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Film… Movie! Movie… Film! It’s the same difference isn’t it?

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice, The Art of Writing, Writing Tips and Advice on 19/10/2014 at 15:16





The written word versus the visual one?


both really

I write with a filmmaker’s eyes…

I film with a writer’s structured mind…

Do you see? Do you see?

I see… already!

Hello fellow scribblers, key strokers, filmmakers, scriptwriters, daily creatives etc., etc.

Please tell me life has been kind to you?

Tell me you have met with success no matter how small.

A lifetime or two hundred suns ago.

Oh please don’t exaggerate. Ok.

Right, some time ago, as you know. I made a conscious decision to tinker with scriptwriting. And in a short space of time, I wrote a radio play, a stage play, a two, two-hour film adaptation of one of my novels, a half-hour television script and a number of other film and television scripts. I felt totally satisfied and believed I found my creative niche at long last. Well, at long last was up to that time.

I still craved. Creative minds do that, they crave. Whatever they are doing their minds are craving, yearning. It’s an intellectual drug. They need new experiences, new subjects to learn, new people to meet, new places to visit, new food to taste and so on. Well, for me I wanted to develop my screenwriting to the next level.

And what for heaven’s sake would that be?

Well, I’m glad you asked me, my dear conscious self. It’s like this. I became frustrated trawling through the internet looking for photos of a look alike protagonist or antagonist or love interest for my next screenwriting saga that I can pin on my board, or impatient by writing a short character description before they enter the scene. I wanted the real thing. I wanted people, because in my head, my characters were alive. Their dramas were vivid. Where they lived was real and their emotions, painfully human. There seemed to be only one avenue open for me.

To film my own scripts. To learn filmmaking and its various facets. To spend my time filming, meeting other filmmakers, to watch films, to join filmmaking groups, read filmmaking books and magazines and so on. The last time I felt this thrilled and occupied was when I began to learn how to write. I had to learn a new skill with all its pains, and its ups and downs. Remember the time when your scripts were rejected time and time again. What did Oscar Wilde say? ‘I’ve received enough reject letters to wallpaper my bedroom.’ Ah, the joy of learning.


quiet please filming in progress

So guess what I did with my time over those sunlit days and moonlit nights in the last few months? Yup! I became a film apprentice. As I mentioned in my last blog I have amassed my learning equipment, travelled high and low, met a lot of inspirational people and created at first, some outrageously amateurish footage. But it was fun. I learned a lot and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I filmed new angles with cheap home-made equipment. I had great fun coming up with new filming perspectives. But I was on the way to making my scripts become real. Currently, films similar to ‘The Blake Witch Project’ are masterpieces compared to what I still consider my mediocre efforts. But do you know what?


They are my mediocre films. I am at that perfectionist stage when anything below that level is puerile, kindergarten output. But hey, I’ll get better. And in a coincidental way it has brought me back in touch with how I started as a writer, by writing short stories. I was quite surprised at that outcome. Now I have written several short scripts to create as my calling card. I have even dug up some of my old short stories – YES, NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY. As I said, I found these old short stories and am currently adapting them into film shorts.

Film festivals, have always got room for short films. And when I pondered some more about filmmaking, or moviemaking, making your own films is little different to a self-published book, although that is a lot cheaper to reproduce than a film. But the market to being noticed as a filmmaker is far broader than the one for books. You have festivals, the internet and television to spread your visual word.

Films, movies, a well-crafted script, short stories, documentaries, these are forms of expression. Of reaching out with a theme, a visual message. But isn’t that what fiction or non-fiction books, short fiction, articles and poetry is doing. I am still voicing my messages, but now I have increased my chances of being heard. It’s not about me wanting to become famous, far from it, it’s about increasing my audience.


lights camera action


It really is ‘Lights. Camera. Action.’ And do you know what? No matter how old I’ll get, I will always stop, assess and learn new ways to increase my audience, and my skills. I will never be happy with one medium and that has always been the case from the time I was able to hold a pencil and scribble some indecipherable something on a page and glow with pride, shouting ‘I did that. I did that.’

So until I meet with you again, just sit back and assess yourself and your skills and ask if you can go off into a new direction. And if you want to, then ask yourself what is stopping you and get rid of that hurdle, work your way around it, through it, underneath it, anything. JUST DO IT. Don’t just sit there and wish.

Well… until the next time we cross paths, love you and those around you. Listen, encourage and be patient with you and them. Remember, they will be the first ones there when you want your ass kicked, hand stroked and your cheek kissed.

Keep well. Remove your creative blocks. And be at peace.

Believe in you.



WANTED! Screenwriter needed urgently for Hollywood!

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice on 08/02/2014 at 17:46

hollywood 1


Hollywood wants you…

Hollywood always wants you…

Hollywood always has vacancies for screenwriters…

That’s convenient. What a stroke of luck!

I’m a screenwriter!

And a LARGE shouty hello to you all dear fellow writers, screenwriters and scribes.

So… what’s the verdict? Are you going to apply? Have you got a suitcase packed already? Are you up and moving to LA LA Land? Have you given notice to leave your job? Well… DON’T! Not yet.

Ok, you’ve heard Hollywood cannot exist without writers and there are producers out there ready to dine and entertain you as if you were the ‘bitch of the night‘. You’ve realised that not all new films are written by established screenwriters. You’ve written your ‘Gone With The Wind’, spent a fortune having your script bound and now… what? You think that’s it. Ha! If only. It doesn’t work like that.

Yes, Hollywood is always looking for screenwriters because new films are always being made and there aren’t enough new ideas, and new scripts to meet demand. Producers have to rehash, remake, reinterpret old films, old ideas, old books and so on. So Hollywood is hungry for scripts.

Is that so? Then tell me why was the script for the ‘Dallas Buyers Club‘ which started its rounds about 20 years ago got turned down by 86 Production companies before it got recently taken up and turned into a critically acclaimed Oscar nominated film? Yes, questions, questions?

And how about ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘? Leonard De Caprio took the script, written by Terence Winter, one of the writers of the multi-award winning television programme ‘The Sopranos‘ around the production companies for the last six years, got into a bidding war with Brad Pitt before someone said ‘Hey let’s turn that into a film!’hollywood 2

I remember the comments made on Facebook for the ‘Dallas Buyers Club‘, and they all came under the heading ‘Inspired/Depressed‘. And that’s about right. Inspired that no matter how long a script takes to be noticed AND believed in it still got made AND depressed because it did take that long for it to be noticed AND believed in. Those comments also applied to the Leonard De Caprio vehicle ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Here is a film touted by an internationally acclaimed film star, written by an award-winning screenwriter and even that took six years too long before it drew the crowds in. They are not the first nor will they be the last films to be ignored by the might of the Hollywood Machine.

So what side of the fence are you on, the inspired or the depressed? Half-full? Half-empty? I’ll let you know which side I’m on by the end.

The point I’m trying to make. I’ve been a writer since the late 1960s, had a rich and varied writing background, am an award-winning writer, a published poet, is a busy screenwriter, with a Literature BA and do you think for one minute Hollywood is queuing up to take my work? Wrong! But here’s my answer to that question. Which side am I on? Still inspired. Just because two scripts received that treatment, do you think for one finger-numbing, sweat-soaked head, aching shoulders, sore midnight-pounding eyes am I going to give up. NO!

Hollywood 3

We hear stories of authors (JK Rowling), musical artists (The Beatles), artists (Picasso, many, many others) and what I’ve mentioned today being ignored, had doors slammed, rejected time and time again (Oscar Wilde anyone?). Do you think that deters me? NO! So yes, I fall into the inspired side of the fence and proud of it. I am that long distance runner. You may move my winning post but to me it provides more of a challenge. I will try harder, become more resilient, more believing and see that moving winning post as adding fuel to my fire. WHY? Because I believe in myself. There is only one me, I’m a unique writer and I’m waiting my turn in the queue.

So, until next week, just carry on believing, You will hear stories like these every week. There will always be stories like these, it’s just the way creativity has to exist. Don’t forget, Hollywood, like any other creativity medium is run by humans and we all know how humans are with all their whims, wishes and flavours of the day. Creativity is such a whim. But one day your style will be the flavour everyone wants a slice of.

Next week… dearly beloved, keep well, loving, believing and full of peace.

Believe. Believe. Believe.

All my loving – always


Theme? Theme? Theme? What is theme? What is my theme? I want to scream…

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice on 01/02/2014 at 12:31

theme 2 images


Is it love?

Is it war?

Is it justice?

Is it about the unfairness of life in giving me another parking ticket when I stopped for a few seconds at my local store to get some apricot jelly/jam for breakfast?

Hello… Pensmiths of the world

So how are you? Please tell me you have had a great week. Have you been kind and loving to everyone? Did you help any old people across the street? Have you stroked any animals and got nipped in the process? What have you written? have you written every day? Great. Remember we have to keep the world going. The rest of the world needs writers. We are their everything: entertainment, news, information, education etc. Do you see how important you are?

Now… while you maniacilly scribble your weekend to do list in your notebooks, allow me to mention this week’s theme. Yup it’s THEME. No matter what you write… from a simple poem to a novel, a film, news article, DIY article, they all need theme. But seeing we are only concerned with the fictitious world, then that’s what we’ll concentrate on.

So what is THEME? This is a blurred area for many new and some established writers. More often than not, many books and films fall prey to that universal theme of LOVE. Yup, there isn’t enough love in this world, so we’ll make sure we’ll promote it in our writing, and in our films. There’s a lot of lonely people out there, so let us tell the rest of the world how lonely they are, how hungry they are for love, how they yearn to be one half of a couple. Then we can write a film script about divorce, how relationships break up, what happens to the kids during this time, how the warring couple will divide their chattels, house and so on. Yes, I’m sure that will make a good film. In fact, I think it will make a great film. ‘War of the Roses’ anyone?

There are many films when the theme is clearly obvious. I was thinking of writing a film around the theme of ‘how unfair it is getting a parking ticket while stopping at a grocery store to get a jar of jelly’. But if I did write a film around that theme then very few people would actually see my theme. So how do you present a theme?

First of all what gets under your skin?, makes you angry? you can’t stop talking about? you have to discuss wherever you go? a topic you would like to share with the world, you feel strongly about? have a strong opinion about? Well my friends, that is a theme. And if you are writing a novel, or writing a film script, then you present both sides of the argument. The protagonist represents your belief and the antagonist highlights the opposing view. Yes, that simple.

It is the theme of an essay, you argue for and against and then reach your conclusions. So a novel and a film is really an essay of an argument you are presenting to the world.

theme 2

Okay, here’s a little exercise, I would like you to write a film around the theme of violence, and the question is are we born aggressive, or are we made aggressive? First of all, what is your point of view? Do you hold an argument for or against? If you believe we are born aggressive then present your facts and proof for as the protagonist and then present your facts and proof against, but this time you are the the antagonist. For every argument for, present an argument against until you reach a conclusion, or not.

You see themes are just that… there are people who would agree with you and there are those who do not. Your film could present facts and proof, those against or for might not have considered and so on.

If your film has no theme, then it is very likely viewers will have anything positive to say about it. A lot of viewers enjoy exploring the images searching for that theme and taking sides. And there is nothing better than watching a film with some friends and then heading off to a pub or club afterwards and discussing it. You see films aren’t just about crashing cars, killing aliens or adultery, films are an intellectual entertainment.

Even if the theme is a simple love theme, there is still the joy of enjoying how the writer, director, actors and crew have portrayed their arguments.

So can you name any films with strong themes, weak themes, no themes, radical themes, controversial themes and so on? Go and look for them. Don’t just watch a film for film’s sake, what’s bubbling underneath, what has really pissed the writer off, what does he or she feel strongly about, what facts and proof has the writer demonstrated.

theme 1 images

So could the themes be any of the above, or was it something new you can add to the list? What have you learned from the film?

Have a great week exploring new films, and novels. Find out which films and novels you tend to ignore and find out why? You can learn a lot about yourself by what you watch and read. And as a writer of both, you can learn a lot about yourself and your attitudes and beliefs.

So really you can have a wonderful week of doing everything. Watch, read and write. Oh joy.

Right my lovely ones, until next week. Enjoy film and read books in all their glory. If you do catch some great films tell us about them and their themes. And your experience, of course.

Have a great week.

Love one another and be creative.

And this week I ask you to love yourselves too.

Ta Ta my little pretties

Rest in peace, Syd

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice on 23/11/2013 at 11:29


1935 – 2013

Screenwriting Guru

This week’s blog will not, as many of you will notice, be a long and frivolous affair.

I dedicate this week’s entry to Syd Field who died last Sunday November 17, 2013.

Last weekend, I attended The London Screenwriters’ Summit and Syd was supposed to open the proceedings.  But he told the event’s organisers that ‘he felt a little tired’. The event continued on and missed his presence. The event ended on Sunday when we walked out of the building to face the sad news.

I met Syd some time ago in Los Angeles during another event – Story Expo. He opened that weekend with a sparkling smile and warm greetings. I was lucky enough to experience the Syd charm, warm and genuine humanity and screenwriting wisdom.

Syd is known for his Paradigm and I include a copy of it below:


I shall not try to explain how it works, this week’s blog is not the place for it, but suggest you find the information on the web, or buy one of Syd’s many books.

Syd’s Paradigm, is a small contribution to screenwriting and he earned the ‘Screenwriting Guru’ label for his bottomless knowledge on the subject. I am honoured to have attended his lectures and he will always be my little ‘Guru’ on my shoulder.

Many films and screenwriters owe their thanks to Syd. So I would personally like to say:

‘Rest in peace Syd. Thank you. You will never be forgotten.’

May I wish all of you a well, loving and peaceful week.


Read, Watch and Learn…

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice on 09/11/2013 at 10:10

Hollywood sign


as Scott Myers suggests.

Watch movies.

Read scripts.

Write pages.

Hello one and all…

Have you had an earth-shattering productive week? Have you written wonderful work? Sent off your work?

Oh dear, you had a reply already? Never mind. Have a day’s rest and move on to your next project. This is no time to wallow. Turn wallowing into a positive creative force.

We can’t have good weeks every week. You know that and so do I. On the other hand, not every week is a crap week, where each day is shittier than the last and life appears to have it in for you.

Life is a balance. Yin Yang. Day Night. Black White. Sour Sweet. You just move on and wait for the good phase to start.

How did we get onto that subject? Oh yeah! Yin Yang. What a simple phrase that is. It encapsulates everything in a few words. It captures and explains light and shade, good or bad, hot and cold etc., in an easy to remember phrase.

Well… Scott Myers on his blog, has captured the essential skills of how to become a supreme screenwriter in fewer words than this sentence. He said in his simple-to-remember triptych:

Watch movies.
Read scripts.
Write pages.

That’s it really. Six words. Scott formulated this around four or five years ago and can still be found on his blog ( – which by the way is an astonishing resource for screenwriters.

As a tutor, I used to offer a similar pearl of wisdom to my creative writing students; if you want to write thrillers, then you must read thrillers, and practice writing thrillers. But developed my screenwriting lifestyle by necessity. I developed my pattern of thinking some time ago, but didn’t write it as eloquently as Scott. His simple-to-carry-around powerful phrase means you can repeat it to yourself, whatever you’re doing. In a short while, it will cement itself into your subconscious.

My system developed over years of frustration. And I mean painful frustration…

Allow me to share an average screenwriting day with you. It consists of watching one or two, which I consider significant films. I don’t watch every movie available because of time constraints, but watch the good, the bad, the English-speaking, the foreign-subtitled in the genre I write in. I’m a little older, not wiser than Scott, so I have to manage my time differently. But I do watch one maybe two films in my chosen genre every day. Usually before I go to bed. And watch them as a screenwriter. Or watch them first for entertainment, then watch them as a screenwriter and find out why they are good, turgid, or supreme.

I read film scripts and screenwriting books in book form or electronically when I am having a break? When nature calls? When I am waiting for someone? I try to read scripts of films I am watching, but it’s not always possible to marry the two. Sometimes I make a point of watching a film with the script in front of me so I can identify certain screenwriting techniques. A case in point is ‘Basic Instinct’ by Joe Eszterhas (see below). This is a film all screenwriters should watch a few times, read the script a few times, and do both simultaneously a few times. A great piece of writing.

Joe Eszterhas

My remaining time, when I am not attending screenwriting related events, I write screenplays. And every two days, I stop writing for a couple of hours and attend to my social commitments, the real and internet ones.

So there you have it… my week. I also love hopping around the internet in case I come across new screenwriting sites, movie news. Or if I may have been short listed for a competition or maybe won one.

My week is a busy one and I treat screenwriting as a job. If I have a deadline then my writing is centred around that. I am serious about my job. I don’t cheat because no one is looking over my shoulder, I just pretend there is someone. So I put on my music and write. If my music is too much for the household then I put my headphones on.

Every aspect of my job has been considered and I am very satisfied with the routine I set myself. It works. Now using Scott’s phrase, maybe you can construct a regime for you, in order to become more productive, skilful and satisfied as a screenwriter.


Last week, I promised you a film or some of the films I have watched this week which I am desperate in sharing with you. They could be good, dire, indifferent or as I say supreme, gripping, enchanting and need to be watched again. So let me tell you about not one, but three beautiful subtitled films I watched this week.

Some of the details are courtesy of Many thanks to them.

I Saw the Devil (2010, South Korea, Kim Jee-Woon, 141 min): When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge.

I didn’t think it was possible for a human being to hold their breath for nearly two and a half hours and still be able to write this. We know the killer. We know the copper. But could a copper develop into the monster he is chasing to seek revenge? An incredible script. The tension is a layer upon layer of gripping drama and empathic human emotion. Superb acting. It is bloody. It is gory. But it is very original. That’s it. No more clues. Astonishing film. Go find a copy, watch, and learn.

Songs from the Second Floor (2000, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Roy Andersson, 98 min): A film poem inspired by the Peruvian poet César Vallejo. A story about our need for love, our confusion, greatness and smallness and, most of all, our vulnerability. It is a story with many characters, among them a father and his mistress, his youngest son and his girlfriend. It is a film about big lies, abandonment and the eternal longing for companionship and confirmation. (Fredrik Klasson)

Wow! Wow! Wow! That’s not going to help you. Roy Andersson, the director took four years to make this film. To me every second is beautiful, mesmerising, unforgettable. Every scene is in Three Acts. At first each scene appears unconnected, disjointed, similar to Monty Python sketches. Then you realise the many delicate themes weaving their way through the performances gathering all the scenes in to form a blissful majestic whole. It is one of the funniest films you will see. Great performances. Superb writing. A surreal experience guaranteeing you return for a second, third and hopefully a weekly viewing of bleakly comedic and unbelievable movie magic.

Until the End of the World (1991, Germany, France, Australia, USA, Wim Wenders’ Director’s Cut, 280 min):  Set in the future of 1999, a woman has a car accident with some bank robbers, who enlist her help to take the bank money to a drop in Paris. On the way she runs into another fugitive from the law, an American who is being chased by the CIA. They want to confiscate a device his father invented which allows anyone to record their dreams and vision. On the run from both the bank robbers and the CIA, the couple span the globe, ending up in Australia at his father’s research facility, where they hope to play back the recordings Hurt captured for his blind mother. (Ed Sutton)

Oh joy! This version is over 120 minutes longer than the theatrical cut but it felt like minutes. It is enthralling cinema. I have always admired Wim Wenders creative vision and he did it again with this gentle peaceful film. He envisioned the future as it is now and a lot of the gadgets, vehicles, clothes, lifestyles are almost spot on. This is a great story co-written by the female lead Solveig Dommartin. She is the stillness every scene needs to create an angelic cohesive harmony. And Solveig as Claire appears in almost every scene. May I suggest try and see Wim’s other masterpiece ‘Wings of Desire’ before this one. Consider that film the first course of an intellectual and visionary feast.

So that’s it for this week my wonder readers.

I hope you will experience a loving and peaceful week. Give out the love and enjoy it when it comes back. Take care of yourselves and others and have a creative week.

Now before I forget. There will not be a posting next week. I am off to the London Screenwriters’ Summit in jolly old London. If you are going. Then great. Come over and say hi and we’ll share a bag of chips.

Until the next time – in two weeks.

Keep well, loving and full of peace.


So What Movies Do You Watch And Why Do You Watch Them?

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice on 02/11/2013 at 10:59



What do I want to watch?

What do I watch?

Why do I watch?

What wonders will my chosen watch reveal?

Hiya Wonder Followers

Have you had a good week? I’ll wait so you can respond. As good as that. Wow! Did you make new pals? Great That will keep the world going.

Well, thank you for sharing your life with me. Greatly appreciated.

As a fiction and screen writer I am often asked what my favourite genres in fiction and movies are. I am never reluctant to answer, no matter how busy I may be, because if someone took the time to show interest, then I shall take the time to reply.

Most of my time in the last few years have been taken up with screenwriting. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my writing time appears to centralise around screens – little ones, big ones, internet ones.

But let’s take fiction… When I started reading as a boy, I read Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, but what I yearned for was reality, grit, black and white, shadows, society’s dark side and I discovered Noir. I read so many. They engrossed me. They gripped me. They were so far away from my own life, they thrilled. I still read Noir and many of the books I read earlier have become classics. Authors like Richard Stark, Dashiell Hammett, Derek Raymond and so so many more.

Inevitably, my writing began to reflect my reading style and still does. I suppose you can now call it ‘Mature Noir’. There you are… my own category. Dark writing for mature people written by mature people.

You know what?


Every week I shall mention a book title I read and by whom. They may be authors you never heard off before, which is great.

One of my personal highs as a human is exploring new ideas, areas, authors, music, etc. Anything new I come across. You never know if this new area will end up a love of yours. I love reading a new author, or listening to a new album, or watching a new film someone has recommended.


So in addition to a book I have read, I will also tell you about movies I have watched and why. I am a little selective with movies. I don’t watch everything that moves on the screen. I tend to watch what attracts my intellect, me, the genre I write in, what appears to be interesting and so on. So a lot of my earlier films were by directors like Godard and Melville and many, many more. As a screenwriter, I watch a lot of movies, so I may recommend a film I watched that week, or a new film I watched or a film that popped into my head, or a film to watch as a writer.

In the last few years I have been turning to watching classic Noir, Thrillers from around the world. Believe me, you have to do it. I love watching subtitled films anyway. It provides me with the opportunity of reading the dialogue, which is so essential to a great film.

A lot of people have told me that they cannot watch subtitled films, because they cannot follow the plot, or storyline and read at the same time. Do you know what? It gets easier. Easier to be able to watch and read at the same time. Besides ‘foreign’ films, I believe, are so much more original, real, adventurous, memorable than a lot of the English speaking ones. And to be honest… I am getting quite tired, of zombies, werewolves, vampires, frat films, a lot of horror films and rubbish that is churned out, day after day in the hope of grabbing that last nickel before the film theme dies completely.

My first foray into subtitled foreign films happened to be Italian films with wonderful directors like Fellini and  Visconti. At that time I also listened to Italian opera. I am not Italian, but I felt I was. It was everywhere in my life, food included. I was young, about seven, but that’s all I knew.

There is such a wonderful atmosphere about subtitled films. They are fresh. They touch upon subjects which English speakers shy away from. Watch ‘I am Curious:Yellow’, made in 1967 and see wonderful writing, superb characters, great direction and an astonishingly frank theme that banned the film for many years. Then they brought out ‘I am Curious: Blue’, but that’s for another day. A lot of the films are very intellectual, most of the Bergman films are. You have to pay attention with subtitled films. You have to unravel some of them. Look deep within and capture the symbolism, the depth of character, the ending.

Films, movies, ‘flicks’ ‘picture shows’, whatever you want to call them are one of my loves. And I hope to infect you with some of my passion.


Since we have just ‘celebrated’ another Halloween, I thought I would leave you with a still from a very early B&W film. ‘Nosferatu’, a silent film from Germany made in 1922. It scared many by shadows alone. Remember this is silent. No orchestra, no screams, no sound effects of creaking floorboards. To this day, this film is still considered the very best version of Count Dracula filmed. It’s astonishing to think how powerful the filming and the writing is to captivate so many for nearly one hundred years. 91 years for those who like it precise.

So, my lovely ones. It’s goodbye from me until next week. Enjoy film and all its glory. If you do catch some of the directors I mentioned. Great. Let me know what you watched. And your experience.

Have a great week.

Love one another and be creative.

And this week I ask you to love yourselves.

Ta Ta.

And if there is time I shall write why, going to mention

Right Practice For Your Write Style

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice on 19/10/2013 at 14:49

boy & film


Practice what you preach

Watch what you write

Read what you write

You know what I mean…

Is there any value in knowing how others do it?

So my little devoted, dedicated dears, how has life treated you? Or, how have you been treating life, and others of course. Was it good, or even better, GREAT?

This week?

That little boy is me. It’s not really, but that’s how I felt the first time I saw a film, movie, what have you. I grew up in an environment and time with no television. GOD! Can you believe that? Was there a time before television? WELL… actually, yes. And it wasn’t so long ago either. So the only visual entertainment we had other than reading comics was film. And going to the cinema was a treat. We weren’t dumped in front of a large television, when mum wanted to do the housework.

So yes, that was me, aged about 6. That was the joy I expressed when I saw a movie. Time moved too fast as well and I remember going home frustrated because I wasn’t allowed to watch another. Next time, but not now. I remember quite a few of the films I watched. There was a documentary about wildlife in the desert, with dancing insects. Probably a Disney film. Quite a lot of Mario Lanza films – he sticks in my mind because the posters always had a spear through his surname. Lanza means spear in Maltese. There was a Godzilla film. And one that I cried with and after. An American film called, I still remember it, ‘Escapade In Japan’. It’s about a young boy, who was about my age, he survives a plane crash, makes friends with a Japanese boy, they think they’ve done something wrong and run from the authorities and the little boy’s parents. I have a lump in my throat now.

Moving on… that film had a huge impact on me. What power film has? Now, I’m a screenwriter. I love the medium. It suits me, my imagination, my creativity. Cinema and my other love, books, especially Noir and my world as a creative is complete. I read Noir from around the World, US, UK Scotland etc and watch films. You notice I said films.

Many teachers of creative writing, as I, will always advocate, no, encourage their students to read as much as they write. I believe that to become a great writer, you have to be a great reader. Well, I’ve been there, ate the t-shirt, wore the burger, and still am a great reader. I will read anything. Not just novels. But whatever is put in front of me, or I search for.

But I am a screenwriter, what do I watch if I am a writer of Noir Thriller scripts? You know what… let’s talk about it. My daily diet is two films a day, lots of reading especially film scripts and a great deal of writing. So what sort of films should you watch if you are a screenwriter? The first question you have to ask is what is your chosen genre? Crime. Romance. Drama. Thrillers. Sci-Fi. Fantasy, and so on. You can’t possibly write in every genre, it will show in your writing, weak plots, flat characters, dull dialogue and so on. Let’s take me…

You watch films to learn. I don’t mean only watch great films, but watch films. Yes, even Rotten Tomatoes, Golden Turkey films. I love watching ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space.’ If you haven’t seen it, get hold of a copy. It is the perfect worst movie made and often hailed as such.  I bought a DVD copy, watched it on television, so yes, I’ve seen it quite a few times. Why? Because it  shows you how not to do it; cheap effects, terrible acting, awful characterisations, dreadful plot, diabolical continuity. Honestly, I could go on. By the way, John Travolta’s ‘Battlefield Earth’ is not far behind ‘Plan 9.’ Check out John in platform boots, shiny, aluminium foil costume, high hair wig and a character’s name of Teri. You see how much you learn from mediocre, or bad films. How not to write it? They are the standards you avoid. Then you watch the middle guys and then the top films.

Each level has its pluses and minuses, it’s own standard. So what makes ‘Saving Private Ryan’ a great film? Because it has everything ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ hasn’t got. And have you noticed something else? I have just mentioned three films that are not Noir. That is what I mean about watching all films. Lately, I have begun watching films Georges Melies, known as the First Wizard of Cinema, made from 1896 – 1913. Where did the film makers from then get the ideas, techniques and story-lines? They created their own standards because they had nothing as comparison.

I truly enjoy watching films from the great masters like Bunuel, Godard, Fellini as much as recent masters like Almodovar, Scorsese, Spielberg. You have to watch and learn. Learn how story develops. How they build the tension. How we learn what the characters’ personalities are like, about settings, how the camera moves , how natural the dialogue is, emotion, emotion, emotion.

You see what made me still remember ‘Escapade in Japan’ 56 years later is the emotion. I became that little boy. I wanted to help him. I wanted to tell him everything will be all right. Tell him his parents are still alive and he is not alone. I wanted to befriend him and offer him shelter, companionship. You see what happened… I CARED as if he was real. That’s the power of screenwriting, to make people care about what you have to say. You increase the emotional value in the viewer, even many years later.

So what do you watch as a screenwriter? Watch your chosen genre by all means, BUT do not refuse watching other films just because it is a romance, or even a cartoon. Watch, watch, watch and learn your craft. Learn from the masters and the amateurs alike.

Love your craft in all its forms.

Well, that’s it. Gosh that came quick. Have a great week, love your loved ones, tolerate those you don’t like and be patient with everybody. After all, how many people do you know had to tolerate you, be patient with you and love you? Hmmm!

So until next week.

Practice. Watch, Practice. Read. Practice. Practice.

Ta Ta for now.

Much love to you all.

*Positive Provocations*

~Healing with Positivity, Love & Happiness!~

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