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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, 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.

Striking a Balance Between Visual and Narrative Scripts

Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling refers to the images screenwriters use to convey a tone, emotion and style of a film. They show – rather than tell – the reader what’s happening in that scene and describe the character’s actions in such a way we know exactly what’s going through their minds. So, although it’s the cinematographer’s job to visually support an idea in practice, the basis comes from the screenwriters themselves.

Visual moments are the hallmarks of the film industry – they depend on a writer’s ability to write visual moments that are aesthetically appealing. As a scriptwriter, you should define what it is you want the director and actor to express – visually. Give them the general idea and a good director and cinematographer will know how to follow your train of thought, or even better, provide a new direction that feeds off from your original one.

Narrative Writing

Essentially, all screenwriters set the scene (pun intended) in their scripts. The point of any film is to provide a visual medium, and while this sounds like common sense, it’s easy for scriptwriters to muddy the waters between visual and narrative storytelling.

Of course, you’re going to need narrative writing, as this is what you’ll use to create the action, but be aware that an overuse of it can lead to an awkward amount of description. This doesn’t make sense when we think that we can’t see into the character’s head, the way we can in books. And too much description denies the pace of a film, it needs constant action to keep it moving forwards. This means that longer stretches of narrative belong more in the world of literary writing, rather than film.

Take a look at these five rules on how to successfully balance visual and narrative scriptwriting in your script:

Five golden rules to achieve that healthy balance

1.Notice the world around you

The space you use as a writer or the location you’ve imagined for your scene says a lot about the style you’re trying to convey. For example, a desert scene might portray loneliness, or a specific coloured set design might convey a character’s personality. Subconsciously, when we read this in a script or watch it on a screen, we usually understand this, be it on a conscious level or not. It works. That’s why scriptwriters like Wes Anderson or the Cohen brothers are so powerful when conveying tones. They take advantage of specific spaces.

Locations also work to convey polar opposites. Take Toy Story for example, in it we have Andy’s bedroom, the walls are painted in baby blues with clouds stencilled over them. It’s safe and conveys a sense of Andy’s personality. He’s a dreamer. Sid’s bedroom on the other hand, is far more sinister. The lighting is dim and morbid, with angry black posters and a junkyard of broken toys scattered across the floor. It’s violent, scary.

‘Shame’

2. Externalize internal tumult in your characters

Novels – or narrative writing – can take us into the mind of our characters, but the most important thing to remember is that scripts can’t do that. We can’t see into their heads, so scriptwriters need to work to condense thoughts and inner struggles in a few seconds of impactful visuals. This is organic and natural, because of course in real life we don’t go about our day communicating our inner most thoughts to those around us: instead we portray gestures and facial expressions that communicate – accidentally or not– these for us.

Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan’s Shame uses shallow depth of field – the main character looks like he’s ashamed, and the backdrop of buildings and life going on behind him only serves to highlight his tumult.

3. Be visual without a single camera movement.

View the screenwriter as a visual guide, if you will, and a professional one doesn’t necessarily let the director fill in the blanks from nothing because a lack of information was provided. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should put ZOOM or LOW ANGLE into every other scene. This is the director’s job and looks amateurish. Screenwriters provide just the stage directions for other professionals like set designers, directors, actors, dressers…

4. Use visually stimulating vocab and verbs

This is such an effective technique. If you use active, demanding verbs like peer, toss, snorts and so on, this creates an instant visual that people can follow, and says more in just one word than noun+verb+adjective. It also helps to put your characters into motion and have them walk and move as they speak, as this is visually stimulating for the viewer.

‘Her’

5. Be concise but specific in the pictures you paint.

Pinpoint the most important features of a scene in your mind, what sticks out? Is it a club in the corner? The vast stretch of stormy sky? A car in the background? Put these in your writing. Scripts are celebrated for being succinct and to the point, so just choose the most important objects or actions in your scene – you won’t be able to say it all, so the ability to summarise is a must for any scriptwriter.

In one of Her’s scenes, a film by Spike Jonze, the main focus is quite obviously the screen portraying an owl about to attack – it’s set just behind Theodore, and looks as if he’s about to be captured – it’s a wonderful visual moment.

 

So there you have it, five golden rules to achieve a healthy balance of visual and narrative writing. Just remember: proper illustration on the page leads to proper illustration on the screen.

Comedy Do’s and Don’ts

Scriptwriting is a completely different ball game when it comes to comedy, one that is often mistaken as easy, particularly if the gags are simple. But writing funny is different from speaking funny. Just because you’re good at cracking jokes or sprouting wisecrack comments, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have that same knack when it comes to transferring these onto paper. At least, not without practice.

The comedy genre is one of the hardest to crack, without even taking into account the fact that within the school itself, lie a whole network of subcategories. There’s black comedy, cringe comedy (an example which springs to mind is Borat), situational comedy, mockumentaries, spoofs, rom-coms, sketches… well, you get the point. Listed below, you’ll find a few rules, a list of do’s and don’ts if you will, to consider if you’re focusing your script in one of these areas.

Black Comedy

Defined as a sub-genre of comedy and satire, black comedy gravitates towards the taboo head on, covering subjects that are considered too dark for normal conversation in a fearless, humorous way. Needless to say, it’s not for everyone, as it can often make light of serious topics which, in turn, can be a lightning rod for criticism. Get it right, however, and you’ve got some high-quality entertainment.

Don’t be dark for the sake of it. Don’t try to shock your audience with your edgy appeal just to gauge a reaction. A great storyline is above all, the most important aspect of any script, comedy or not. The comedic appeal or risqué aspects can always be inserted later, but don’t revolve your entire script around dark jokes.

Do collaborate. It takes a long time to get the punchline of any joke right, and it helps to have someone else scratching their head besides you to bounce good ideas off one another. Classic examples of black comedy include the Coen brothers’ Fargo or Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Then you’ve got modern versions, like Edgar Wright’s Hotfuzz. Speaking of collaborations, Hotfuzz was a product of combined genius between Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, who wrote the script together.

You can really tell that their combined senses of humour, the insertion of red herrings, the Agatha Christie mystery style and dark comedy really come into full excellence as a result of their collaboration.

Romantic Comedy

One of the most popular comedy genres ever, romantic films focus on the development of a relationship between two main characters in a light and humorous way, with plenty of humorous situations thrown in to disrupt the hero’s ultimate goal of finding love. There are a lot of rules to take into account when writing rom-coms, as these comedies are very structured.

Do your research beforehand. Look at plenty of rom-com aspects like the meet-cute, the embarrassing gesture or other narrative patterns that define the romantic comedy genre, as inserting these naturally will increase the quality of your film.

Do repeat yourself. Comedy elements are usually repeated three times to get the most laughs – it’s the rule of three- You set up an expectation, you reinforce it, then you break it down to get the most out of a punchline.

Don’t lose your audience (execs, producers, agents etc) by taking too long to start incorporating jokes into your script. It generally takes only one page – that’s one minute, folks – of screen time, so by the time they reach the end of the page they need to know whether or not they’re going to turn to page two.

Do consider misdirection as a feature in your storyline. Subterfuge and deceit might not get you far in real life, but they’re the backbone of rom coms. Deception, usually caused by the characters themselves, plays a big part in these types of films. The hero usually hides his or her secret from the other main character, either to protect themselves and this leads the climax. In the Silver Linings Playbook, Pat deceives Tiffany into thinking that by the very end, he still wants to get back with his ex-wife, when in reality he’s fallen for her too. Vice versa, she deceives him by forging a letter from his ex-wife.

Sitcoms

Sitcoms, otherwise known as situational comedy, aren’t written as films, but for TV. They are the defining and most enduring forms of entertainment, and now, what with the rise in popularity of Netflix, they’re all the rage with everyone. And also extremely hard to get right, as sitcoms are built on a number of unbreakable rules.

Do be familiar. Familiarity is your friend.  The running gag definitely belongs to the sitcom comedy. Take Barney’s actual job position never being defined in How I met your Mother, or Rachel and Ross’s “we were on a break” gag in Friends, to Leslie Knope’s inexplicable lifelong hatred of libraries in Parks & Recreation, running gags are hilarious ways to make your script stand out.

Don’t think comedy scripts are the same as stand-up comedy. Your script won’t get very far if it’s a long line up of running gags and joke after joke without any plot line. Every successful comedy has at its core a deep and meaningful story, a high concept, one that is interesting and intricately thought out. Take Gavin and Stacey, or Red Dwarf even, they’re both hilarious and the jokes are what seem to make the shows stand out, but really, both the plots are extremely detailed. One is profound and family-focused, the other is a high-concept sci-fi, a unique idea.

Don’t be scared. Writing sitcoms is no time to be shy.  Programmes nowadays are edgy, a lot of risqué topics are covered: narcissism, murder, alcoholism, sex. The 21st century is definitely not a time to hold back.

 

Finding Voice through Words

Voice is an odd concept. It’s elusive, slippery, hard to hold between two firm hands and define. It’s even harder to describe. Yet for scriptwriters, it’s everywhere. It’s tossed about in blog posts, praised (or condemned) in film reviews and loosely referred to in interviews. Voice is clearly a determining factor in every writer’s style, something that can make or break you, but… what is it?

Going back to basics, voice doesn’t refer to our actual spoken voices. It’s more of a metaphor to represent our individual style and tone as a writer. It’s something distinctive that no amount of mimicking or studying can truly replicate. Voice is your own distinctive personality that shows up through your writing – it could be inherent, it’s definitely environmental and purely exclusive. Put it this way, if you gave three writers the same plot device, the same character and antagonist and told them to write out the same idea, three very different stories would still emerge. Be it vocab choice, technical prowess, sentence structure or dialogue, those three voices would differ to the point of opposition.

This is because everyone’s voice is different.  The following are steps to develop your voice.

1. Be Honest and Experiment

Honesty is an important factor. I don’t mean that everything you write should be honest to the point of memoir nonfiction, but you should write from experience. If you tap into your own emotions for fictional situations, your writing will be powerful- it usually is when a writer’s experience filters through, it’s noticeable in the quality. Even if it’s just a sentiment that you empathise with your protagonist because you’ve experienced it, the reader will sense the power behind your words and feel the punch it packs. Your imagination will fill in the rest of the gaps for you.

2. Know Thyself

This goes hand in hand with the whole honesty thing. If you want a distinctive voice, you need to know what you care about. You must take note of how you notice the world, your own perspective, your own beliefs about things you might not even have thought about noticing before. What is your take on religion? Or death? How do you think people experience betrayal? How would you experience betrayal? Thinking about your own reactions to situations that don’t arise in everyday life will help you develop your voice.

Your voice will be most distinctive when you’re writing about something that fires you up. Take Gillian Flynn, for example, writer of Gone Girl and its film adaptation. Her infamous cool girl description, which she admitted to writing as part of an exercise to clear her thoughts, was something that came from within and poured out of her in a moment of deep reflection. She developed her voice by writing what she truly felt, what she knew.

The actual passage goes a little something like this:

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool  Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding.

Flynn’s voice focusses on the darker aspects of humanity through a very casual, conversational style which is at once readable and thrilling.

3. Be Inspired by writers

It’s okay to mimic your favourite writers’ style because you love their voice. Chances are, you like them so much because you share certain aspects of voice. This is an excellent way to outgrow a certain style and create your own distinctive voice, by moving beyond what you loved about them.

Write out a passage of someone you love, try to understand the dynamics of that sentence. Is it the structure, the length, the vocab choice? All those things? Analyse and maybe write something that is similar in tone and voice. Frank Darabont, for example, loved horror when he was younger – inspired of course, by Stephen King, and this shared passion helped him develop his own voice in drama.

His love of the author’s work was a defining turnstile when it came to voice, as he went on to adapt Stephen King’s short story into the Shawshank Redemption. He even broke the golden rule of show, don’t tell by using Red to narrate. This technique was a driving force of the story, and a real defining mark of Darabont’s writing voice.

RED (V.O.)

               I must admit I didn’t think much of

               Andy first time I laid eyes on him.

               He might’a been important on the

               outside, but in here he was just a

               little turd in prison grays. Looked

               like a stiff breeze could blow him

                over. That was my first impression

               of the man.

                               SKEET

               What say, Red?

 

                               RED

               Little fella on the end. Definitely.

               I stake half a pack. Any takers?

                               SNOOZE

               Rich bet.

 

Darabont’s voice, portrayed through the characters is immensely rich and distinctive– it takes talent to write like this, and a unique voice to portray something so realistically.

4. Voice through Collaboration

Collaborating is not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially if you’re shy or self-conscious about your work. But it is true that collaboration is a fast-track ticket to developing your own voice, in more ways than one. First, you use your real voice to agree, disagree, voice your thoughts so that all in all, you become a more critically aware writer. You end up knowing what you like, what works for you and what doesn’t.

Even if you’re two writers with two very different voices and you end up clashing, the process will still have been positive. At least now you have a more defined awareness of your voice, whereas before you might not have been able to pinpoint it. Besides, if you know your writing partner well, and there is a certain degree of trust between the two of you, then harsh criticism and constructive feedback can be some of the most effective solutions to developing voice.

Wes Anderson, for example, developed his unique voice and style through his collaboration partners. He wrote Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums alongside actor Owen Wilson, with whom his decades-spanning friendship produced a great number of projects. After this, Anderson’s voice was further punctuated in Darjeeling Limited, blew fans away with Moonrise Kingdom, both of which he wrote alongside Roman Coppola. His latest and perhaps most popular script, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was written alongside close friend Hugo Guinness, so it’s easy to assume Anderson’s voice is forever flourishing and developing throughout this collaborative process.

 

The nine other guests of the hotel each observed from a respectful distance: a frail student; a fat businessman; a burly hiker with a St. Bernard; a schoolteacher with her hair in a bun; a doctor; a lawyer; an actor; and so on.

AUTHOR (V.O.)

What few guests we were had quickly come to recognize one another by sight as the only living souls residing in the vast establishment — although I do not believe any acquaintance   among our number had proceeded beyond the polite nods we exchanged as we passed in the Palm Court and the Arabian Baths and onboard the Colonnade Funicular. We were a very reserved group, it seemed — and, without exception, solitary.

 

As you can see, Anderson’s voice is delightfully debonair. It’s quirky and idealistic. Classic and polished. Some say his voice speaks five degrees beneath reality, but isn’t that what makes him so appealing?

A unique writing voice is something that makes your script stand out – it’s as natural as your own personality, rare as your own individual imprint. Voice takes time and effort to develop, but it’s something (the main thing, really) that your readers, viewers and future fans will learn to recognise. To familiarise themselves with. And to crave.

 

Five Writing Habits to Finish your Screenplay

As the end of December rolls around, most writers vow to write more in the year ahead, even when juggling busy schedules. They’ll work less, go out less and make more time for script-writing. It’s a resolution that’s made in firm belief (and perhaps champagne-induced) it’s unbreakable. But if you’re already feeling stuck, overwhelmed and bogged down with post-Christmas gloom, there’s a way to beat the January blues and keep your New Year’s resolution to boot.

As well all know, writing is a solitary act and unless there’s a specific deadline strapped to the brief, it’s very much a “I’ll get to it when I get to it” scenario. It’s time to readjust that mindset, and there’s no better month than January (grey and cold outside, anyone?) to get to it.  There are a series of writing habits you can incorporate into your weekly schedules, habits that are easily achievable and useful even to those who are juggling full-time jobs and don’t have time to spare.

Call it a wake-up call or a writer’s Godsend, here are several tips and tricks award-winning script-writers recommend:

1. Read a Screenplay a Week

Any writer, be it a novelist, fiction-writer, non-fiction writer, blogger, scriptwriter or even content writer, knows that in order to write you must read. You simply cannot achieve one without doing a lot of the other. You need to read to write. It’s as simple as that. There’s a reason that Scott Myers (writer of Trojan War and Alaska) recommends this on his own blog, Go Into the Story. Reading scripts is useful for all sorts of reasons: you get to see how pacing is timed, how many pages are needed per scene, how dialogue works, how characters unfold, how tension is built through dialogue or action. Format is displayed correctly—and there’s no simpler way to learn format than by seeing it—plus, you’ll really get a feel for your favourite films on paper (well, in this case on PDF). By reading one screenplay a week and critically analysing it for all the above factors, you’ll notice a vast improvement in your own writing. Good writing really does rub off.

You can find a whole bunch of links to scripts here:

https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/script-download-links-9313356d361c

2. Watch a film a week

This doesn’t mean watching a film at home a week. This you should do as much as possible anyway (yes, watching films really IS a justifiable means of research). What I mean by this is actually going to the cinema once a week and watching a film in the same genre you’re writing your script it. It’s an opportunity to put out your antennae to your audience and gauge their reaction to the dialogue, the plotting and the action scenes. Does the audience laugh at all the right beats? Do they yawn through the slower parts? This all helps you understand what it is people respond to in a film and whether or not it’s working for them. After all, films are all about the entertainment, so it’s good practice knowing if your own target audience is entertained or not—what makes them tick.

Then at home carry out an actual analysis of the film you just saw. Better yet, do a scene by scene breakdown and figure out how the script’s structure works. This is sure to shed some light on your own script, and may even give you ideas how to lay out your story according to good story building.

Going to the cinema once a week might not be within your budgetary means, but at least try and catch two films a month—chalk it up to research funds, even if you don’t need a penny to write a script, it does help if you have an assigned budget for research, material, courses and even events. Treat your project as a business, and your business will eventually become lucrative.

3. Write 15 pages of Story Prepping/World-Building a week

One of the most enjoyable processes in screenwriting, world-building is something that should never be left at the wayside.  Try writing fifteen pages of world-building a week. Just pick an afternoon/evening after work on a day during the week and you’ll see it’s easy enough. For better results, choose ONE subject to focus on every week. This could look something like this:

Week 1: Your Protagonist: Motivations, Background, Friends, Family, Physical Appearance.

Week 2: Secondary Characters. Relation to your protagonist. Backgrounds. Roles in script. Physical Appearances.

Week 3: Your Antagonist’s role.

Week 4: Plot A. Your main story line. What happens?

Week 5: Plot B. What else is happening?

Week 6: World Building. Where is your story set? If contemporary or historical setting, what research do you need to carry out for realistic portrayals? If fantasy, what are the rules of your made-up society?

4. Write a Scene a Week

Writing a scene a week is again, perfectly achievable. If you think that one scene roughly amounts to five pages of writing on Celtx, this is about an hour or two of writing, depending on how much research you need to incorporate into the actual writing process. But if you’ve done your world-building homework a day or so before you begin your scene, you can coordinate the themes so that the scene you’re working on will incorporate your world-building research.

John August for example, writer of Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie’s Angels to name a few, aims to write five pages a day and by barricading himself away, can come up with forty decent pages from one session. That’s serious dedication to his art. You can read about his habits here:

https://johnaugust.com/2011/my-daily-writing-routine

5. Home Time is Work Time

Finally, there is no successful journey without some degree of personal sacrifice. In order to achieve the above rules, you’re going to have to set aside a few evenings a week and at least one day out of your weekend, if not both.

But because you love writing, none of this will feel like work and it will be worth it in the end. Steven Pressfield, writer of Above the Law and Separate Lives, writes six days a week and is at his most productive on the weekend. You can read the interview on writing routines here: https://www.writingroutines.com/steven-pressfield/

Careful scheduling is the only way to achieve maximum results. We probably have all fantasized of the bohemian scriptwriter who, after knocking back a few shots of absinthe, sits down and completes an award-winning, revolutionary screenplay in a night. But usually, it’s down to a scriptwriter’s sheer force of will and strict personal culture.

It also helps to turn off the internet and silence your phone whilst you do all this. Living in the age of instant-messaging and online distractions is (unfortunately) not script-writer friendly.

 

While there’s no secret formula of success for screenwriting, there are ways to tighten your schedule and become more productive over time, increasing the odds of finishing a high-quality screenplay and breaking free from your full-time restrictions. As John August himself says, for the most part writing is just a slog, one you’ve got to traipse through on a daily basis. But oh, so worth it in the end.

Plus, look at it this way: if you write five pages of solid screenplay a week (which isn’t that much considering) and a feature is usually 120 pages long, then in approximately five months you’ll have your first draft. That’s the hardest part, the rest is editing.

Understanding Antagonists, Beyond the Archetypes

A good villain is one who stands in the way of the hero’s goal, but an exceptional antagonist is someone who can exploit the protagonist’s greatest weakness. Although an antagonist is meant to serve the purpose of the protagonist’s journey, forever throwing a wrench into your protagonist’s honourable objectives, this doesn’t mean you should just create a one-sided pawn with a limited character profile to serve his/her purpose. You need to breathe life into the antagonist’s character, making him as realistic and as three-dimensional as your protagonists. Evil for the sake of evil has been overplayed and overdone in films, so complexity is key in the creation of a chilling villain.

If done right, an antagonist’s reasons for doing what he’s doing (usually in direct conflict with the protagonist) can be one of the most emotionally compelling parts of a story. We don’t have to like what they’re doing, but we do have to understand their motives, on an empathetic level at least.

The following are the most common types of antagonists in film, and though we’ve categorized them into a list, be warned that these are still just a blueprint, and it’s up to you to develop them further to make them really stand out.

The Villain

Villains are all your human antagonists, the ones who go out of their way trying to foil your character’s plans, and if you’ve written a three-dimensional antagonist, it will be because their own plans are also crucial to the plot. In other words, they’re not corrupting the protagonist just for the sake of it (Unless that’s your intention, of course).

Within this department there are a whole lot of different types of villains.

Anti-Villain

First, you’ve got the anti-villain, where antagonists have some redeeming or likeable qualities, even if their actions are questionable or criminal. Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction fall into this category, or Magneto from X-Men.

Authority Figure

After this you’ve got the Authority Figure who the characters ridicule or spend the majority of their time trying to avoid, like Richard Vernon in the Breakfast Club, or Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. These characters are often persistent to a fault, and are portrayed as stereotypes representing the law.

The Bully

Bullies are usually portrayed in a pretty straightforward manner, in direct contrast to the heroic/good nature of the protagonist, but often bullies are the way they are due to the way they’re treated, and often instigate some feelings of empathy in the audience. These include Johnny Lawrence from Karate Kid, or Fletcher from Whiplash.

The Corrupted

These used to be authority figures who turned to the dark side, often betraying their comrades in the process, be it for power, money, glory or revenge. Notable examples include Colin Sullivan from the Departed, or Steve Frazelli in the Italian Job. After this you’ve got the deranged villain, like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, or Annie Wilkes in Misery. The Mastermind is usually a genius antagonist who devises an intricate plan, complex and diabolical, to achieve what he wants. A good example of this is Goldfinger from James Bond.

Not all villains, of course, are people. Some of the best films have villains that are so intriguing because of exactly that. They’re not human.

Mother Nature

Films that feature mother nature as their villains are pretty terrifying, because beating the odds of destruction at her hands is pretty difficult. Not only is she unbeatable, but who can stop a twister, or a hurricane or a tsunami (or an iceberg)? You can run, but you can’t hide. Tsunamis, hurricanes, storms, viruses, these usually feature in disaster flicks, and the best your protagonist can hope to do in the face of such villains, is wait it out. Some examples include The Perfect Storm, the Day after Tomorrow, or the Impossible.

The Beast/Creature

This one pretty much speaks for itself, but imagine any film that revolves around the fear of a beast that is out to eat them. They might stumble upon it in unknown territory, like the Amazon or out to sea, or it might be a mixture of beast meets human civilization. Such examples in film include the shark from Jaws, the rabid dog from Cujo, and of course the deadly serpents from Snakes on a Plane.

The Supernatural/Monster

These include antagonists who aren’t humane, or perhaps even redeemable because of their very nature. These are the villains from nightmares and horror tales bent on death or blood, and include vampires, werewolves, evil wizards, angry spirits, ghosts, warlocks, trolls, and basically any other species that wants to kill you–usually in creative and imaginative ways. Antagonists like these that spring to mind include the demon in Paranormal Activity, Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, the Poltergeist, or Count Dracula from Dracula.

Of course, what makes these characters all the more interesting is the fact that they’re not completely consumed by their evil objectives, nor are they blind to their own faults. After all, it’s not Dracula’s fault he needs blood to survive, nor was Jason Voorhees at fault for the way he was raised. What they can change, however, are their murderous tendencies. But that’s what makes an antagonist so complicated. Perhaps they can’t, or won’t. Perhaps that’s all they know.

The Extraterrestrial

There’s nothing like the unknown to put the fear of God into you. And what is more unknown than aliens? Often, the aliens featured in films are the antagonists, because their main intention is world domination, or abductions where the victim will be subjected to weird and painful experiments, at the cost of his life. They’re portrayed as evil, because they are unknown and so foreign to everything humanity knows.

Brilliant examples of aliens as antagonists invading Earth include: The Fourth Kind or War of the Worlds, in which their intentions are always malignant. Other times, aliens are antagonists because humans have invaded their territory, such as Alien or Pitch Black.

The Machine

Best represented in the Sci-fi genre, machine villains are so terrifying because they’re the most ruthless of antagonists. They literally express no emotions, and feel no empathy, because it’s not been built into them. It’s not their fault, per say, but they follow what they’re programmed to do, regardless of anything else. They’re the most obedient of soldiers ever made.

They have no concept of fear, or pain, and so they never stop. There’s not much room for complexity, unless you create a wonderful being like Sonny in I, Robot, capable of feeling human emotions, or David from Artificial Intelligence, the first robot boy programmed to love. But remember these are protagonists, so they’re meant to have a redeeming feature. But you could create a truly memorable antagonist by giving your machine the same sort of redeemable qualities.

Examples of ruthless machines include Ultron from Avengers, or Roy Batty from Blade Runner, and of course, the Terminator.

 

So there you have it, the most popular–and standout–types of villains and archetypes within the field of antagonism.

The secret to these characters (or at least most of them) is that they’re not lacklustre or cliched, they’re not predictable, they won’t roll over to make way for your protagonist without a fight (and that fight’s got to make your protagonist sweat), they’re equal to your protagonist in terms of intelligence, wit, strength–sometimes they’re even more powerful and clever, or they’re the ones that raise the stakes.

The reason behind their desire to cast down your protagonist has to be credible. No matter the type of villain you choose for your script, the key thing to remember is that they’re flawed, wonderfully wicked, and complex characters.

If you’ve already created a character profile for your protagonist, the best thing to do is now write one for your antagonist and place them side by side so you can see what links them, and what divides them.

The Four Act Structure in Film and TV

The Problem with the Three-Act Structure

Writing a script is a bit like a helter-skelter ride. All bumps and twists and no end to the dizziness.

Probably the most problematic part of any script is its structure, and more specifically, the three-act structure. Here we’ve got the second act, the murky midpoint where the writer’s expected to jam everything important–your conflict, climax and resolution–between page 30 and page 90. You can see the problem.

Act one is managed into a relatively easy 30 pages, ditto the third act. It’s the second act that can get tedious. If you’ve written a script using the third-act structure before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Structure is heavy. You need those healthy intermissions every thirty pages.

Kristin Thompson, author of Storytelling in the New Hollywood, found severe flaws within the three-act structure definition, claiming that the three-act structure has a negative effect on films, as it’s more based on page numbers than dramatic logic.

This is what she says about the four-act structure: “A great many of these films — indeed, I would contend, the bulk of them — break perspicuously into four large-scale parts, with major turning points usually providing the transitions.”

What she believes is that the third act structure fails to explain how the bulk of Hollywood’s films are put together. Instead the four-act structure helps put everything into perspective.  She breaks it down into the setup, the complicating action, the development, and the climax.

The second act therefore, is divided into manageable, bite-sized portions, that can help you, as a writer, get through this murky wasteland.

The Benefits

There are major benefits to writing according to the four-act structure.  Number one, you get to really focus your second act on what’s important: the hero-flaw confrontation. This means your protagonist confronts his or her major flaw, which will then allow him or her to face their antagonist (and this flaw) in the third act. This gives room to make the final flaw or failure to overcome all that more powerful in the later act, because we’ve focused on the protagonist’s inner struggles beforehand. Using the three-act structure, you might have skimmed over this detail because you were too busy confronting the second half of act two, which, let’s face it, when squished together, is thoroughly confusing.

 

1. Set up

The set up (page 1-30) establishes the initial set up, introducing our character, their flaw, the antagonist and paves the way for the life-changing circumstances (the inciting incident) at the end of it. Much like the three act structure, the four act structure starts off pretty much the same in terms of initial action sequence, making use of the Typical Day in the Life of the character. This follows the daily routine of the main character, right up until the inciting incident disrupts life as they know it.

2. Complicating Action

The second act (30-60) then has to deal with the second set up, the life-changing scenario, the hero reacting to the inciting incident and seeking out the way in which they will eventually overcome this flaw of theirs (having already been established in the first act), the hero-flaw confrontation. Act two covers overcoming the problem presented by the inciting incident and this act will then end on imminent doom, as the character fails to overcome the antagonist/source of evil, ending on a cliff-hanger, with the major crisis revealed.

The Midpoint

One of the interesting components of Thompson’s four act structure is that she found there was a midpoint in films where act two and act three meet that often manifests itself in a particular scene. She argues that these sequences have a major turn where less effective films tend to sag, and this turning point effectively breaks Syd Field’s long-winded act two into two separate portions. This major turn (near the halfway point) takes the story into a new direction, a shift, and is based on the protagonist’s goal.

What does this mean? Basically, the character’s goal might be achieved and replaced with another, or the protagonist realises he/she needs a change of tactics to reach said goal and puts them into motion, introducing a whole new scenario.

This scene is not only the turning point of the story but where the goal of the protagonist or theme is articulated–here the scene portrays the film’s overall theme, or purpose, which can often go against the protagonist’s actual goal later on. The midpoint’s goal reflects the final act’s moral lesson. A character’s goal of revenge for example, might be thwarted by this same character’s realisation that something else much more important is at stake. But the point is, the midpoint needs to happen so that the audience can understand the character’s goal, it’s a breather, a pause where this is somehow outlined.

3. Development

The third act (60-90) will then see your protagonist fully accepting the flaw and working to overcome it alongside the allies. The development stage portray the obstacles and delays used as tools to further your character, action, plot, etc.

They have to accept the fact that their plan was shot to pieces, but there must be a new approach they then put it into action. Your hero will be ready to face the upcoming battle. This leads up to the climactic event at the end where your character will (or won’t) defeat their antagonist, but now your character has gone through a fully developed life-changing character arc; they are not the same person they were at the beginning of the script, having accepted their flaw and are ready to face the battle. But all hope is lost, or is it?

4. Climax

The fourth act (90-120) will then of course, cover the final battle, see your hero face the antagonist, and witness their victory or loss. Act four mostly covers the resolution and the final scene, so that your story can wrap up any loose ends, ending on a high note.

To put into visual terms, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky is a very good example of a successful four-act structure. The first act introduces us to Rocky and his self-doubts, and the inciting incident, how Rocky has the chance to compete in the heavyweight championship. The second is Rocky reacting to the inciting incident. He’s training but he’s weighed down by his self-doubt, his major “antagonist”. In the third act, Rocky comes to accept his flaw and works hard against it, so that finally in the fourth act, he’s ready to overcome it and battles, literally, in the ring for victory.

The middle section of a script is a bit like a wasteland, and if you just try writing your script according to the four-act structure, you might find it a lot easier to navigate through the swampy, boggy bits. Also, in the middle you’ll be able to pause and concentrate on the heart of your story, focusing on what your story is about, your main theme. Using the four-act structure doesn’t mean adding any extra acts, you’d simply be splitting the second act down the middle, dividing it into two thirty-page chunks.

TV

In TV series, scripts depend on the four-act structure. Pick any and you’ll see this division is mostly noticeable thanks to the way the programme is separated by the advertisements, or commercial breaks. With hour-long episodes, there’s an ad every 15 minutes or so, breaking the episode into four perfectly even-timed chunks. You’ll be doing the same thing with your script. Buffy, Lost, House of Cards, they all run according to the four-act structure, so even if it’s just for peace of mind, to give you that little extra push as a writer, it’s well worth considering.

The Elevator Pitch, Loglines & Taglines

What is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is your script’s concept, boiled down to a bite-sized portion of words. Also known as loglines, they’re a bit like short sales pitches; they’re a two or three sentence long summary of your script’s plot–and they’ll dress to impress.

What does this mean? It means you’ve got to sell your script in an innovative and appealing way–be it for your intended audience, your agent, a producer, an actor… In the film business, a day won’t go by in which you won’t need to be pitching to someone about something related to your script, so it’s always good to have your elevator pitch handy. It’s got to be something that catches their attention, gets them thinking, and most importantly, gets them begging to know more.

Elevator pitches are called that because it should take you no longer than the time it takes for an elevator to reach whatever floor your ‘pitchee’ is going to (supposedly). The term came from the Hollywood myth that script writers used to catch execs and producers in their building elevators on purpose to pitch their scripts, and not only did the phrase stick–but you won’t get far in the world of scriptwriting without hearing this jargon being casually thrown about.

The good thing about an elevator pitch–painful as it is for a socially awkward scriptwriter to voice–is that it can help you shape the success of your script. If you manage to generate some interest over your pitch, you know you’re on the right track (or at the very least you’ve got a way with words, always a useful trait for a screenwriter). If however, you’re rejected flat on your face, then at least you can go home, cry a little, then start over. Cut scenes. Shape new ones. Polish old ones. Kill your darlings–there’s a reason that’s a time-old piece of advice. And then you can try again. And again and again until your script is ready, and you’ve a new, improved pitch to try out on someone else. Pitching scripts is like testing the waters, and the more people you meet and talk to, the more your networking circle grows.

Loglines

They’re practically the same as elevator pitches, but they won’t be written by the scriptwriter (at least not usually). They’re extremely difficult to write, and highly underrated. To create a logline, you’ve got to compress 120 pages of script into two sentences and each word has to equal its weight in gold: Loglines have got to summarise, intrigue and sell themselves.

These are the short blurbs you’ll see as film synopses in cinemas and TV guides, in Netflix descriptions and on the back of DVD covers. Loglines will give very specific information about the film without being too explicit–but divulging enough so that your audience knows what the basic plot will be about. We didn’t all go to watch Stephen King’s IT thinking it would be about happy clowns, we knew he’d be a sewer-lurking weirdo.

As a scriptwriter, you can follow a logline’s guidelines to form the staple of your elevator pitch. Loglines are usually made up of the following:

  1. Your main character.
  2. The obstacle standing in the way of their goal (antagonist).
  3. A twist that makes your story unique.

If you hadn’t tried it already, coming up with a 90 second elevator pitch is tricky enough even when you know your story inside out. So the first thing to do in order to get your pitch tight and concise, is to layout the building blocks of your plot, and then play around with the wording. Write a simple summary of your script first, even if it’s bland and boring. Then start playing with the words to make it sound a little more exotic.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of successful loglines.

Titanic: A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.

Pulp Fiction: The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.

Liar, Liar: A fast-track lawyer can’t lie for 24 hours due to his son’s birthday wish after disappointing his son for the last time.

Groundhog Day: A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again.

Chicken Run: A dashing rooster and the hen he loves lead a daring escape from a poultry farm in 1950s England.

Note that it doesn’t have to be super wordy, in fact it’s better if it’s not; be clear and concise, and remember to portray the main setup and conflict.

Taglines

Taglines are short (sometimes only two or three words long) phrases used to reveal the film’s nature from an advertising perspective, expressing the film’s theme by using humour, irony, double entendres and wordplay. They create buzz and sum up the tone or premise of a film. A tagline sets up a strategic and effective direction for a film and is meant to be catchy. Sometimes taglines show a film’s twist in just a few words and are an important part of the film’s marketing in the way that they’re the “face” of a film.

Let’s take a look at a few:

Chicken Run: “Escape or die frying.”

Pulp Fiction: “You won’t know that facts until you’ve seen the fiction.”

The Addams Family: “Weird is relative.”

Liar Liar: “Trust me.”

Pirates of the Caribbean: “Prepare to be blown out of the water.”

I am Legend: “The Last man on Earth is not alone.”

 So what have we learnt?

Elevator Pitches describe your script and are used as a selling tool to engage the (financial) interest of an executive or a producer or for casting. Loglines are marketing tools devised to sell the film to an audience, and taglines are small hooks placed on film posters and film descriptions to appeal to the individual, often in the form of a word play or witticism.

As hard as it is to write an elevator pitch, it’s important that your script matches your pitch. So if you have changed your elevator pitch a lot, and digressed from your actual script story to make it sound more interesting, you might just want to reconsider tweaking your script. Writing elevator pitches is an important writing exercise for anybody, as it helps single out blatant problems in your script you hadn’t noticed before. So no matter what, it’s all good practice!

 

The Third Act: The Grand Finale

So, you’ve reached the end. It’s time for your protagonist to give us their last sweeping wave before the curtain falls and the lights come back on.

Hopefully you’re planning on going out with a bang, but before you dust off your hands completely, there are a few things you should know.

What goes inside the third act?

The Resolution Stage

Final Confrontation: Victory or Defeat

Based on the resolution section of the script, this act is usually the shortest (between 20 and 30 pages) it’s the final twist or metaphorical battle, and then the return to home or normality (though life for the main character will never be the same again–definition of a successful character arc).

This is what Snyder would call the Break Into Three. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Here your story will reach its final twist, the moment everyone’s been waiting for since you unleashed the inciting incident. It’s the climax of the story, the final battle. Your character has been pursuing a goal throughout the entire second act, and now they’ll either get it, or they’ll change the goal to coordinate better with the theme, i.e. the moral lesson they’ve learnt. If you ended the second act on a low point, now it’s time for your character to get back off the ground and re-group.

During the final confrontation, the main character is forced to reexamine their beliefs. They will put everything she or he has learnt over the course of the film to good use to defeat the antagonist, always incorporating and exposing the nugget of truth, the film’s overall theme. In the Hunger Games, Katniss stops obeying the game’s rules, and starts to fight back herself, using what politics she’s learnt during the first and second act. Instead of murdering Peeta, she tricks the capitol into thinking they’d rather kill themselves by eating poisonous berries, when in fact it’s a survival tactic.

Character Arc in the Third Act

Another determining factor of the third act is the character, unlike in the second act where they’re surrounded by other characters, will mostly work alone (in the absence of their mentor) against the antagonist. In the Silence of the Lambs, Clarice has to stop Buffalo Bill by herself, because the police have gone to the wrong place and Hannibal, her “mentor” didn’t hang about long to help her.

Basically, your audience has witnessed your character go through hell and back, and now they’re waiting for the reassurance that it wasn’t all for nothing, that your character has beaten the odds and grown because of it, developed in some positive way.

Normally, this character arc is represented through a mirror effect. For example, if the character’s flaw in the beginning was to lie or connive, in the third act the character will do exactly the opposite of his/her previous nature.

Denouement (the Afterward)

The resolution at the very end will give us a glimpse of the new status quo, or the state of your protagonist’s life after all has been said and done. In the Hunger Games, the ending isn’t Katniss and Peeta defying the capitol with the berries, it’s Katniss and Peeta back in District 12 as the crowning victors, hinting at the change in Katniss as she struggles to familiarize herself with her surroundings.

This–very short–section ties up any of the film’s loose ends and answers lingering questions about the plotline.

It’s Blake Snyder’s final image. It’s what he calls the opposite of the opening image, the final shot that demonstrates the absolute mirror change that has occurred. In Pride and Prejudice, the opening image has Lizzie walking through the grounds of her father’s cottage, alone with her head stuck in a book. One of the final images of this film sees her walking at dawn, still alone, but then Darcy comes striding out the mist towards her. She’s no longer alone, and more than that, she’s completely changed since the opening. She’s less proud and quick to judge.

Script to Screen

Scripts which transition into films will most certainly go through test screenings to gauge the audience reaction so that producers can decide whether or not they’ll be a box office hit. Third acts and character arcs are often changed as a result of a negative test screening.  

In Blade Runner, Ridley Scott was pressured to change Ford’s Character into a more ironic, upbeat version than his original, darker self. This eventually affected the ending, in which the original dark ending was changed into a more upbeat one to reflect Ford’s character. Instead of dooming the entire human race, the ending scene touches on a hopeful ending in the sunshine.

In Pretty in Pink, according to the original script, Andie’s character arc saw her develop feelings for Duckie, whose own unrequited love for her form the emotional bulk of the film. But when tested on audiences, this romantic development wasn’t at all favoured, and so Blane and Andie end up together. Receiving mixed reviews, some thought this made Andie’s character slightly more realistic and less fickle, because she continues to like the same character she did in the beginning, and still appreciates Duckie’s relationship.

Hancock was originally a script entitled, Tonight, he comes, and Hancock’s character was much darker, dabbling between alcoholism and depression. The end result, produced nearly a decade after the script was written, became a much lighter, quirkier version than its predecessor, all for story purpose.

 

Events

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 Open!

This form is for those who want to submit a portion of their script to our table reading session. Submissions are due by the close of day on the 31st May 2019.

Rules:

  1. Scripts must be 10 pages or less excluding title-page.
  2. Scripts can have a maximum of five characters.
  3. Scripts must be in the industry format.
  4. PDFs submitted must be labeled TITLE – AUTHOR NAME.PDF

Any deviations to this and your script will be automatically eliminated. We will notify you if your script is chosen.

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 so please invite your friends!

Concept vs Instinct: A Screenwriting Workshop with Award-Winner Corey Mandell

WE ARE CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING SOME INTERMITTENT ISSUES WITH OUR CREDIT/DEBIT CARD PROCESSOR ON MOBILE DEVICES; IF YOU ARE ABLE TO PURCHASE A TICKET ON A LAPTOP/DESKTOP, WE RECOMMEND THIS.  IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO PURCHASE A TICKET, PLEASE EMAIL US AT EVENTS@SOCIETYINMOTION.COM AND WE WILL RESERVE A TICKET FOR YOU FOR PAYMENT ON THE NIGHT AT THE DOOR.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE.

Come join us as award-winning writer Corey Mandell talks about his views on instinctive vs conceptual writing. He has written numerous projects for Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Working Title, Walt Disney Pictures and many more.

Corey will:

  • Talk about the difference between ‘instinctive’ and ‘conceptual’ screenwriting
  • Give an idea of how he one doesn’t necessarily exclude the other
  • Share his experiences with working for high-end production companies and A-listers

Come along to this gem of an event, meet new people and get some insight into the ins and outs of the various ways to write for the big screen.

About Corey Mandell:

Corey Mandell is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Fox 2000, Fox Family, Working Title, Paramount, Live Planet, Beacon Films, Touchstone, Trilogy, Radiant, Kopelson Entertainment and Walt Disney Pictures.

His Professional Screenwriting and Television Writing Workshops offer an alternative to the same old tired rules and formulas found in most screenwriting classes, books and seminars. This innovative program is the only one to teach creative integration, script testing, compelling conflict, organic story design, strategic rewriting and story mapping. With these tools, writers are able to create the pitch-perfect authentic scripts required to break into, and thrive in, the current marketplace.

In the past three years, graduates have gone on to sell or option scripts to Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Disney, Fox, MGM, Universal, Showtime, FX, USA Network, NBC, HBO, MTV and AMC. Others have been staffed on such shows as Community, The Fosters, Jane the VirginBonesJustified, BoJack Horseman,Young and Hungry, PlayingHouse, The Mentalist, Marvel’s Agents of Shield, Up All Night, State of Affairs, Rosewood, The Leftovers, You’re the Worst, Pretty Little Liars, Treme, The Blacklist and The Leftovers.

The Workshops teach the essential skill sets required to write at a professional level, both for feature films and television. The classes are offered live in Los Angeles as well as online using video conferencing to allow participants to see and hear each other in real time. These highly popular classes draw students from across the US, Europe and Australia.

With the recent explosion of television pilots being bought, and a healthy rebound in the feature spec script market, there’s never been a better time to jump into the writing game. One script absolutely can change your life. But it’s got to be the right script. If you’re serious about developing the skills required to launch a career, these workshops can help take years off your learning curve and significantly increase your chances of success.

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).

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.

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.

The Fine Line: Representing Reality in Drama Documentary Filmmaking

Come join us as writer, director, producer Tim Conrad will talk about his experiences interpreting reality in award winning drama documentaries. He will:

  • talk about the benefits and disadvantages of dramatising factual material
  • share his experience with working to tight schedules and various locations all over the world
  • give his take on dealing with interviewees, the compromises that have to be made and the potential dangers that come with it

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

About Tim Conrad:  

Tim Conrad has worked in the UK film and television industry for over 30 years.

After three years at film school he started working as a Camera Assistant on documentaries, dramas, and feature films, which led to him to become a cameraman, working on documentaries and corporate videos.

In the late 80’s, Conrad discovered his passion for directing and soon set up his own production company making music videos, corporate videos and commercials.
After a successful 10-year run, he sold his company and moved into writing and directing for television.

He has since made numerous documentaries and drama-documentaries for UK terrestrial channels and US cable networks such as National Geographic and Discovery. I have also written, produced and directed some award-winning short dramas.

Today, he works as writer, director and series producer in specialist factual television, mostly making drama documentaries.

Tim Conrad’s Filmography:

  • Mafia Killers with Colin McLaren (TV Series documentary, 2018)
    – Vincent Gigante ‘The Oddfather’
    – Henry Hill ‘The Goodfella’
    – Anthony ‘Gaspipe’ Casso
    – Carmine “The Snake” Persico
    – Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano
  •  Autopsy: The Last Hours of (TV Series documentary, 2017)
    – Steve Jobs
    – Prince
  •  Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen (TV Series, 2016)
    – Shots in the Heartland
    – Wrong Place, Deadly Time
  •  Princess Diana’s Death: Mystery Solved (TV Movie documentary, 2016)
  •  The Wives Did It (TV Mini-Series, 2015)
    – Deadly Threesome
    – Guns, Lies & Sister Wives
    – The Polygamous Prophet
  •  Did He Do It? (TV Series, 2015)
    – Execution in Question
    – Reputation of Evil

Screenwriting Bootcamp: Write Your Feature Film Outline In One Sitting

Been sitting on an idea for a movie, but never have time to write it?

Have an idea but no idea how to map out your screenplay?

Then join us on for a webinar training ‘Screenwriting Bootcamp: Write Your Feature Film Outline in One Sitting’! Recognised Canadian screenwriter Larissa Thomas brings her successful screenwriting bootcamp to IMIS in an exciting training. In this 3-hour screenwriting workshop you’ll learn how to turn your idea into a story and leave with a completed, rough outline of your feature film.

This live online workshop is taught using video examples, hand-outs, and slides to help you gain a better understanding of film structure and character. Through guided writing sprints, you’ll put your ideas onto paper without dwelling on perfection. With this outline, you can confidently write your feature screenplay knowing you’ve nailed your structural and character arc points.

ALL IMIS MEMBERS CAN ATTEND THE WEBINAR FOR FREE!

(Non-Members: £15+VAT)

About Larissa Thomas:

Larissa Thomas co-wrote, directed, and produced a web series called Allie & Lara Make a Horror Movie (literally about the horrors of trying to make your own films) with two more episodes to go.

Her successful “FINISHIT: Screenwriting Sprint” workshop she created to help beat procrastination, and to help writers take ideas they talk about and make them a reality. ‘It began in 2015 at my very own kitchen table’ before being recognised by filmmaking organization Raindance Canada (based in Toronto). It quickly became a member-favourite, monthly screenwriting workshop. Thomas has ran over 20 iterations of the workshop, broken down over 14 films, and guided almost 200 writers through the process.

ALL IMIS MEMBERS CAN ATTEND THE WEBINAR FOR FREE!

(Non-Members: £15+VAT)

About IMIS

The International Moving Image Society’s (IMIS) aim is to inspire, train, educate, and connect all members of the moving image industry, whether at entry or professional level, around the world. We accomplish this by putting on networking events.

Benefits of Becoming a Member

  • Free access to all our events (like this one)
  • Access to our discounts on Vimeo, Mandy Network (formerly Film and TV Pro) and many more
  • Becoming a part of a tight network of industry professionals
  • Discounts on training
  • Online access to our Cinema Technology publication

Perfecting the Pitch: An Introduction to Pitching Screenplays

 

About IMIS

The International Moving Image Society’s (IMIS) aim is to inspire, train, educate, and connect all members of the moving image industry, whether at entry or professional level, around the world. We accomplish this by putting on networking events.

Benefits of Becoming a Member

  • Free access to all our events (like this one)
  • Access to our discounts on Vimeo, Mandy Network (formerly Film and TV Pro) and many more
  • Becoming a part of a tight network of industry professionals
  • Discounts on training
  • Online access to our Cinema Technology publication