unlimited access across all 3 days

We are excited to exhibit alongside our colleagues at:

  • Avid
  • Soho Broadcast
  • DELL
  • Mandy
  • …and many more
We look forward to seeing you there!

Writing Successful TV Bibles: From Creation to Pitch

Come join us as writer/director Danny Stack will share valuable tips and insights into writing TV bibles, and how they’re an essential document across development and production. Everything from two-page summaries to TV bibles that take a weekend to read – come find out how it’s done.

Danny will:

  • Discuss why a TV Bible is ESSENTIAL to pitching a show
  • Outline what items are in a TV bible and what not to include
  • Talk about the secrets to writing a good TV bible and why no one set rule or structure applies to all
  • Look at the difference between a good TV bible pitch document versus a more production-focused one
  • Draw on his vast experiences making films in the family genre

Come along to this gem of an event, meet new people and get some insight into the ins and outs of creating award-winning projects.

About Danny Stack:

Danny started out in Channel 4’s comedy department when shows like Spaced, Ali G and Black Books were being made. Since then he’s worked as a screenwriter and script reader for companies like Miramax, Working Title, Pathe, UK Film Council and Irish Film Board, among others. He helped set-up the Red Planet Prize with Tony Jordan, designed to seek out new TV writing talent. With Tim Clague, he co-hosted the highly popular podcast The UK Scriptwriters Podcast, which was started in 2010. Danny now specialises in the kids/family genre, and has made two live-action family films with Tim: Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg (which had its world premiere at the London Film Festival in 2015) and Future TX (starring Griff Rhys Jones).

The Photography/Video Show 2019

…AND ACTION! Come along to this year’s Photography/Video Show and learn about the latest development in the world of videography, cinematography and photography.

The Video Show will take place for the first time at the NEC, Birmingham in 2019. It will be co-located with The Photography Show.

You can also take advantage of our discount code IMISTVS19This will give you 25% off sign day. standard and advance tickets for all masterclasses!

REGISTER HERE

Whether you’re a budding filmmaker, a professional videographer, a vlogger or an online content creator, The Video Show has everything you need to expand your moving image production horizons. Get your hands on the latest kit, try out new techniques and learn about different aspects of videography from some of the best names in the industry.

Topic will include:

  • 360 film
  • HDR
  • Content Creation
  • Documentary
  • Short Film
  • Storytelling
  • Commercial
  • …and many more

The Video Show is organised by Future and run by a passionate events team, supported by market-leading magazines including the UK’s #1 consumer technology website, TechRadar.com, the go to resource for artists and designers; creativebloq.com and the award-winning Digital Camera and digitalcameraworld.com.

Out Loud – The IMIS Screenplay Table Read

We are presenting a great opportunity in which your written material can come to life for the first time! Come join us at our exciting new event which features a table read of short screenplays and extracts, and give a voice to your characters. Submit your work on our website and take a shot at being picked for reading or simply join us on the evening and support your colleagues. Submissions and attendance to this event are free!

Submissions Are Now Closed!

Selected works will:
  • be read out loud to an audience by a professional cast or readers
  • receive constructive feedback on the night
  • come to life in a supportive environment

Why do a Table Read?

  • Identify flaws for yourself in the read-through
  • Get and give valuable constructive feedback
  • Sharpen your screencraft skills
  • Network

And most important of all: The joy of hearing your words come to life!

Tickets Available:

  1. This is a FREE event to anyone who would like to attend.

BSC Expo 2019

BSC Expo is coming to Battersea Evolution. Come along with your friends and join us at our boot for a chat or a quick ‘hello’ and pick up your free swag. Entry is free for all. Register now.

We are excited to exhibit again this year across two full days of fellow exhibitors showcasing their latest equipment. As well as that you will be able to immerse yourself in a large number of panel discussions and presentations.

This will also give you the perfect opportunity to come see us at our stand, pick up your free swag and get a great deal of inspiration from across the industry.

About BSC Expo:
The BSC Expo  is the UK’s premier dedicated film and TV production show and is now a recognised fixture in the industry calendar. The 2019 is set to be the biggest ever, with national and international manufacturers and suppliers. This is a great opportunity to test all of the latest equipment and technologies in a relaxed industry environment.

We are excited to exhibit alongside our colleagues at:

  • ARRI
  • NBC Universal
  • Zeiss
  • RED
  • Sony
  • …and many more
We look forward to seeing you there!

Post-Holiday After Party: Xmas Might Be Gone, But The Party Is Still On

Back from the festive month and still in party-mode? Well, look no further and join us at our annual start-of-the-year party at the renowned Phoenix Artist Club in Soho.

What you will get out of this gathering:

  • Make new connections
  • Mix&Mingle with old and new faces
  • Have a drink (or two) on the house

FREE for IMIS Members. Tickets for non-members: £6 (incl. VAT)

Come along for NETWORKING EVENT, DRINKS and a GREAT TIME!

ABOUT THE PHOENIX ARTIST CLUB:

The award-winning Phoenix Artist Club is one of London’s last remaining independently owned and operated venues, based in the heart of the west end and located in the original rehearsal rooms of the Phoenix Theatre.

Telling Powerful Stories with ‘American History X’ Director Tony Kaye

Six-time Grammy nominee director/cinematographer Tony Kaye, American History X (nominated for an Academy Award) will be joining us for an evening discussing telling powerful stories.  Tony is also known for his music videos for Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Johnny Cash. For his music video for Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down, Kaye won the Grammy Award. Kaye will talk about his journey on the film industry across creative sectors.

‘Tony Kaye is also the most awarded director and cinematographer of television commercials in British Advertising History.’

Tony will:

  • Talk about his experiences as a director across several creative industries
  • Give insight into working with a high-end cast in passion feature film productions
  • Discuss high-class music video production working with celebrity musicians

Come along to this gem of an event, meet new people and get some insight into the ins and outs of directing award-winning projects.

About Tony Kaye:

He has made several well-known music videos, including the video for “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum, which won a Grammy Award, “Dani California” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “What God Wants” by Roger Waters, and “Help Me” and “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash. Kaye is a six-time Grammy nominated music video director.

His feature film debut was American History X (1998), a drama about racism starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong. Kaye disowned the final cut of the film and unsuccessfully attempted to have his name removed from the credits. The film was critically lauded and Norton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film.

Kaye’s second feature, a documentary called Lake of Fire, about the abortion debate in the United States, opened in Toronto in September 2006. The movie was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature as well as for Best Documentary Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and the Satellite Awards. Lake of Fire took Kaye 18 years to make.

Kaye’s third feature film, a crime drama titled Black Water Transit starring Laurence Fishburne, was shot in New Orleans during the summer of 2007. A rough cut was screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival but the film was never released to cinemas.

Kaye’s fourth feature film, Detachment (2011), starring Adrien Brody as well as featuring Kaye’s daughter Betty, is a drama about the decline of the education system in American high schools. It premiered in April 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival. In 2011, Detachment screened in competition at the 37th Deauville American Film Festival in France. It won both the Revelations Prize and the International Critics’ Award. Detachment was also announced as the Closing Night Film at the Woodstock Film Festival, where Kaye was the recipient of the Honorary Maverick Award.

Horses, Holsters and Heroes: Jared Moshé on Writing & Directing Modern Westerns

JOIN US FOR THIS FREE LIVESTREAM!

HOW TO REGISTER:

  1. CLICK HERE TO GO TO OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND CLICK THE ‘GET REMINDER’

    BUTTON.

Join us for a livestream with writer/director Jared Moshé who will give insight into the world of making modern Western.

On this livestream we will be discussing:

  • The ins and outs of creating a strong Western script
  • Directing a modern Western whilst taking advantage of the genre’s vast legacy
  • How to make the genre’s distinct elements work for modern audiences

Watch the Trailer For The Ballad of Lefty Brown Here:

Starring Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda and Kathy Baker, a merciless cowboy sets out on a dangerous journey across the frontier, determined to do whatever it takes to avenge his longtime partner’s brutal murder.

Watch the Trailer For Dead Man’s Burden Here:

Tension and distrust rise to the surface when a man (Barlow Jacobs) who was presumed killed in the Civil War returns to New Mexico and opposes his sister’s (Clare Bowen) plan to sell the family homestead to a mining company.

About Jared Moshé:

Moshé marked his transition from accomplished producer to the director’s chair with his award-winning debut feature film Dead Man’s Burden, which Paste Magazine listed as 100 best Westerns of all time. His most recent feature, the Western The Ballad of Lefty Brownstars Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan, and Peter Fonda. He is currently developing the sci-fi feature Aporia with JJ Abrams and Paramount Pictures.

Finding a Theme: A Workshop on Bringing Your Narrative Together

Join us as screenwriter and story design consultant, Rick Harvey walks you through the steps of writing a theme whilst exploring its importance and often-overlooked powers in this interactive workshop.

He will address the ins and outs of what themes are about and where they belong in the writing process. In particular, he will look at:

  • Theme as a unifying element of a narrative
  • Theme as a means of establishing an emotional engagement with a reader /
    audience
  • Theme as a means of establishing/connecting to a writer’s voice

Since this is a workshop, we advise you to bring along your own project to get the most out of this session.

Come along to this gem of an event, meet new people and get some insight into the ins and outs of successful theme writing.

About Rick Harvey:

Rick is a Cambridge-based screenwriter, story design consultant, lecturer and mentor.

Since attaining an MA Screenwriting & Research qualification from the London College of Communication in 2001, he has storylined for ‘Family Affairs’ (Talkback Thames/Channel 5), developed projects for Hewland International and Frenzy Films, written a slate of short films and spec features, mentored on First Light, Media Box and BFI projects and written and developed feature screenplays for EON Productions.

He was trained by the UK Film Council to devise, develop and deliver industry-standard courses on screenwriting and cross-platform story design, and he lectures regularly on various aspects of the writing process.

Rick is currently developing, ‘Beautiful Bodies’, an eight-part serial for TV, writing a Folk Horror feature narrative, Inheritance, and overseeing the MA in Filmmaking at Raindance.

Tickets Available:

  1. General Admission: This ticket is open to any non-member of IMIS.
  2. IMIS Member Ticket: Once logged in to the website, this allows the user the ability to attend the event for free. Limit one per person. No need to register for livestream.
  3. Livestream Ticket: This ticket allows you to watch the recording live and indefinitely afterwards. A link will be sent to you before the event.