Monday, October 31, 2005


Well, it’s back to the drawing board with my idea for the Afternoon Play after my agent reliably informed me it was rubbish (not in so many words but clear enough for me to wake up and smell the Java). And dammit, he’s right of course, everything he pointed out being sound and valid. Constructive feeback like this is incredibly useful as it forces you to re-evaluate your idea and question why you came up with it in the first place and if it is something still worth developing.

In this instance, I have realised that I was trying to be cute and showy but that the idea and story line didn’t have enough substance to support the central conceit. In my haste to get something done for the deadline, I rushed an idea I thought might get by on its unique selling point. Apparently, the deadline isn’t strictly today, i.e. the end of the month, and there is a rolling deadline for submissions (but likely to finish soon). So I’m going to write up another idea that I’m far more interested in, and submit that instead.

Robert McKee is coming to town. Lock up your daughters. Er no, lock up your screenplays. He’s going to be in London between 18-21st November doing his four day genre weekend: Thriller Day, Horror Day, Comedy Day, Masterpiece Day. Last year, I attended his much feted Story Weekend and while it was interesting to sit in the man’s presence for ten hours a day over a three day weekend (boy, he likes to talk), he basically gave a polished routine of his book - Story - which you can buy for about a tenner instead of shelling out a few hundred quid for the Story Weekend.

His characterisation in Adaptation is a funny caricature of the man but essentially he’s a lot less austere than he’s become known for: he doesn’t like to be interrupted during his spiel, which is fair enough, but will set aside a Q&A before each session so you can harass him then. You can also join him for lunch and for a fag outside. McKee attracts the great and the good of the industry, from writers, script editors, producers, directors and actors. When I attended, the only faces I recognised from the 150 or so people in the auditorium were author Tony Parsons (apparently his 3rd time but he was absent the final day) and Mackenzie Crook (who’s a very good writer as well as his comic acting abilities).

I have less knowledge of his Genre Weekend so I cannot comment on what the separate workshops are like. A friend of mine went to the Horror Day and said it was good and useful, but a lot of it was common sense or reiterating what you already know of the genre or would glean from a whole weekend of watching classic horror films. In the Story Weekend, he deconstructs Casablanca at the end, which was a bit tiresome if you ask me, but in the Horror Day apparently he analyses Alien which my friend said was a particular highlight. I have heard that he pores over A Fish Called Wanda for the Comedy Day and Seven for Thriller Day.

Anyway, for those interested, registration can be done online at Mr McKee’s official website or by calling the London booking office at +44 (0)870 080 1833. Apparently, this Genre Weekend will be the only presentation of the Genre classes in London until 2007 so get yourself a ticket if you’re really keen to go.

Back to that PM Play idea…


James Moran said...

Bad luck about the play idea - your agent sounds as heartless as mine, but it's great to have someone willing to be that ruthless. If I can get something past him, it must be pretty good. Easier said than done, though.

I think I'm the only person who didn't like Story. Took me ages to get through it, I found it really dry and long-winded. Some good nuggets in there, but buried under hundreds of pages. When he started doing graphs and diagrams, I couldn't believe it. I'd have thrown it across the room if I could lift it.

Danny Stack said...

Graphs & diagrams are a real turn-off all right.

Webfingers said...

McKee is good but too Hollywood for UK writers. I think the best books for UK writers are:

Howard and Mabley : Tools of screenwriting

Parker: The Art and Science of Screenwriting

Egri: The Art of Dramatic Writing

Danny Stack said...

Thanks for the tips Squirrel. I've got Egri's and I've heard good things of Parker's (UK guru). Will check it out along with Howard & Mabley.