You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Short FIlm Writing’ category.


Just got this on the hotline from my colleague Dr David Manderson

“Congratulations to Kirsty McConnell, a graduate of last year’s Honours Screenwriting/Film-Making degree, for winning first prize in the London Screenwriters’ ‘Fifty Kisses’ short film script competition for her short script ‘Enough.

You can read her script and the judges’ comments here:

http://www.50kissesfilm.com/50-kisses-the-screenplays/enough-by-kirsty-mcconnell/

Well done Kirsty! A career beckons.”



The description of the  location of a scene and the way in which the movement of the camera is described on paper  is one of the most vital parts of a screenplay. Yet for all it’s importance,  it  seems to be one the poor relations of the practical screenwriting world. Why this should be I don’t know.  Description is the first part of a script a reader sees, and if a script, especially a spec script, is a selling document, then the way that you invite your reader into the world of your drama through describing the scenes is a vital part of that marketing process. If   you get the description and the scene setting    wrong, you risk writing a boring script that won’t get past the reject pile on the first readers desk.

Remember.

A script which doesn’t get produced is a dead document. It’s not like a poem or a short story or even a novel. It’s a partly finished plan of a film which never got made; a telephone message never listened to; a technical drawing  for a fabulous palace no maharajah  ever built. It’s the saddest loneliest piece of  work  in the creative world. I should know. I have lots of them lurking in boxes and shelves all round my study.

But, wait. It gets worse than this,  because  if you never manage to get a script actually made, you will never become a better screenwriter. Trust me on this. Only by seeing your mistakes up on screen , by watching them  through clenched fingers , do you ever really ever learn not to make them again. To become a better screenwriter, getting the script produced isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing.

So if you want to at least get past that fearsome    threshold guardian, the first  reader, then you have to engage them immediately , and the way to do that is through  your description. Make  them want to  turn the pages right to  the end  by writing taut spare muscular description which draws them in to your story. I can’t write it for you, but here are a few thoughts which might lead you in the right direction.

But before we start,   what exactly   IS description?

For me, I  think of description quite simply   as “what the camera sees”. No more , no less. I constantly see scripts written by inexperienced writers which spend line after line describing incidents, details and action which will never actually feature in the finished film.  I don’t like laws and rules of writing normally. Any good writer breaks rules, that is what they are for. But there is one rule which I think you should always adhere to. I call it……

No see? No write!

If  the camera  won’t see it, then the  writer shouldn’t  write it. End of.

Pause for effect as your forehead furrows.

“Me no Leika !“ , I hear you cry.  “ I am not a camera, I am a writer. I want to drink in and communicate  the richness and depth of the humanity I see unfolding in front of me in all these wonderful  locations I have researched populated with unforgettable characters I have created acting out original pulsating stories. I cannot be constrained by the arbitary needs  of a mere  optical instrument!”

Oh yes you can.

You are writing a plan for a film, and films are a technical exercise in creativity,  so your task as a screenwriter is to  describe and create only what the camera, and hence your audience,  will see. Think of your script like an architect’s plan. If you need to design the cellar because  under the house because that’s where we meet the bogey man , then put it in the screenplay.But  if you are not going there, don’t .  From the first scene to the last, you are describing  what the director will shoot within the camera’s frame, because  that is what the viewer is going to see, and that is what you will describe in your screenplay. That is why the frame is first dimension of screen description, so lets talk about it.

1. Frame

We are organic creatures . We tend to think in tones, themes, loose images, deep metaphors. How do you write about a thing as prosaic as a right angled, rectangular frame? Quite simply this, if you have decided to write a script,( and believe me, it’s not the most obvious  thing to do in the world), then you have to think of telling the story within the frame.  Here’s how you do it…..

Don’t be embarrassed at this bit. Go to your location,(or one like it ) and  stand where you would like the initial point of view to be from , then  take your  thumb and forefinger of one hand at right angles  and with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand, make a rectangle at arms length,  and select the  frame. You now have a wonderful steadycam at your fingertips. Your job as the screenwriter is to describe what the camera will see, as it moves and follows the action of your screenplay within that frame. But it’s not as simple as that, because not everything in the frame is of equal importance. This brings us to the second dimension of description, the rank.

2. Rank

It’s not vital that you literally  know how to compose a shot. Don’t get too hung up on zooms and pans and close ups .That’s the director and DOP’s job .  What IS  important is that you  rank what the camera will see  in order of importance. In  other words if the crucial  content of a scene is that fact that there is a dead body lying in the middle of it, then don’t spend too much time describing the curtains. You  are the writer, and you have to decide  what’s important in  the  scene, and then describe it. The director will shoot it the way she wants to , but at least you made the initial decision about what is important in the scene.

But as well as the frame, and  the rank, there is a third dimension in description. Yes, you guessed it. Time.

3. Time

You may not hear it, but from the moment your screenplay opens, a clock is ticking. A timeline starts  as you remorselessly tell your story in the present tense as it happens. (and yes, flashbacks are told in the present tense too!). A painting can hang in a gallery for a hundred years, frozen until the watcher looks at it, a poem sits snugly in its book waiting to be opened and read, as fresh as a daisy, but a screenplay is not frozen like that. It is a dynamic document, where each line is a second or two of very expensive screentime, and you have to be constantly aware of the constraints of this.

With that screen clock ticking remorselessly,  eating up your reader’s(and hopefully your audience’s)  patience, you must  master the third dimension of Screenwriting  description  as efficiently and quickly as you can.

So to sum up  Screenwriting Description. Describe what the camera will see, in the order that it is important, and at the time that the narrative demands.


Stuart Hepburn with Julian Colton, Tom Murray, Carol Norris and some of the workshop delegates

I had a wonderful creative afternoon in Hawick on  the 30th of October  with my colleagues at the Eildon Tree  New Writing Festival. The festival, organised around the Borders New Writing Magazine,  is  a celebration of the past  11 years of new writing in the Scottish Borders. The three hour practical TV Writing Workshop I held included creating ideas, narrative structure, script formatting and how to get your script marketed in these straitened times.

The workshop was attended by amongst others, a documentary film maker embarking on his first fictional drama, a poet looking to create a short film, an actress developing her career options, three 21 year olds making a sketch show, as well as a couple of novelists and short story writers for good measure.

As usual with these events, I learned more from them than they did from me.

There is a vibrant creative writing community in Hawick and it’s surrounds, and it was a privilege to be asked to share their hospitality in the environs of the wonderful Mill Tower building. I am indebted to Tom Murray, Julian Colton and Carol Norris of the Eildon Tree for their invitation, and to the attendees for their energy and creativity.

There is an interview with me by Tom Murray in the latest copy of “The Eildon Tree”. Page 10. 

Stuart Hepburn and Creative Workshoppers in Hawick


Recent years have seen a regeneration of Glasg...

Queer Street? Turn left at the Squinty Bridge.

David Gillick is a fourth year Performance student at the University Of The West Of Scotland in Ayr.

His Creative Project is a Mockumentary Film called “Queer Street ”

He is looking for male actors  to play larger than life  characters in this black comedy based on  the lives and loves of the participants of  a fictitious Glasgow gay scene.

They  all constitute  a group of misfit males trying to conquer and control Glasgow nightlife.
Think Rocky Horror meets the Sopranos with a bit of Stellar Street thrown in.

David  is also   looking for one male actor  who is comfortable in front of the camera  and would be the TV  interviewer of this Mockumentary.

David is  hoping to start workshopping this on the 15th of November at UWS Ayr or  in Glasgow, whatever suits majority of the cast.

David says that ”  I wont be forcing anyone to perform outwith their  comfort zone, as I  know some budding actors  may be put off by the sound of  the material and theme of the film…all I want is to make a funny film about a bunch of Glaswegian gays”

If you think you might be interested in the project, or know someone else who is , please email David Gillick at the address below as soon as possible and he will get back to you.

Many thanks.

B00193173@studentmail.uws.ac.uk


Due to the three year success of workshops at Write Camera Action, with such fantastic writing, talented cast and enthusiasm from all directors/producers and participants involved, it has sparked some amazing collaborative no/low-budget projects being made.  WCA would like to encourage and support more independent productions with two new initiatives:

1. Open Script Competition

All scripts entered will be given feedback.  A winning script will be voted by the panel to be produced sourcing cast and crew from WCA and affiliated groups, with equipment provided by Moniton Pictures.  The finished film will be ready for festival entry and be a calling card for all parties involved, with the writer retaining copyright of all material included.

Submissions open from 18th Oct. 2010.  Deadline closes 14th Jan. 2011.  The entry fee of £15 per script will generate the funding to produce the winning script.  More than one entry is not only allowed – it’s applauded!  The winning script will be announced at WCA networking night at CCA on 29th Jan. 2011.  Entry criteria and more details on request from writecameraaction@hotmail.co.uk

2. WCA presents a night of Film screenings & Networking

A lot of you have embraced the ethos of WCA and have formed collaborations to get those ideas work shopped at WCA actually produced, with some currently in production, WELL DONE!  Some of you are still thinking about it, WELL DON’T!  Now is the time to get them made, get them finished and let’s show them!  WCA announces an evening of film screenings from WCA collaborations to be held on Friday 22nd April 2011 at the CCA with networking at the CCA bar afterwards.

The evening will be open to the public with specially invited industry guests.  It will be ticketed to generate two cash prizes, 1) for the winning film voted for on the night by the guest panel, and 2) the winning film of the public vote from the audience.  More details and reminders next year but this early announcement will allow people to get their films finished and/or into production in time to enter.

Submissions open from 30th Nov. 2010.  Deadline 31st March 2011.  Collaboration can mean utilizing mailing list, casting, crew, work shopping etc.  Entry criteria and more details on request from writecameraaction@hotmail.co.uk Tickets £10, limited and available from CCA Box Office.


 

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.


hayleighbarclay@yahoo.co.uk

Do you know any  actors who would be interested in making a film about 4 disabled guys in a comedy  adventure film? Our UWS Film  graduate film student, Hayleigh Barclay has asked me to help in the search for four likely lads for a London Film project scheduled in the New Year.

If you are a disabled actor, or even  want to take the plunge and  get involved in film making, please contact Hayleigh at the above email address for more details. Please send this message on.


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!


Stuart On Twitter

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

Join 4,865 other followers

Past Blogs

Flickr Photos

Invitation: SDTN Annual Conference 2012

Invitation: SDTN Annual Conference 2012

Boswell Book Festival 2012 Announce Programme of Events

BAFTA New Talent Awards

More Photos