London Screenwriters' Festival

Archive for the ‘Success’ Category

4 Nights In August Script Competition – Shortlist Announced!

Posted on: October 5th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 2 Comments

 

There has been major deliberation going on here at LSF Towers – not to mention some screaming, crying and general fisticuffs as to WHO goes through from the longlist to the coveted shortlist of The 4 Nights In August  Screenplay Challenge.

As with the creation of the longlist, yet MORE hard decisions had to be made.  However due to the quality of the entries we were not able to whittle it down to  the final 5 as expected, so instead we have a final 12!

Without further ado then and in alphabetical order ONLY:

BIRTHDAY by Michelle Golder

BURNING BOOKS by Steve Irwin

EVERYTHING YOU NEED by Dave Turner

FATHER TO THE MAN by Liz Holliday

FOUR DAYS ERE THE FESTIVAL OF DEACON LAURENCE IN AUGUSTUS by Sara Atiiyan

I WITNESS by Gareth Turpie

IN HEAD by Jamie Wolpert

LOST & FOUND by Mikey Jackson

RIOTERS AT THE GATES by Jon Cronin & Anna Carmichael

THE GAME by Terence Barry

WHY? by Milethia Thomas

YOU by Dominic Brancaleone

What’s great about this shortlist is that each entry is very different in its own way, presenting very intricate stories that reflect the complex issues behind the riots. We have entries here full of light and shade; nostalgia; even comedy. The styles of storytelling too are very different, with dialogue and non-dialogue scripts; talking heads and even almost “war reporting” cinema-verite styles to name a few. Several have no human or animal characters in whatsoever.

The longlisted entrants who did not get through to the shortlist this time however must not despair – they placed in the top 16% of the contest, no mean feat at all when we had so many entries. And they have no idea how close to fisticuffs Team LSF REALLY came…

Don’t forget you can see inside the spec pile as a whole for the contest by clicking here.  And here’s a blog about coping with rejection for anyone who needs it. And stay away from windows for at least 24 hours! ; )

NEXT ANNOUNCEMENT: The Winner!!! Coming VERY soon… Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Just Stand There, Adapt Something by Paul Bassett Davies

Posted on: September 27th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

 

The other day I got a parking ticket. I was very impressed by its potential, so I’m adapting it into a film. It’s a high concept project and it will appeal to the most profitable contemporary audience demographic: people who will watch anything. I like to think the title says it all:

Parking Ticket – The Movie.

In fact, the title says so much that I may not have to write anything else. Writing tends to gum up the machinery of film adaptation, which is now an efficient industrial process that renders everything into the same product, whatever its origins. Who cares what the film is about? The action sequences will be like epileptic siezures, with special effects that punch you in the retina so hard you wouldn’t notice stuff like story and character anyway. The only purpose is to impress you, regardless of how well the thing works. It’s like someone buying a solid gold bidet and then installing it in the living room.

Now try this simple test about forthcoming film adaptations. Are the following statement true or false? Answers below.

DR. SEUSS
The next film to be based on the work of Dr Seuss is called Tomatoes, Tuna and Toilet Roll and is adapted from a shopping list found in a pair of his trousers.

POPEYE
The charismatic matelot is re-launched as a brooding nautical avenger. As a boy, Popeye (Justin Timberlake) sees his uncle Bluto (Colin Firth) murder his parents with poisoned spinach. He runs away to sea and endures unspeakable abuse aboard a series of tramp steamers, from a series of tramps. A ship’s purser, an undercover Tibetan lama (Denzel Washington), takes Popeye to a remote temple and trains him in secret techniques of enlightened violence. His final challenge is to face his worst fear: spinach. He eats it, and discovers that it unleashes an awesome power, which he vows to use only in slow-motion. He returns to confront Bluto, and to woo the enigmatic Olive Oyl (Natalie Portman).

SPEED LIMIT
Several big studios are developing films based on road signs. The most notable is the Tarantino project STOP, about a team of driving test examiners who are secret Ninja assassins.

Answers:

1. False. The shopping list was found in his raincoat.

2. True. Or it would be, if any of the studios I pitched the idea to would recognize its brilliance.

3. False. The most notable is the Charlie Kaufman script about a screenwriter writing a script about a writer trying to adapt a map of the Beverly Hills traffic flow system into a movie. The action is set inside a suitcase that’s been left on a bus.

There’s a paradox here. Producers want adaptations because they figure there’s a better chance of people liking a film if they liked whatever it was before it was a film. On the other hand, whatever it was before it was a film is going to be irrelevant once the film has changed it beyond all recognition. The only thing you can be sure of is that producers distrust original ideas and don’t want to risk money on some crazy nonsense that a writer made up out of their own head. Why should they, when anyone can still walk into a kid’s bedroom and find a toy, comic book or game that hasn’t yet been used as the basis for a film? By the way, if you’re going to snoop around a kid’s bedroom it’s best if it’s your own kid’s room.

Of course, there are good and bad adaptations, and the best ones are reinventions not rewrites. You can make a fresh work of art when you turn a book into a play, or a play into a film, or a collection of songs into a musical, unless the songs are by Queen and the musical is We Will Rock You, obviously. Tim Burton’s first Batman movies created a new world, stimulated by the comic books that had already reimagined the character. Great adaptation is a process of transformation, and many of them take liberties with their source material. In ‘Chimes at Midnight’ Orson Welles turned three separate Shakespeare plays into a fresh story about Falstaff, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet was a blast even if it offended some purists. They’re the same people who object that Shakespeare didn’t write a version of ‘The Tempest’ which ends with a crew of gay sailors dancing around an octagenarian blues singer performing ‘Stormy Weather’, so why did Derek Jarman film it that way? Maybe because it’s better than simply putting a camera in front of a stage play and expecting it to work as a film. But adaptation can be tricky for writers. You need to be able to make the material your own, and at the same time you need to respect its origins. You’re screwing around with another writer’s work. It’s even worse if you’re adapting your own material because the original author is always there, giving you a hard time.

Novelists, playwrights and TV writers are now aware that their work might be adapted into a film. Even screenwriters know their film might be adapted into another film, especially if they’ve committed the eccentric solecism of not being American. If you’re French, Swedish or even English, it must be annoying to know that the more successful the film you write, the greater the chance that Hollywood will turn it into a bucket of steaming donkey vomit. I’m prevented from discussing the exceptions to this rule by the red mist that descends every time I think about The Ladykillers or Dinner for Schmucks (originally Le Diner du Cons), which were great films that were then degraded into vile insults to the human spirit. You might say I’m talking about remakes now, not adaptations, and I might agree that you’re technically right, but morally wrong to deny me the satisfaction of a good rant on the grounds of a minor category error, and then in a few days I might cut the brake pipes on your car.

But if we’re aware that what we write could end up being adapted, and it affects the way we write, is that always such a bad thing? Literary critics often accuse authors of writing novels with an eye on the movie adaptation. “It reads more like a screenplay than a book,” they sniff. But some authors have always written cinematically, and some of them were doing it long before the invention of cinema. And many great authors wrote adaptations. Dickens collaborated on stage plays based on his stories, and Shakespeare ‘adapted’ (i.e., stole) ideas from historical and literary sources. These writers were happy to recycle material, both their own and other people’s. They were working stiffs who needed to make a crust. “That’s right,” people say, “if Dickens was around today, he’d be making money by writing for TV cop shows!” Maybe. But it’s more likely that if Dickens was around today he’d be making money by selling whatever it is that’s kept him alive for two hundred years.

If film adaptations, good or bad, currently dominate the market, can you still pitch an original idea of your own? Yes, with the reservations I’ve already outlined in my article How to Have Someone Else’s Idea. But here’s another strategy: pitch an original idea but make it sound like an adaptation. Reassure producers it’s based on something that’s already been succesful. They’re not actually interested in the source material, they just want to know that this thing didn’t come out of nowhere. In this respect Hollywood is Darwinian and not Creationist. What they really want to hear is that your idea was originally a popular cave painting, and has since appeared as a book, an edition of sepia photogravures, a long running radio show, several films, a TV series, a comic book, a children’s cartoon, and a beer commercial. Tell them you’re not doing anything new, and then do something new. Sure, it will need to conform loosely to what they expect a film to be like right now. But everything changes, and meanwhile you have to do what it takes to work as a writer. We all have to see which way the wind is blowing, and make the best of it. We have to adapt.

NB: This article is currently being adapted into a ringtone.

Paul Bassett Davies runs a blog, The Writer Type – find him on Twitter here.

Networking The Shirt Off Your Back by Janice Day

Posted on: September 25th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

Writing’s hard. I discovered this when I was five years old and was told off for plagiarising the work of the little girl at the next desk. The teacher had asked us to write our name. I figured that if I copied the strange marks on my neighbour’s page I would be able to write my name too. The little girl was flattered and we became friends. Result!

And the writing? The teacher said one of us must have copied the other and her money was on the one who wasn’t called Susan.

Hey ho, at least I’d made a friend. Many years later I’m still much better at networking than I am at writing, and looking forward to my Networking Workshop at this year’s Festival.

I teach Interface Networking. That means I can help you to make that all important personal connection with the industry player who’s going to make you money.

Of course I can only teach it because I learned it at the coal-face. Unconscious networking is a doddle. We’ve all been doing that since we first shouted “Get off me you bastard” to the nurse who smacked our arses on arrival.

But conscious networking has most of us stumped. And I was no exception…

I stared up at the speaker, a celebrated screenwriting agent. She’s the one, I thought: confident, sassy, passionate and tough. She knows her onions. I want her.

 I followed her to the bar and joined the queue of writers nonchalantly pretending that they weren’t queuing to speak to her.

 As I moved up the queue I practiced my perfect pitch. This was it! I knew I must reveal myself as her next must-have new client. I just had to.

 Suddenly I was on. My mouth dried up, a ball of tumbleweed rolled across my vision and the eerie sound of nothingness whistled in my ears. While she looked at me expectantly, my knuckles grazed the floor and a little sliver of drool escaped from the corner of my mouth. My eyes rolled back up into my head. The seconds ticked away. 

 “What a lovely shirt,” she said, to break the ice.

“Would you like it?” I said. “You can have it. Honestly.”

 Right.

 But, hey, there’s always another chance. The next time I bumped into her…

 “We met last year. You said you liked my shirt. I’ve got it with me. Shall I get it?”

 Hmmm.

 But, hey, there really is always another chance. The next time I bumped into her…

 It occurred to me that she might be tired and thirsty after her speech. She was only human after all.

 I approached her as she came off the stage and offered to buy her a drink. I said I’d get the drinks in and find a table in the bar. She accepted gratefully and joined me after she’d seen off the wannabes offering her the shirts off their backs. We began a relationship and not long after that I joined her agency.

 The difference?

Acts I and II were about me. Act III was about her… 

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Janice Day is a Writer Performer and Writers’ Agent who teaches Interface Networking. Author of the comedy cancer memoir GETTING IT OFF MY CHEST, she is currently working on its stage adaptation with top West End Director Matthew Gould. The film adaptation is in development with Island Pictures. She’s also developing a documentary about Adult ADHD with Maverick Television.

Success stories from the festival

Posted on: September 20th, 2011 by Chris Jones 1 Comment

Henry placed 2nd out of 115 entries

It’s said you have to “speculate to accumulate” – and this certainly seems true in building your career as a screenwriter and/or filmmaker. It seems there are companies, initiatives and organisations everywhere just begging for your hard-earned cash, promising you training and opportunities in return. But are they worth it?

We can’t speak for the others, but we think London Screenwriters Festival is! We subscribe to the notion that we’re “all in this together” – and we designed the festival, its ethos and everything within it (including the schedule) on the basis of what WE’D like to have access to, as well! We got tired of expensive courses and schemes that offered time-limited opportunities to their delegates; we wanted to create a whole NETWORK for ours, not just in our private group but across social media and blogs, where people could meet and foster creative partnerships for years to come. The motto of London Screenwriters Festival is “inspire, educate, connect” on this basis.

But don’t take OUR word for it. There have been many success stories from last year’s festival already. We asked Henry Fosdike, the second place winner of our Short Script Challenge 2010 his thoughts on LSF and what he’s been up to since the festival…

“… Prior to the LSF, I hadn’t entered many competitions.” Henry says, “I was just starting my final year at Bournemouth University studying Scriptwriting for Film and Television and had decided that entering contests could be beneficial to my writing as it’s all feedback at the end of the day.”

Henry entered his dark short THE DECISION into our contest: “The original concept was for the job interview scenario to involve killing someone, a bit like those tough and violent movies that Asia have become so well known for (Battle Royale, Oldboy, etc.) The final ending only came as I was already writing it when I had a, “Oh hang on!” moment where everything suddenly came together.”

LSF’s readers noted Henry’s lean style of scene description and economical dialogue, scoring it highly on nearly all counts, meaning his script was number 2 out of a whopping 115 entries. “Naturally there was a tad of annoyance when I realised I was only one script away from winning,” Henry admits, “but that soon passed!” Henry won a ticket to the festival and was personally congratulated on stage by TV screenwriting legend Tony Jordan.

But that wasn’t it for THE DECISION, for new film production team White Tiger Films picked it up shortly after the festival, gaining Henry his first production credit. Director Trev Walsh and Henry got together after both posting on LSF Festival Organiser Lucy V’s “Film Shorts Club”, a registry of people interested in collaborating on short film. “The fact it was runner up in LSF’s contest peaked my interest,” says Trev. Like the readers at LSF however, Trev is complimentary of Henry’s writing – and his understand of logistics: “It was the writing itself and the fact that logistically it could be short with a tiny budget and in a great location I already had access to.”

There were lots to learn on the journey from the page to the screen for both Henry and Trev. “I learned a hell of a lot through the production process, a real baptism by fire.” Trev explains, “There were inevitable mistakes made during filming, but overall I am pleased with how it came together in the edit.” Henry agrees. “There wasn’t much editing of it that needed to be done, but there were a couple of slight changes for logistical purposes, including changing the gun from a pistol to a shotgun. It’s all the better for it.”

So what’s next for Henry and Trev? “Having just graduated, I am currently spending my days writing all sorts – a novel, a number of screenplays and a play. When I’m happy with the back catalogue, I shall go about trying to find an agent and hopefully go from there!” Says Henry. It’s more of the same for Trev, too: “I am currently in production on an ambitious short film with huge production values, Big Pink, which is aimed at Cannes 2012.” Big Pink was even written by LSF’s Short Script Challenge winner, Laurence Timms!

So was it all worth it? Henry thinks so – and recommends the festival itself, too. “I got some great tips from a wide variety of speakers – Linda Aronson being my personal favourite – and a chance to meet new people who are all just as passionate about writing as I am! Some of these people have become firm friends so I’d definitely recommend it to anyone pondering whether or not to attend.”