You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Performance’ category.


 

BBC Alba (TV channel)

MG ALBA sponsor FilmG

 

Helen Mackinnon of the MG ALBA sponsored  FilmG short film competition will be visiting the UWSAyr campus on Wednesday. In room A 103  at 4 pm on the  13th of October she will  throw down a challenge to all local film makers. Can you create a 3 to 5 minute short film in the medium of the Gaelic Language? One of our students, Lynn Stewart took the challenge last year and won!

You don’t have to be a fluent speaker in  Gaelic but you DO need to be interested in filmmaking. If so,  you should give the  FilmG shorts competition a go!

Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience in making films. FilmG have a range of training initiatives available to you and if you need help with your Gaelic check out TàlantG on the FilmG Website to find a talented Gaelic speaker who can help you with your film. If you already work in the industry, as long as you don’t have a broadcast credit as a producer or a director you can enter.

 

UWS winner Lynn Stewart with Donald Campbell (MGAlba), Michael Hines & Mike Danson (UWS) ,Iain Hamilton (HIE) and Stuart Hepburn at last years awards

 

This year’s theme is ‘Lamh an Uachdar’ (The Upper Hand). If your film is distinctive, imaginative and engaging, you could win some fantastic cash prizes, as well as make important industry contacts, that could help you towards a career in broadcasting.

As usual the FilmG’s prizes are fantastic, you’ll be hard pressed to find a film competition in the country that can match this.

Best Drama Short: £2,500

Best Factual Short: £2,500

Best Student Film: £1000

Best Performance :£1,000

Best First-time Director: (Industry) £1,000

Best First-time Director: (New Entrant) £1,000

Best Student Director: 1 month paid work-placement with media company

FilmG Theme Award: £1,000

This year there’s an added a work-placement prize for the best student director. If you are a student this could be your chance to get a foot in the door and get hands-on experience working in the industry.

Don’t forget, that the competition can open doors for you in the Scottish media industry. The BBC ALBA commissioners will be looking at every film submitted, and national organisations such as Scottish Screen, BAFTA Scotland and BBC Scotland attend the awards ceremony and are happy to chat and give advice on how to pursue a career in the industry.

Helen will be holding a meeting open to all in Room A 103  at 4 pm on Weds 13th at the University Of The West Of Scotland Craigie campus. Please come along, even if you are not a Gaelic speaker you may be able to become part of a team who have the chance to win the cash prizes.


  1. Dialogue is the last resort. Use anything else to tell your  story before you resort to dialogue. You might often hear of actors on the set who look at a whole paragraph of carefully crafted dialogue then  turn to the director and say “ I can do that with a look.” They are usually right
  2. Listen. Many new writers often say “ I can’t write dialogue”. What they really   mean is that they have not developed an ear for naturalism. They have not honed the art of listening to what people really say. So. listen, listen, and listen some more. Every human being in the world is a master of writing the dialogue of their own narrative. It is the screenwriters job to learn how to create those characters in their head ,  who can  literally tell them how to “write” their own  lines. So listen to what the real folks say.
  3. Differentiate. Every character in your screenplay should have a distinctive “voice”. You would never cast clones in a screenplay, so why do inexperienced writers make all their characters sound the same? It’s because they haven’t really grasped the fact that no two people ever look or talk the same way…unless it’s a Kraftwerk  biopic you’re writing, or the opening speeches at a North Korean Communist Party rally.
  4. What do they want? People talk for a whole variety of reasons, but a very good way of fleshing out your first draft is to ask yourself what each character’s wants are  in the scene, and what are they going to say to get what they want.
  5. Hide the truth. Human beings rarely say exactly what they mean. Indeed, the classic moment in many screenplays comes at  the second act turning point where for the first time in the entire script, they finally DO say what they mean. “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!” So…don’t write on the line…write round it, write under it…write over it…and choose very carefully the point in your screenplay where your characters finally tell it how it is. It will be a powerful moment if they’ve been hiding it for the past 4 reels.
  6. Information is not enough. If all your lines are about is providing information, then you might as well use graphics or a dancing dog in the background with a sign round it’s neck. Dialogue should be part of the action, part of the character, part of the forward movement of the narrative. Write dumb reportage as dialogue and the director will cast dumb reportage actors. You want your lines to be spoken by the best actors available, so give them something more than “ Excuse me sir there’s a phone call for you “.If it’s only information, think of another way of providing it rather than dialogue.
  7. Don’t tell us what we already know. Dialogue is not there for the good of the characters, it’s there for the audience. If you just saw the heroine pistol whipping the bad guy and tying him to a passing vehicle with a  barbed wire lasoo, don’t start the next scene with her telling her boyfriend  “Hey, I just kicked the Mekon’s butt and sent him down the highway on the back of a Garbage Truck”. We’ve seen it , we don’t need told it again. I was once informed by a very bad writing coach that I should “Tell them, tell them what you’ve told them, and then remind them what you told them.”  Nonsense. Make the audience work. Make them listen. Tell them once in dialogue, and then use images, tone and action to underscore it, not more dialogue.
  8. Keep it lean. Think of words like money in a skinflint’s bank.Don’t spend a single penny more than you have to . Unless your character is a verbose chatterbox, use as few words as possible to tell the tale. No successful screenplay  ever used too FEW words. But lot’s of mediocre ones have far too many.
  9. Sharpen your sword. Good dialogue is like a fencing match. Attack, parry, riposte, with the final stab right at the heart of the opponent. Even if they are getting along, characters should be constantly vying for supremacy in the cut and thrust of crackling dialogue. Think of Bogey and Bacall , Curtis and Lemmon, McKenzie and Patterson. Who are the last two guys? I heard them ripping the proverbial  out of each other at the game the other night. Those guys could WRITE!
  10. Surprise yourself. Never trust the first idea. Sure, write it down in your first draft, but when you go back and read it over you will often realise that it’s pure corn fed cliché. The girl’s  in love?…have her  say “I hate you.”  And then kiss the guy. Result.


It’s the 18th edition of ‘the indie-est film festival this side of the Atlantic’
[The Guardian]

The action starts this Wednesday with the Opening Night Gala Jackboots on Whitehall and Afterparty featuring The Airborne Toxic Event and DY Andrew Wetherall.

Here are the events, classes and seminars dealing with important current topics:

99 Minute Film Schools
A series of inflation busting 99 minute classes in key topics:

THE 99 MINUTE…

…Sound School.

10am Saturday 2nd October
Probably the thing most ignored by filmmakers at every level, yet a vital component of every movie. Film is an audio-visual medium and yet so many films are let down by having no understanding of the ‘audio’ part of that dynamic.  This course will cover sound from on set recording to mixing in post, Foley and ADR.
Details and tickets…

…Film Scoring School.

Noon, Saturday 2nd October
Music needn’t break the bank. Here we’ll show you the ins and out of finding a composer, licensing music and using stock music. We’ll also give you insights into how music can be used to add production value to your film and how you and your composer can work together at all stages of the filmmaking process.
Details and tickets

…Directing School.

2pm Saturday 2nd October
All directors need to have one key skill and that is being able to communicate clearly and dynamically with their creative and technical teams. ‘Directing Essentials’ will demonstrate effective ways of sharing your vision with your main collaborators, The Producer, Director of Photography and Cast.
Details and tickets

…DSLR School.

10am Sunday October 3rd
Find out the low-down on the cutting edge of camerawork. The new DSLR cameras provide remarkable quality for a very low price. Our expert tutor will take through the principles and practices of the very latest advance in camerawork.
Details and tickets

…Survival for Independent Filmmakers School.

Noon Sunday October 3rd
In 99 Minutes, let Raindance founder Elliot Grove explain how to promote your career, deal with the thorny legal and financial issues facing freelancers, and explain social media for the complete and utter beginner. At the end of 99 Minutes you will know how to develop a game plan for success.
Details and tickets

…Funding School.

5pm Tuesday October 5
Have you ever thought of tapping into funding opportunities from Europe?  Did you know that there is a €20 million a year development fund from European Commission available to all European production companies?  Have you ever wondered how to set up your project as a co-production with European partners?  Are you aware of various co-production markets and pitching forums on the Continent that will help you finance for your project faster?
Details and tickets

…Casting School.

10am Saturday October 9
Where do you look to find actors for your production? How do you run an audition? Can I attract a big name to my little movie? And should I be as scared of agents as I am? These questions and more will be answered, and you’ll learn the horrifying reasons for the most basic casting rule: ‘Don’t cast your friends!’
Details and tickets

…Special FX School.

Noon Saturday October 9
What low-budget horror movie doesn’t need a bucket of fake blood and the odd severed limb? Doesn’t your edge of the seat action movie need a little explosion now and again? Maybe your Indie rom-com needs decapitated body to spice things up a bit? Ok, maybe no the last one, but this class will show you have to put the FX on the screen without blowing up your budget too.
Details and tickets

…Muvizu Animation School

2pm Saturday October 9 [Free event]
What if you could produce an animated short in a couple of hours, not months, relying on skills you’ve already mastered.

You should try Muvizu. Come along and we’ll show you how.
Details and tickets

…Editing School.

10am Sunday Octover 10
What does your editor require from you during the shoot. How can the director work with the editor before, during and after the shoot to make sure the edit runs smoothly. What makes a good cut; how can you increase your editors options;

With Sean Barton, editor of ‘Quadrophenia’ and ‘Return Of The Jedi’
Details and tickets…

…Visual FX School.

Noon Sunday October 10
With the phenomenal increase in the power of home computers CGI and VFX are now within the hands of every filmmaker. From adding flashes to mock-up guns to full blown alien invasions this course will show you the basic principles to get your low-budget feature away from the kitchen sink. Even if you don’t think your epic requires visual effects this lecture will show you how modern low cost visual effects can enhance any drama..
Details and tickets

_____________________________________________________________
Don’t know where to begin?
How they say “No” in the film industry
or
Can Too Much Film Training Ruin Your Career?
or
Worried about the demise of the UK Film Council? Don’t Panic!
_____________________________________________________________

Raindance Film Festival 2010Raindance Discovery Pass


With the credit crunch taking it’s bite we have devised a money-saving way to attend Raindance

Buy any 10 tickets, pay for 8
£96/64 concs/Raindance Premium Members

+ a 99 Minute Film School of your choice FREE
+ a festival tee (subject to availability)

Only available by calling 0871 220 6000 or attending teh cinema box office in person

Forward it to a Friend

Live!Ammunition!
The famous pitching panel returns to Raindance.

This is it – your chance to pitch your idea for Live!Ammunition!
a movie directly to the people that matter – the people that decide which movie gets made, and which movies get on television and cinemas.

To Pitch – put a fiver in the hat and you have up to 2 minutes to convince the panel to read your script.

What? Live!Ammunition!
When? Monday 5 October 6:30pm
Where? Apollo Piccadilly Cinema, London
How Much? £12/8 concs
(Free to Raindance Premium Members)

Details and tickets:
_____________________________________________________________
Want to brush up?
Read: The 3 Golden Rules of Salesmanship
Read: Ten Top Tips For Live!Ammunition!
_____________________________________________________________

Mike Newell presents the Alexander McKendrick lecture
With a filmography to die for, British film director, Mike Newell’s career has been nothing if not varied: “I hate doing the same thing twice.” Nor has he, with a body of work which stretches from the cobbles of Coronation Street to the sands of Persia, with weddings and mobsters, not to mention wizards, along the way.

We are deeply honoured to welcome Mike Newell to this year’s commerative Alexander Mackendrick lecture.

Tuesday 5 October 6pm Apollo Cinema, London

Details and tickets
_____________________________________________________________
Want a film directing taster?
Try Directing Essentials – a 99 Minute taster class at Raindance Film Festival
(Free to Raindance Premium Members)
_____________________________________________________________

Raindance Film Festival 2010Our Directing Tips

Everyone want to direct. But how to break in? Here are the 9 Routes To Breaking In As A Director

Here’s another great article for directors, this time on the importance of editors

Forward it to a Friend

Making Money Online with Movies Shot on Mobiles
Online Movie Money

Here’s a chance to learn how to get paid for practising your film-making skills, even if the only movie camera you own is the one built into your everyday mobile phone!

What? Online Movie Money
When?
Sunday 3 October noon – 6pm

Where?
St George’s Church, Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2HR
How Much? £95.00  + VAT
(Raindance Premium Members
get a 15% Discount)

Call +44 (0)207 287 3833 to register or Book Online Here

Read on…

DVDOur Mobile Phone Movie Tips

Free Article: Fundamentals of Mobile Phone Filmmaking
Free Article: Six Things to Look for in a Movie-making Mobile Phone
Free Article: Avoiding Shaky Footage – Stabilizing Your Mobile Phone Camera
Free Article: How to Make a Cheap “SteadyCam” for Mobile Phone Filmmaking

Filmmaking Foundation Certificates
5 Evening Foundation Certificate courses

Get a toe in the door with these information-packed series of introductory courses:

Filmmakers Foundation Certicate
5 Tuesdays starting 12th October 6:30 – 9:00pm
Details and to register

Screenwriters Foundation Certicate
5 Wednesdays starting 13th October 6:30 – 9:00pm
Details and to register

Directors Foundation Certificate
5 Thursdays starting 14th October 6:30 – 9:00pm
Details and to register

Producers Foundation Certificate
5 Tuesdays starting 16th November 6:30 – 9:00pm
Details and to register

Documentary Foundation Certificate
5 Wednesdays starting 17th November 6:30 – 9:00pm
Details and to register

Call +44 (0)207 287 3833 to register

Read on…

GET EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS AND A WEALTH OF ONLINE RESOURCES
SIGN UP FOR RAINDANCE PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP

Now is the time to launch your filmmaking career!



Logo of the British newspaper The Guardian

Image via Wikipedia

Once in a while I get loose from the UWS Mediaacademy and get out more and I spent a truly inspiring day at the Media Guardian Edinburgh Internaional Festival Network event the other day. The Network  (formerly TVYP) is run in parallel with  the International TV Festival and is committed to identifying and developing young  creative  talent who are interested in a career in Television. Thousands of hopefuls apply, and this year 80 successful delegates descended on Edinburgh for   four free  days of masterclasses, workshops and career chats.


"Writing's fine, but I really want to direct"

These  included….

– Learning the key ingredients for getting a start in TV
– Discovering just how huge and diverse television is
– Getting your hands dirty and finding out exactly how a camera works
– Meeting fantastically talented TV and showbiz types
– Understanding what all the people on a TV show’s end credits do
– Questioning TV execs who have the power to give you a job

As the Network website explains

“The Network  is now in its 20th year,  each year The Network delegates have the opportunity to meet, work with and learn from leading creative industry figures  ranging from scriptwriters to producers, presenters to publicists, programme schedulers to commissioning editors. Past contributors have included Chris Evans, Russell T Davies, Davina McCall, Jimmy Carr, Sir Trevor McDonald, Simon Amstell, Kirsty Young, Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, Tim Hincks, Chief Executive, Endemol and Jon Snow.”.

My particular workshop was sponsored by the ALCS , and through them  I was fortunate enough to be able to discuss creativity and screenwriting on an individual basis  with 15 of the delegates this year, and an overwhelming and humbling experience it was too.

The cliche about “teaching” is that when it’s working well, the teacher learns as much pupil, but I can honestly say that after speaking in detail to the young delegates, I really did learn a lot. I learnt that the future of British TV, if this lot have anything to do with it, is in good hands. All of them had well formulated ideas to pitch, all of them were willing to listen, and all of them taught me something I didn’t know before. They even had Business Cards, putting me to shame..(Memo to self. Must get business cards printed.)


Tash Collie pitching her new Radio Drama.

The feedback from the whole event is just in, and modesty forbids me repeating it all here. Suffice to say the delegates went away brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and creativity. If you are a creative young person who wants to be involved in the TV Industry, keep an eye on the Network Website for details of next years initiatives. It’s well worth it, even for the old fogeys like me  who are supposedly “teaching” you.

Special thanks has to go to James, Suzy and Holly for all their hard work and for providing me with the photos.


Steve Briggs(Law At Work) Chris Young (Associate), Stuart Hepburn (UWS)

After a demanding recruitment process, one of our most promising graduates from the Performance BA(Hons) programme at the UWS School of Creative And Cultural Industries started work this week on a brand new Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Chris Young , pictured left in the Law At Work HQ,  is no stranger to those who saw his porfolio of films  at our Annual Showcase in April. As part of the Tenement Productions Team, Chris was winner of the Willie Strachan Gold Medal  for Creativity.

Chris is an accomplished performer, director  and editor, and I am confident that he can act as a creative dynamo in the 10 week process which will result in an innovative training video for our Partners, Law At Work. He has completed the first week of the research phase and over the next two weeks will meet clients,practitioners and other trainers to establish the theoretical underpinning of the bespoke training video around the subject of Sex Discrimination at Work. After that, Chris has seven weeks to  write the script, recruit the performers, and direct and edit the final video. The plan is for it to become the first in a series of videos around various aspects of employment law.
Chris is looking forward to the whole process, even although the fact that he became a dad two weeks ago means that his time will be equally divided between researching the script and battling the symptoms of colic!

At the Law at Work HQ today he said “It feels like this project is exactly the sort of thing I have been trained for at the UWS. I spent two years with my fellow students preparing for this and I am really looking forward to directing   my first professional training film”

Chris Young & The Class of 2010 (Upstage Centre, of Course! ) Picture Chris Gilgallon

It is especially exciting for myself as an an academic,   as  this is the first ever KTP for the School of Creative & Cultural Industries. For background on this see my earlier blog. It will not only provide a great opportunity for  Chris , but it will act as an innovative testing ground for the development  of our relations with industry. Creative Industries KTPs are rare beasts indeed, and  we at the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries  aim for this to be the start of an ongoing process of engagement with business. At the very core of what we aim to do at UWS is to create Graduates who are fit for purpose with the transferable skills suited to  the needs of a  rapidly changing outside world .

Steve Briggs, Operations Director with Law At Work said: “We’re delighted  to be linking up with  the  UWS to produce what I’m certain will be a high-quality training video, with a “made in Scotland” feel to it. We seized the opportunity to work with a team that includes a high calibre  graduate, and accomplished actor and writer Stuart Hepburn. This was only possible financially because of the KTP funding structure, and we anticipate long-term benefits from the partnership”

No pressure there, then! I should add that my  colleague Helen Kennedy at the Innovation and Research Office at UWS  and I  have received excellent support and advice from Alasdair Cameron at the West Of Scotland KTP Centre . It’s been a real team effort, due in no small part to their  unstinting support  and I am grateful to them all.

It’s early days in the production process, and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We have to come up with a first class piece of work for Steve and the team at Law At Work, but if the way things have gone so far has been anything to go by, I am confident we can repay their commitment.

I’ll report further on the process as it develops over the next 10 weeks.

Anyone wanting more information regarding knowledge transfer opportunities should visit http://www.uws.ac.uk/iro


Equipe de tournage d'un court métrage à Paris,...

Ready When You Are Mr McGill

Marshall’s Misdemeanours is a hilarious  Short Film Comedy written by Glasgow writer and Actor Sandy Nelson . It was recorded for radio last year and now a 15 minute squence is being  filmed  by on the UWS Ayr  Campus on Sat and Sun 18th and 19th of September .
We gave the same help and support to The Crews and this  Production Team are  looking for supporting artistes  on the day, and for Technical Help.
Please take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to see how a film is shot, and also possibly to see yourself on the big screen.
The team need supporting artistes,the more the merrier  as well as  a boom operator, a camera assistant and a runner.

Please help if you can . Email Calum “Bob” Weir at the email below. If you are on facebook or twitter spread the word.
All the best and remember, if you want to be creative, hang out with creatives.

This is Calum “Bob”‘s email addy.   dmbd@hotmail.co.uk


Nick Russell as Jason in "Signs"

I wrote in my last blog that five minutes wasn’t enough screen time to engage in a love story. Thanks to colleagues on Step2CollaboTV I’ve been watching a cracking   short film called Signs Directed by Patrick Hughes(2008)  which proves that 12 minutes IS enough time. As I  watched the film , and realised that it was 12 minutes long, I got to thinking about the number 12 in Creative Screenwriting Theory, and of course it took me to Vogler (98).

I first met Chris Vogler in Sitges, Spain , coincidentally in  1998 . He was putting  the finishing touches to his book “The Writer’s Journey-Mythic Structure For Writers”. This book is itself  based on “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell . First published in 1949 this is a seminal work of comparative mythology, which Vogler then  adapted for screenwriters. (It’s interesting to note that Campbell was no slouch at the movies either. He sat at the shoulder of George Lucas through the filming of the first star wars movie and you can see his imprint throughout the film

Anyhow, back to Chris Vogler and Spain. We met at a month long creative workshop on screenwriting called PILOTS in the beautiful Catalonian town of Sitges.  PILOTS was the Programme for the International Launch Of Television Scripts,  an EEC  MEDIA scheme  to try to create an indigenous European TV industry capable of exporting our product around the world, in the same way as the Americans had been doing for years. Through this somewhat quaint and naïve initiative, I met such luminaries as Caryn  Mandebach (Roseanne, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Nurse Jackie), John Wells (China Beach, E.R , The West Wing) and uber script guru  Robert McKee (Story 1999). All of them gave fascinating insights into the world of the screenplay, but by far the most interesting for me at the time was the talk Chris gave and our subsequent discussions on his ideas about the 12 stages of the  “Hero’s Journey”. When I’ve been stuck in a rut or unsure of the way forward in a script, I have often consulted my well-thumbed copy of his book to see if I can find an escape clause.

So when I noticed that Patrick Hughes film was 12 minutes long, I wondered to what extent I could analyse it terms of Vogler’s stages of the hero’s journey. Now Vogler’s been around for a while now, and any number of attacks and critiques have been made on his work. Have a look at this link for an example.

Chris Vogler

But with that proviso take the next 12 minutes of and watch a Signs and then let’s see if we can shed some light on it’s internal structure with the help of Chris Vogler.

Ok, so wasn’t that a good movie? Wonderful acting, great design and cinematography. (If you don’t think so you might as well stop reading now as I doubt if my modest blog will change your mind ) Anyhow, let’s assume if you are still here that you did like it. The question then has to be….”How did it get to be like that? “  By accident? Did the writers, Hughes, Fleet and Worthington just happen on this way to tell that story? Well, maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t , but in hindsight I  can see perfectly how analysing the film through the prism of Vogler’s Hero’s journey  gave me, and I hope can give  you,  a real insight of why “Signs”  tugs the heartstrings and works for us as viewers.

Before I go through the 12 stages, A WARNING. Vogler’s theories are simply a tool to help the creative writer. Like any craftsperson or artist, the screenwriter should have lots of tools in their tool bag. Sometimes you need a jackhammer, and sometimes you need a scalpel. The trick is to know which one to use at which time. So…these are not principles, or rules, they are simply practical hints that just might  be able to dig you out of creative the cul de sac your writing could have taken you down. Remember, great writing defies the  rules, but we all might need just a little  practical help along the way before we hit the heights of genius. So, here’s an analysis of the 12 stage Hero’s Journey  on this short film .With thanks to Aristotle(1996), Field(1984) Campbell (2008)  and of course  Vogler (1998).

1) THE HERO IS INTRODUCED IN HIS OR HER  ORDINARY WORLD.

0’.0” –3’.11”  In the first three minutes of  “Signs” we  see our “Hero” Jason in his ordinary, banal, meaningless  world. He is bored and loveless, his job is uninspiring, and most importantly, he is lonely. We see him on an escalator, spotting a lovely girl going in the opposite direction, in a  park ,shyly  watching  another  girl, on a train watching lovers kiss, and  at work, alienated from his boss and workers. Jason lives a loveless life. Even his mum and dad don’t understand him.

2) THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.

3’ 12” . It’s the moment when Jason  glances at  Tracey  through the window of his office. If this had been a heist movie it would be the point that  the robbers burst in , in a western, it’s the bit  where the trail boss offers you a job on the cattle drive, but this is a love story, and so it’s the point at which  boy “meets” girl. Field  calls stage two  “the inciting incident”. It’s where the movie starts “moving.” All that goes before it is setting up the ordinary world, and you can  get away with this set up for quite a while, if it is done with style.In a 12 minute movie,  Hughes waits 3 mins and 12 secs before that fateful glance. Structural Perfection.

3) THE HERO IS RELUCTANT AT FIRST

3’ 25” Jason  looks away once, twice, three times. He is shy. He doesn’t want to get involved. His life may be boring, but he is too set in his ways, too comfortable in his misery to break out of his comfort zone.

4) THE HERO IS ENCOURAGED BY THE WISE OLD MAN OR WOMAN.

4’.14”  OK so there’s no  Obi Wan Kenobi giving Luke Skywalker his father’s light sabre, there’s no Gandalph and there’s no older figure. You could argue that the words of his father about “girlfriends” are echoing in his mind but Jason’s real mentor in this movie  is Tracey herself. He is completely unable to engage, until her joke about the photograph gives him  “permission” to communicate. Jason is no Lothario, he is shy and introverted. The girl has to make the running,  and  we LOVE him for it.

5) THE HERO PASSES THE FIRST THRESHOLD.

4.19 . That smile means that Jason  is entering  the special world of his story for the first time. This is the point  at which the story takes off and the real adventure gets going. Where the wagon train starts, Apollo 13 blasts off, the Rubicon is crossed and the romance begins. Our hero Jason  is now committed to his journey… and there’s no turning back. It’s the end of the first act. Gulp.

6) THE HERO ENCOUNTERS TESTS AND HELPERS.

4’.25” Our hero is forced to make allies and enemies in this  special world. He has to surmount  barriers and face problems he has never had before . As Vogler puts it , these…. “ challenges that are part of his training. In STAR WARS, the cantina is the setting for the forging of an important alliance with Han Solo, and the start of an important enmity with Jabba The Hut. In CASABLANCA, Rick’s Cafe is the setting for the “alliances and enmities” phase, and in many westerns it’s the saloon where these relationships are established.” (Vogler 98)

In our film, the venue is the space between the two buildings, but the challenge is clear. Jason has to engage with and keep interested this vivacious, beautiful young woman. One wrong note and all is lost. It’s dangerous. If he gets caught, then boss will fire him. He is wary and scared, but he goes for it, getting more and more confident. In a good rom com this sequence can go on and on and on as long as we like the characters and can engage with the hero, up the ante between him and the object of his desires.

7) THE HERO REACHES THE INNERMOST CAVE

5’.12” Jason’s cave is the meeting room. Hey it’s not the death star and it’s not the minotaur’s lair but this is 12 minute short, not an actioner. Jason dares to message Tracey  in front of the boss. He would  never have dreamed of  doing  this only days before . He is turning from loser to bruiser, and risking his career, all in name of….luurve.

8) THE HERO ENDURES THE SUPREME ORDEAL.

5’.20 “This is the moment at which the hero is in deep jeopardy  physically. It usually occurs about half way through a narrative. Field says it was the discovery that “something happened” round about page 60 of a 120 page feature script that made him start thinking seriously about structure. (Field 84) Here, Jason risks all. He  faces the possibility of exposure, ridicule, the sack, and whatever else , and for Jason it takes place in the meeting room, where he is so intent on “messaging” his new love , that he falls backwards on his chair…but….

9) THE HERO SIEZES THE SWORD.

5’.37” ….Jason survives the fall, and rises up reinvigorated. He dared to rebel and survived. He now decides to take control with his new found courage.  The hero’s supreme ordeal usually grants him a better understanding of women, leading to the moment in a love story where he finally decides to make his feeling clear. It’s getting more and more daring…OMG did she REALLY draw picture of her boobs? Zowie this chick is HOT! And mysterious and everything else you ever wanted in a partner.

Kesti Morassi as Tracey

Jason finally decides to commit. Through a series of unfortunate events (heck it is  a romCOM.)   he is stopped from taking the final plunge and asking her out …but just when he goes for it….. horror of horrors, that moment that we’ve all been dreading…boy loses girl.  It’s the end of the second act. At 8’.28” the hero’s REALLY on the deck now. This isn’t a physical test like the supreme ordeal, this is mental. He has loved and lost…literally and metaphorically.  Normally this cues stubble chinned hero’s  staring at half empty whisky bottles, or lipsticked heroin’s  stepping  out with inappropriate partners,  and every other cliché you can think of…but  Hughes et al are too cute for that. They simply return Jason to that nether world of loneliness which he inhabited before staring at his lonely table with redundant sign 9’.08”

10) THE ROAD BACK.

9’.42” Literally a flash of inspiration. SHE’S BACK! Phew. Thank heavens for that! Not only is she back, she’s promoted and even more desirable, and along with her,  our new emboldened hero is reborn. He won’t need a second chance to ask the girl out. The going’s got tough and  the tough are about to get going.

11)RESURRECTION.

10’.25” It takes him an instant to suggest that they  meet. The timid Jason of Act 1 is transformed, and we love it ! He’s ready, she’s ready,  he emerges from the special world, transformed by his experience.

12) RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.

10’.47” Our  hero comes back to his ordinary world, out in the street, framed in long shot in the crowds, with the power to heal the sickness in his past life. Here’s the thing…this is a love story, and the “secret” he is about to share   has been shared with audiences a million times in the past. There’s nothing new in this “secret” but if it’s served up well and  structured in a way we haven’t seen before, we’ll blubber and sniff just like we always do when a good movie tells us “ love conquers all. “

Hughes is smart enough not to give us the kiss cliché at the end, but leaves us with a question. Will they get together? Ever speak? Kiss? Is she deaf? I don’t know , and I don’t really care. The point is that  it all works, and even if none of the people involved in creating this wonderful short film never read the  work of Campbell or Vogler or Field, we can maybe use there theories on narrative structure  as a way of helping us to write movies that work.

Next time I’ll have a look at dialogue to die for. Any suggestions for good (and bad ) dialogue, gratefully recieved.

Aristotle (1996) Poetics,(trans Malcolm Heath), Penguin.London.

Campbell J (2008 ) The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Third Edition Pantheon New York

Field S. (1984) The Screenwriter’s Workbook . Dell

McKee R 1997  Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting. New York. Harper Collins

Vogler C (1998)  The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael   Wiesse,  Los Angeles


Michael Cera, canadian actor (MACBA, Barcelona).

Why Not Cast Him?

"It's about this kid who has a sledge called 'Rosebud' "

Over the past five  years I calculate that I have workshopped, tutored or just plain stuck my nose into a minimum of  300 short film projects. The figure is probably nearer 500 but who’s counting. The point is that again and again  I have sat with  creative clients of some sort, in a creative environment of some sort,  in order  to change a wonderful idea that a writer is passionate about in their head,  into a short film which they hope will make the world just as passionate about it too. I call this the “alchemy of film ideas.” That magical fantastical part of  the creative process which has to do with transforming  the original nugget of creativity into a new , expanded and shareable film experience for the viewer. Put simply, if you had an idea that made you cry with emotion, that’s what you want the film to do to the audience. The same goes for  laughing,  smirking, or most importantly thinking! That’s why we want to make films in the first place, in order to share our emotions and thoughts with the world.

The trouble with this  alchemic process is that between that nugget of creativity you originally  had  and  the tear jerking movie you want to make, lies a whole prosaic , practical, TECHCNICAL  process of change, in which there are a  thousand chances to make decisions which will distort, or even destroy the final product. That’s why making good films or TV is so difficult. That’s why as William Goldman says “nobody knows anything” about what makes  films successful.1.

Goldman was talking about commerciality, of course, but I think it’s true on an aesthetic and creative level also. Experience has shown me that it’s virtually impossible to predict what the correct decisions should be at any stage in the process. Given this, it seems to me that the best  thing you can do is to take a series of steps which will help to minimise the distortion, and maximise the chances of your original idea surviving the brutal process of taking it  to the screen. Original ideas are not robust, and need nurturing , so if you want to become a successful film or TV writer, hold on to that idea you have , because its going to be a bumpy ride taking it all the way to Production. So what I plan to do is create a series of short blogs with a modest aim. How to limit the possibilities of failure by   making  as few mistakes as possible in bringing in your five minute film to life. Lesson 1. has to do with the simple  idea that  “Size Matters.”

Regular readers will know that I spent the weekend at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye speaking to 30 new Screenwriters who are developing ideas through the FilmG Short films competition. As we trolled through the writers  ideas one by one, I realised that just like my previous 270 odd workshop clients, by far the greatest challenge which these tyro film makers  had in bringing their ideas to the screen was that the scale and size of their original idea was way out of line with the needs and demands of a five minute film.

People rarely have too few ideas for a short film. Time and time again, they have too MANY ideas for a short film. Of  the 29 short film ideas I was handed at the weekend, I wrote the letter “F” beside about half of them. “F” stands not for failure, but for Feature. Again and again, new writers have an idea that they think is about a short film, when in fact it is an idea for a feature. So my advice (caveat scriptor…what the heck do I know, you might be a genius ) is  forget about large casts of characters, complex backstories, groups of friends, convoluted  plots and love stories combined with gothic horrors.In my experience, a short film can just about take on board the problems, experiences inner thoughts  and development of one character. It can further just about cope with one mentor/friend/enemy/ character who can help the main protagonist to understand the need to change. And that is it. You want to show a guy who meets a girl, falls in love, loses her and then finally wins her back against  the exciting backdrop of the world tree felling championships? Great.Go get 3 million dollars and make the low budget  feature. You might even be able to cast  Michael Cera and Ellen Page, and raise 30 million on it,  but it  it certainly isn’t a short!

So, based on all those past workshops, and all those brilliant ideas,  the first piece of advise I have  in scriptwriting a short film is, SIZE MATTERS. Small is beautiful.Keep the idea simple, keep the protagonist’s journey short, keep the cast list down to two, and if you can’t express the totality of the film in three sentences, then it’s not a short film.

Next time I’ll talk about structure in screenplays. Do we need it, does it matter, and what the heck does Aristotle know about movies anyway?

"Hey, my mother loves my script!" FilmG Creatives on Skye

Here’s a fine example of a short film which knows it’s limitations, and explores it’s subject matter with emotion, and economy. Its called Historia De Un Letre . Is it any good? I don’t know, but it made me cry, and in five minutes, that’s not a bad outcome.   Enjoy.

1.Goldman, William (1996). Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood (2nd rev. ed.). Abacus. ISBN 034910705X.


Last Year at Sabhal Mor Ostaig

I  am packing up my bike and off to the hills at  Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, on the  Isle of Skye for the weekend. I am taking  part in the Script Development workshops  for the FilmG short Gaelic Film competition. The event is sponsored by Scotland’s  Gaelic  digital TV station, MG Alba, and developed by Canan.

I will be working on the screen outlines of about 25 new writers who want to develop ideas for Gaelic Shorts in a number of different categories. The sessions I run work by simply asking the writers to pitch their ideas to a small group, and then collectively we explore the possibilities in an honest, supportive way. Each of the ideas is given about 15-20 minutes for discussion and development, and there is ample time for follow up and have a bit of craic  afterwards. All this in the majestic environs of Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Sleat on my favourite Scottish Island, Skye. It’s a helluva job but someone’s got to do it.

I took part in  this last year along with colleagues from the UWS, and it was an exhausting but exhilarating event. What was a  truly  amazing (and humbling) experience  was pitching up “Kilted and Booted” at the Awards Ceremony at Eden Court in Inverness to see the realisations of the ideas on the big screen at .

It is too rare in this business that we get to see the fruits of our labours so soon after the development and discussion process takes place, and so I relish the opportunity to be part of a creative process which has such a short lead in time and clear outcomes.

I should point out that not  only are there workshops on script development(  which I am leading ) but you also get advice on  production, directing, camera work, sound recording and basic editing – all  led by industry professionals such as my colleague Michael Hines (producer/director: Still Game).

You can get more details of all the workshops  here.

You can also find details here  of the innovative new programme in Contemporary Screen Acting which I am leading up with Michael Hines and Scottish Writer, Actor and Director  Martin McCardie at the UWS this year. We will be using many of the same techniques developed on Skye and at other workshops to create new and innovative screenworks which we are sure are going to provide a real impact on the development of education for the contemporary Creative Industries.

Ill report back next week on how we got on in Skye  and what Gaelic  shorts to look out for as they go into production in the Autumn.

Stuart On Twitter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,988 other followers

Past Blogs

Flickr Photos