Tuesday, August 30, 2005

TV or Film?

Not much of a Bank Holiday for me this weekend. Was all set to finish reading the film board's scripts and start doing the reports but was struck with some god-awful virus on Friday, which rendered me mute and useless for the remainder. As a result, I only finished reading the scripts on Monday morning and have since been typing like crazy to finish the reports (deadline today). Am feeling a bit better but I'm absolutely knackered. My Aussie friend left this morning so I drove her to Heathrow (up at 6am this time). She does Antonio Carluccio's PR in Australia so we had dinner with him and his lovely wife Priscilla in his Putney Bridge restaurant. And very nice it was too. A bit of a Bank Holiday treat after a miserable weekend. Just wanted to share this little bit of glitz and glamour with the blog. Get me.

One of the things I noticed from this batch of scripts was how most of them could easily be TV dramas or thrillers. It is rare to read a script and think: "now that's a good movie". But it got me thinking. How do you know if your story is good TV or quality cinema? Obviously, there's a fine line between both, especially given the high quality production values of US TV series these days. Look at 'Lost'. My God. The most expensive pilot ever made. I think one of the producers actually said (in the link below) that Lost is one big feature film divided into a TV series. By the way, those of you who are petrified to click the link and be exposed to the answers of Lost's many mysteries, do not fear. They only mention something in a vague sort of manner which doesn't make much sense if you haven't seen it yet (it hasn't happened yet) but people seem to be extremely sensitive to even the mildest of spoilers, so hence the warning.

I missed The Messiah, BBC's annual cop thriller with Ken Stott, because of illness and living it up with Carluccio but it struck me from the trailers (and the previous Messiahs) how most scripts would kill to have that much style and grit in their spec cop thrillers. And that's the trouble these days. More and more, TV likes it do it bigger and better so that raises the bar even higher for us struggling screenwriters trying to make an impact with our bold and original stories. But how, I hear you ask, do we generate truly cinematic stories? What makes our ideas and characters so special that they cannot be reduced to the gogglebox in the corner, that they have to be expressed on the cinematic canvass? There is no simple answer. Many good cinematic stories come from a basic concept of man, ug, want something but man stopped by many things that get in his way. And working this out into a good logline often helps to clarify if the story is something that needs to run and be resolved over a 90/120min stretch. But that of course, is up to us. We could sit here all day and list the many TV movies that have achieved awards and success at the flicks so essentially, the argument boils down if you've got 'a good story, well told', then any amount of people will be drawn to it, whether it be on the cinema or the small screen.

Better get back to those reports...

10 comments:

james henry said...

Ooh get you indeed. 'Lost' still feels very tellyish to me, in that there's room for characters to grow, and most of it is just people standing on a beach. I think I'd like it even more as a radioplay. But then give me The Sopranos over the bloated potboilers that are the Godfather films and Goodfellas any day.

Also, I liked the original Bladeruuner, with the voicover and the happy ending. Take that, popular opinion!

And 2001 is just very very dull.

james henry said...

And (sorry, just thought of this) I really liked 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. And the first 'Resident Evil'.

Wow, glad to have got all that off my chest. Although my as-yet-unborn screenwriting career may have just evaporated before it began....

Danny Stack said...

You go James!

I. Love. The Sopranos.

I also think Four Weddings is a masterpiece.

The voice-over Blade Runner never bothered me until I saw the original version and now I shudder at the very thought...

Two comments deleted above because of spam not because an anonymous blogger thought my site was 'awesome'.

Anonymous said...

what do you think re:the short film? many seem to think that only comedy suits the format (or that the end has to be a gag)... which is rubbish in my opinion. is montage really the best way to get more complex ideas/time passing across?? what are your opinions?
(not very eloquently put but hopefully you get the idea)

Danny Stack said...

I've just made my first short film where I very much wanted to do a 'story' rather than a 'sketch'. For a story, I wanted it to have structure, emotional resonance and a definite resolution rather than a one-note situation with a comic pay off (sketch). I'm in the process of getting the film 'out there' so will link eventually where everyone can have a gander, it's only 3 mins.

Danny Stack said...

Getting a lot of spam comments now. If anyone knows how to stop these, do let me know.

HolyhosesRob said...

Re comment spam, Blogger now has a feature you can enable in your settings, called word verification. It adds a layer of inconvenience for genuine comments, but it's not too bad. You have to recognise a wibbly wobbly word and type it in.

Telly has the luxury of taking its time telling a story and developing characters, which is why I've been preferring it to the movies for about 10 years now.

Danny Stack said...

Rob, you're a gent and a scholar.

Also, I think having a career as a UK telly writer is practically essential while trying to get one of your screenplays made, as the chances of that are far more slim. And there's a lot of good stuff on TV these days.

Danny Stack said...

Have set up the word verification thing for comments; hope it's not too much of an inconvenience.

Lee said...

I would rather write for TV than cinema anyway. I think the medium is evolving in a fashion that makes it perfect for both long form series (like The Sopranos), and shorter episodic dramas (like Blackpool). In fact, and I may be taken to task for this, I believe the structure of episodic TV allows for more thematic and character development in four half-hour shows than you'll find in a single two hour movie.

Although, for the record, I found Messiah's grim glamour to be relentlessly dull.