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Katie Morag fans should note that Stuart Hepburn, Martin McCardie Sergio Casci and Lindy Cameron of Move On Up TV have been nominated for Best Children’s Screenplay in the British Screenwriter’s Awards as part of the London Screenwriter’s Festival . We all owe a great debt to Mairi Hedderwick for her fantastic books, and to Director Don Coutts and his Cast and Crew. If you are fans of the CBeebies and BBC Childrens series about the adventures of the wee girl from Struay, you can vote by clicking here. VOTE FOR KATIE MORAG
StudioLab is a unique crossover project which allows University Of The West Of Scotland students from across all programmes in the School Of Creative & Cultural Industries to collaborate together to create a live recorded TV Programme.
Over the past 7 weeks, as part of their CSA Research Project, 4th Year Contemporary Screen Acting Students have been tasked with creating a 30-45 minute piece of TV Drama. They are devising , workshopping , and will finally record this programme live on Weds 11th December.
To do this requires the support and help of students from other programmes to chronicle and record the work. We will be continuing with StudioLab next Trimester at UWS so if you are a student in the UWS School Of Creative & Cultural Industries and are interested in taking part as a Designer, Producer, Director, Runner, Camera Operator, Musician, Digital Artist, Screenwriter or whatever your chosen specialism may be, please come along to our first meeting.
Every Weds, 1.30 PM TV Studio 1, UWS Ayr.
Please email me at [email protected] to book a place.
Screenwriting in a Global and Digital World
6th Screenwriting Research Network International Conference
August 20 – 22, 2013
University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
This is a call for papers for the annual international conference on screenwriting research, this year organized by the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. The Screenwriting Research Network is a research group that commenced in 2006 within the Louis Le Prince Research Centre, at the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), University of Leeds. The Screenwriting Research Network now consists of academics as well as practitioners interested in research centered on screenwriting studies. The network has achieved a critical mass in recent years with conferences taking place in Leeds (2008), Helsinki (2009), Copenhagen (2010), Brussels (2011), and Sydney, Australia (2012). The sixth conference widens the geographic spread of the network to North America, taking place in Madison, Wisconsin, USA (2013).
The Screenwriting Research Network is comprised of scholars, writers, and practice-based researchers devoted to rethinking the screenplay in relation to its histories, theories, values and creative practices. The aim of the conference is to continue, and expand, discussions around the screenplay and to strengthen a rapidly emerging, and global, research network. The Journal of Screenwriting, first published in 2009, stands as testament to the vitality of the screenwriting network across traditional and practice-based research. This is in addition to growth in the publication of screenwriting monographs by scholars in the network, including books on screenwriting by Steven Price, Steven Maras, J.J. Murphy, and Jill Nelmes, among others. The new Palgrave Studies in Screenwriting series grew out of this organization. The SRN is also building an online forum for scholars and practitioners interested in this subject
The key theme of this next conference is “Screenwriting in a Digital and Global World.” This speaks to the complex and changing nature of screenwriting as a result of both digital technology and globalization. The conference hopes to raise questions about past, current, and future creative practices in scripting in various forms of media, both old and new.
Keynote speakers will be confirmed early in 2013.
The conference is interested in all types of research related to screenwriting in its many forms. We would like to invite abstracts for research presentations on (but not limited to) the following topics:
• Cross-cultural collaboration in screenwriting
• Screenwriting traditions in different national contexts
• Screenwriting and transnationalism
• Screenwriting and the pressures of globalization
• The history of screenwriting around the globe, including Hollywood
• Industry changes in the digital age and what it means for writers of film and television
• Questions of authorship in highly collaborative digital media projects
• Database narratives and interactive, non-linear storytelling
• Transmedia storytelling – “world building” and constructing narratives that reach across multiple platforms
• Writing for games (including video games and ARGs)
• Theorizing and analyzing screenwriting software
• Writing for online video as a new genre and profession
• Screenwriting archival research
• Theorizing screenwriting and the screenplay
• Reflections on narrative theory and dramaturgy
• Practice-based research
• Case studies on individual writers or texts
• Genre-orientated considerations of screenwriting and the screenplay
• Adaptation in moving image screen works
• The role of writing in non-fiction film, television, and other forms of media
• Screenwriting for animation
• Writing for episodic television
• Screenwriting in independent cinema
• Alternative forms of scripting
Call for Papers
Time allotted to each paper is 20 minutes plus discussion. Abstracts (250-300 words) may be submitted until January 1, 2013. Earlier submissions are welcome. Please remember to state your name, affiliation and contact information. Include a brief statement (100 words) detailing your publications and/or screenwriting practice.
Please send your abstract as a WORD document, with the email subject heading “SRN Conference Abstract” to: [email protected]
More information on the program as well as cost, traveling and accommodation details will be available on the conference website as this becomes available.
The conference is supported by a grant from the Anonymous Fund of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is being organized with assistance from the Department of Communication Arts at UW-Madison and the Screenwriting Research Network.
For further information, please contact J. J. Murphy, [email protected] or Kelley Conway, [email protected] at Department of Communication Arts, UW-Madison, USA.
Professor Kelley Conway and Professor J. J. Murphy, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.
I have wrtitten previously about the setting up of our UWS collaboration project “Studio Lab” at our new Television Studios at University Of The West Of Scotland in Ayr . We have now reached Week 3 of the project and it is developing at a breathtaking pace.
Ten 4th year (level 10 ) Contemporary Screen Acting Students have worked on creating the scenario, characters and script of a live recorded studio production of approximately 30-60 mins in length. Readers will, I hope, appreciate that this is a substantial piece of work.It will be recorded “as live” at UWS Ayr Studios on December 5th. It will be directed by professional TV Director Michael Hines , who as well as being one of Scotland’s leading directors, also lectures on our Camera Acting Techniques and Screen Drama modules. All the improvisational materials and exercises are being been recorded , edited and disseminated online to the performance team by volunteer Film Making & Screenwriting students as part of this crossover collaboration. The volunteer recording team have put in literally hours of work to ensure that the acting team have the material in an edited form in order to reflect, and then deepen the characterisations which will be eventually reflected in an improvised shooting script to prepare for the live recording.
As the project progresses closer towards shooting, Broadcast Production students will become more involved, so that by the time we record, I expect a team of about 20 strong production team to be part of the behind the scenes efforts to capture the live recording of this experimental drama. Thus around 30 UWS Creative Industries students will have had the chance to take part in an authentic hands on experience which we hope will arm them for the challenges of the Professional Creative Industries.
We have now reached week 3 of the project. So far students have worked on Object, Situation and Interactive improvisations. This has produced approximately 3 hours of edited material. The first part of each session is taken up by watching, discussing and reflecting upon last weeks material. All the edited material has been previously posted on a closed Facebook Group where all the participating students, both voluntary and assessed, take part in creative online discussions through the week.Screen Acting students are tasked with creating three dimensional authentic characters with a backstory, personna, and psychological underpinning which will propel them into the creation of a fully integrated live drama.
Having now gathered a wealth of material, students are engaged in the process of “locating” the precinct within which the final production will be based. Will it be an airport? An institution? A city street? A Spaceship? Inside John Malkovich’s head? The decision of what, where and how the precinct will be will evolve over the next two weeks, so that by week 6, students have a firm grasp of the creative parameters of the project. By weeks 7 and 8, the now located script will be further improvised, developed and honed. At this point, UWS Screenwriting students will distill all the material into a developing script, so that by the time we get to the Technical Rehearsal in Week 10 on Nov 28th, we will have an agreed shooting script which fully reflects the creative input of all participants. We are then planning a final screening in our Campus HD 7:1 Movie Theatre in Week 12.
Next trimester, all the Contemporary Screen Acting students are tasked with writing a 4-6,000 word Ethnographic survey of the lived experience of the entire process. This part of the process is has been devised and delivered by my colleague Dr John Quinn at UWS.
The combination of the two processes, Recorded Artefact and Ethnographic Survey will combine in a 40 Credit Module to complete the Contemporary Screen Acting Research Project. We plan to have all student work submitted in a digital form and be deliverable online in the first ever truly paperless I will update progress with the StudioLab project as it develops.
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Week 1 Video blog
Team Writing For Television is a level 9 Module I deliver along with my colleagues Dr Jill Jamieson and John Quinn as part of the Film Making & Screenwriting and Broadcast Production Programmes at the UWS Skillset Media Academy Ayr Campus.
We investigate the theoretical underpinning of shows such as David Simons’s The Wire , True Blood (Ball 2008), and Sky Atlantic’s Boardwalk Empire, and then apply these lessons to the practical task of writing a long running TV series.
This year we are by the fact that for the first time this year we will be using Twitter at the core of our delivery. We will be using #TWFTV hashtag to allow students to receive feedback, for them to feed forward and also to reflect on their learning experience on an ongoing basis .You can read the preliminary results here on the BCI Research-Teaching Link. This innovative online discourse both in class and outside should hopefully provide us with an instant two way creative relationship between staff and students.You’ll be able to follow developments on Twitter by simply performing a #TWFTV search so there will be no hiding place from negative or positive feedback.
The students are all skilled in using Screenwriting Formatting software (such as CeltX and Final Draft, ) and have learned elementary Screenplay narrative structure in previous Modules such as Introduction to Scriptwriting and The Short Film. In week one they took part in an initial skills audit where we assessed their likes, dislikes, preferred genres and technical skills . From this data we have formed them into nine hopefully coherent teams whose task is to create the Bible for a long running TV Series. Each of the teams nominates a scribe whose task it is to record and publicise the discussions and action points of the individual groups online in a WIKI on our VLE , Blackboard.
The cohort of 68 students are now about to enter week seven of the fifteen week TWFTV process. What started off for all of them in the first week was a 30 second elevator pitch of their own individual idea. Gradually, as the classes go on, each individual student’s creative idea has been honed down to one per team, and the teams are constructing a Bible, Series Arcs, Character Arcs and outlines for each individual episode of their Team Project.
Over the next few weeks they will work on their project,using the creative grid system to develop their Team Bible into a coherent 15 minute pitch which they will then deliver to Industry Professionals from the BBC, STV and MG Alba on Monday 18th of April.
In this way, Work Related Learning is embedded right across this level 9 module. (It’s worth noting that some of our best writers have gone on to work professionally on Shows such as River City and Waterloo Road.)
After the pitching session in week 10, each team member then writes an individual Episode of the Series. They also contextualise their learning by researching and writing a 2,500 word essay on a specific theoretical aspect of Team Writing. The end product is an entire scripted season of a long running Television series, from opening Episode, to the Final springboard to the second series.
As the Module rolls out, I’ll blog most weeks on the development process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The University Of The West Of Scotland’s School of Creative and Cultural Industries Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is aimed at producing an innovative training video on discrimination at work. The project is designed as bespoke piece of training for our partners, leading Glasgow law firm, Law at Work, and is now entering a crucial phase in Week 7.
UWS graduate and KTP Associate Chris Young has delivered a 20 page research dossier on Innovative Training Videos which was discussed at our last programme meeting at our partner Law At Work’s HQ in Glasgow. This impressive body of research will provide the creative team with the theoretical underpinning for the next stage of the process. It is this critical research based approach which makes the KTP unique in terms of it’s impact on our creative educational practice and the service that we can provide for industrial partners such as Law At Work.
In the light of our discussions, Chris is now finalising the shooting script of the web-based training video. With a planned screentime of 20 minutes, and a cast of 12, this is a major undertaking for Chris as a first time professional director. Camera, lighting, sound , makeup, and catering have all been finalised for the weekend shoot, and if the script outlines are anything to go by, we are looking forward to a fantastic piece of work from Chris and his production team.
The final draft of the script will be ready by Friday 29th of October, casting will have been finalised by Wednesday 3rd November, ready for the shoot on Sat and Sun 6th and 7th of November. The KTP team are taking over the entire floor of Law At Works offices for two days in order to shoot the video.
Post production is slotted in at UWS Ayr for the two weeks after this, with a planned delivery of the final product to our clients Law at Work on 22nd of November. As luck would have it, the filming of the new video takes place at the same time as Law At Work are undertaking a complete re-branding of their website and corporate identity. It is planned to coordinate the launch of the video with the new website in the new year. The timing for all of this could not be better.
It has been a challenging process for all involved, particularly since this is the first ever KTP embarked upon by the School Of Creative And Cultural Industries.
These are exciting times for all those involved in this unique project. There’s no doubt that this will lay down a marker for the sort of creative engagement with industry which the UWS Skillset Media Academy plans to roll out in the future.
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
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 Tickets £10, limited and available from CCA Box Office.
The Eildon Tree, the Borders New Writing Magazine is celebrating ten years of new Writing from the Scottish Borders and beyond.
I will be leading a practical Screen Writing Workshop session at the Tower Mill at 1.30 on the 30th of October.
This workshop is for anyone who ever wanted to write for the screen but was afraid to ask.
Full details for registration and times are here.
Tower Mill, Heart of Hawick
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.