Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UK Scriptwriters Podcast!

There's a new UK scriptwriters podcast, hosted by, um, me and Tim Clague! We thought it would be fun to do a podcast as there seems to be a considerable lack of podcasts focused on the UK screenwriting scene. It's only 20 mins long so if you have some time to spare, we'd love for you to have a listen and tell us what you think. Basically, should we do another?? If so, would you like it longer, shorter, etc?

You can listen directly above or on the podcast page, or you can subscribe via iTunes, or listen on Tim's blog, and all the usual outlets (see below).

In this first (and possibly only!) episode, we talk about the closing of the UK Film Council, the schemes and opportunities that are still ongoing; Tim reveals his new passion for origami, I do a shameless name drop, plus we review TV's Sherlock and PC game Infamous. So, please, have a listen, and tell us what you think!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

ORIGIN screening

On Wednesday night, in Working Title Films' HQ, I held the cast and crew screening of Origin, my short film. It's been a long time coming. Regular readers will know I've been working on the project for a while now, and I received a good chunk of financial support through this very blog (for which I am eternally grateful). We finished filming at the end of April last year. Immediately after shooting, editing and post-production went quickly and smoothly enough, and all was looking good. Then I stumbled into frustrating post-production problems. Nothing huge but on a short film level, and with no more funds available, it put a real halt on proceedings. A year later, I managed to finally get the film in the can.

So, to say I was a little nervous about the screening would be selling it short. I wasn't nervous about the film, per se. I mean, yes, sure, a little bit but ultimately I love it, and if people don't like it, there's nothing I can do about that now. What I was more nervous about was hosting the screening itself. Not really my area of expertise. I don't really DO parties. I like to GO to parties, but I don't DO them myself. Plus, it had been a year, the crew were probably busy, or not interested anymore. What if they didn't turn up? Had I invited enough people? Had I invited too many people? What if no-one came? What if everyone decided to come along? Did I order enough food and booze? Too much food and booze?

London. Wednesday. I travel up to the smoke with Jo, my long-suffering wife, who puts up with my optimistic plans ('lets spend all our money and make a short film!'). We book into a Travelodge in King's Cross for the night. That's how we roll. Unbeknownst to me, there's a problem with the catering for the screening. No-one can get through on my mobile but with 15 minutes to go to set up, I get their urgent message, and manage to avoid disaster. It's hot. I'm wearing a suit. I start to sweat. It's 5.30pm.

We head into Working Title HQ. They're incredibly laid back and helpful. Food and booze has arrived and we go downstairs to the screening room to set up. Wine ready. Beer in the fridge. Finger food a-go-go. Now, will anyone show? 6.20pm, ten minutes to 1st screening, the first guests arrive. Relief! A few more show up. My agent's there. Sam, too. Friendly faces. James, Jason, Lara. Big plus. A good few of the crew arrive, which is great. But I begin to stress out. My brain explodes with panic and I have no idea what I'm saying in the polite chit-chat preamble. I can't wait around any longer so I get everyone into the cinema for the screening. I make a spluttering speech, a thank you to everyone involved in the film. The lights go down. The film starts. The film ends. Time to hit the bar!

(Photo courtesy of @jasonarnopp)

I haven't had a proper drink all night. I've been guzzling water since 6pm and still haven't had a pee yet. People are positive about the film but my brain is still buzzing with stress. More people arrive and we line up another screening. Some go in to see it again. I begin to calm down. The worst is over, and while some people have to scarper fairly quickly, a good portion decide to stay to enjoy the food and drink. PHEW! Ben Greenacre, vital line-producer, arrives epically late but we manage to show the film one more time, just for him. Sweet. I manage to have a pee.

There's a really good vibe in the room and everyone says nice things. It would be difficult for them not to, but still. It matters. Then it's time to tidy up. We've successfully wet the film's head and now it's time to go. Jo and I return to the hotel. I'm slightly dazed. I slug a glass of wine and collapse into bed but don't really sleep. It's hot. My mind replays the evening over and over. I can't tell if it went well.

The morning gives me fresh perspective. A warm glow replaces my stressful doubts. I begin to enjoy the event, even though it's been over for ten hours. We get the train home to Poole. I do some work as we chug along. Back to the office. Back to normal. Now it's time to get the film out there; film festivals, industry peeps, and so on. I've had great feedback already from impartial and independent folk, which is reassuring, so I hope the film can go and find an appreciative audience. Thanks again to everyone who was involved, you're my best friends forever. Now, time to risk divorce and make another short! Who's with me, eh? Eh? Eh?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Red Planet Pointers


Cor, will you look at that? The first week of July already. Which means that there's only 3 weeks 'till the deadline for this year's Red Planet Prize. The entries are already flooding in, which is great, but no doubt there's still many of you tinkering with your first ten pages and holding out on pressing 'send' until the final minute (which is also cool and the gang, naturally).

In case you don't already know, this year we're partnered with the mighty Kudos Film & TV and yesterday we met on their roof (really) to discuss how this year's comp is going to go down. I thought it might be handy to post some general pointers about submitting an entry, and go over some useful do's and don't's about what makes a cracking first ten pages.


The best bit of advice about your first ten pages is to ignore the so-called rules of how to begin a script. Instead, try to be happy and confident that this is the best way to begin your STORY. Great scripts always have a style and assurance about them that tell the reader/editor/exec that this writer can spin a yarn, and they should stick around to see what's going to happen. More than that, they're already interested in what's going to happen. You don't have to be clever or cute, just tell your story. It doesn't have to be a car crash or a big bang; it could be a slow-burner of mood or intrigue - but as long as it's clear and inviting, and the writing's confident and assured, then the script is always going to stand out from the crowd.

More thoughts on 'first ten pages' here and there's an overview of last year's entries here, writing tips from Tony Jordan's workshop here, and even more about the beginnings of scripts here. There's an overview of the first year's entries here, not to mention the top 10 cliched ways to begin your script here.


This year’s competition is for an original 60 minute television script, either a single play or a pilot for a new series. You are initially required to submit the first ten pages along with a short synopsis. THIS SYNOPSIS COULD BE OF THE PILOT SCRIPT OR THE ENTIRE SERIES, whatever you think best sells the idea/script/show. The full script should be available on request, you may be required to submit this WITHIN A MONTH OF THE FINAL CLOSING DATE. This means that we'll be asking for second round scripts by the end of August.

Multiple entries are not allowed. You can, however, have a maximum of two entries if you submit one script by yourself and one with a co-writing team. Please don't send full scripts at the first ten pages stage. Similarly, don't send 12 pages or 8 pages of script. Send the first ten pages, regardless of where it cuts off in the scene. The competition is open to anyone in the UK & Ireland. For full rules and information, check out the website.


The scripts can be in any genre. Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Thriller, Psychological, Supernatural, whatever floats your boat. Please don't send us half hour scripts, sitcoms or feature film scripts. Remember, we're looking for an original 60 minute television script, either a single play or a pilot for a new series.

** UPDATE ** If you're unsure how long your script should be, anything between 50-70 pages is a good ballpark. Anything less or more than 50 or 70, you've probably gone too under/over an hour.


Ideally, scripts should be written in standard screenplay format, which means they should be typed in Courier pt12 font and with appropriate tabs/margins for character names, dialogue and scene description. It just looks more professional that way. We're not going to reject any script based on its format. We're interested in good writing and great scripts, no matter what the form, but as a general observation, poorly formatted scripts usually mean poorly written screenplays.

Celtx is free screenwriting software. Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter are what the professionals use, but you can easily format a script on MS Word, too, either by setting your own margins/font or downloading their template.


It's probably not a good idea to send us a script that's optioned with another company. While it may be a good representation of your writing, it's just going to get a tad awkward if you get past the second round stage with a script that's in development somewhere else. If your script gets optioned by someone while we're reading it for the competition, then let us know, as that's better for everyone involved.

That just about covers everything, I think. Any questions, just shout, and good luck!