The mad science laboratory of a screenwriter & consultant scroll down to read on...

The mad science laboratory
of a screenwriter & consultant


Festival Marketing

'Festival' to most filmmakers means Cannes...

... and with just three weeks to go many of you will be scrambling to get your projects market ready.

I've now been 23 consecutive times, so I know what works and what doesn't. This week I inked a deal with a man who produced six $50m movies this decade. Three weeks ago I signed a writing deal with an established UK-based producer. An Australian producer is flying in to Cannes to meet with me about a sci-fi we're developing together, director and finance are waiting patiently for the script.

Four-page documents are extremely powerful. For those patient enough to read them they present the story in sufficient detail to understand character, motives, and tone. For writers and producers they contain just enough granularity to maintain momentum throughout the development process; not too onerous to write or to read for fast-turnaround changes to complex story beats.

Related: Script Consulting — What is it? Who does it? Who is it for?

Story comes first

I advocate for a one-page introduction, a two-page outline, and a four-page treatment. I'm also a huge fan of the logline, which should convey the Four Necessities in fewer than thirty words if possible.

If you can go to festivals and markets with all of those presented nicely — professional poster artwork and a director's look book certainly help — then you're way ahead of the rest of the pack.

So let me know if I can help you with any of the above.

To your success!



Make Your Film

Guest post by Dom Lenoir.

Two UK filmmakers, Dom Lenoir and Giles Alderson, have embarked upon a new venture to bridge the gap between independent and big-budget films and also to explore the mindset and approaches of how people really got there, which you don’t often see at other panel events.

It is called #MakeYourFilm

Both are filmmakers with provenance:

Dom Lenoir
Giles Alderson

Here is an overview of the events and their contact information.

Make Your Film is a new London event that myself and Giles have created to present and run together. Giles already has a lot of amazing success stories from a wealth of independent and studio level filmmakers through his filmmaker's podcast and from my side I already ran a film course with Matt from Camelot Films about the stages of producing your film at a high level.

Running this new event came about because we wanted to help other people in the indie world get their films made. There is such a lot of negativity and barriers to getting features made, and the status quo is very limiting in telling people what they should aim for: - such as what genre you have to do, whether you have cast at a certain level, if it has to be minimal or “contained” etc. What we have found through our experiences that if you are willing to be resourceful, and are passionate about making films, that you can take the stories you want and get them made and we want to inspire people to see the ways people have done that.  Our approach to show this is by showing the challenges our panellists have faced, their unique and different ways of approaching the producing of their films and at the same time building a positive framework of people who want to create great stories and films and can collaborate to do so.

The main focus of our first event was about making your first feature and our guests had all achieved amazing things: the panellists' films starred some amazing talent:: - Adam Morse’s film Lucid stars Billy Zane (Titanic), Jenna Suru’s film L'Âge d'Or, which she stars in and produced herself and is impressively set in 1960s France/LA, Phin Glynn’s film You, Me and Him stars David Tennant.

In terms of Giles he did his first studio film with Millennium called The Dare and myself, I just completed Winter Ridge starring Alan Ford (Snatch) which we independently produced and got into 25 cinemas's entirely ourselves.

The atmosphere was incredible on the first event night, people were incredibly positive and saying how charged they now are to go off and get projects made and how different and insightful it was compared to a lot of panels that just look at success stories. It's surprising how many talented people just need a push, or to hear a different way of looking at things to renew their drive and get something moving after having had a setback or being told their project was not possible. Having had a challenging time ourselves on projects in the past we wanted to give something back and give something useful to the film community. Each event has a different theme; we will be tailoring them to hit some interesting areas as we move through each month.

We’re actively collaborating with other networks and sponsors as well so it isn’t just our own event but a collaborative venture. There are some amazing companies joining us and some really high level speakers, so it’s really exciting how quickly it’s expanding.

You can follow us on all the social media pages and keep up to date with our next event on March 5th as we announce new speakers on the Facebook page and also the filmmakerspodcast where you can also get your projects shouted out sometimes on Twitter to help get the word out there too.

You can also follow what we are up to on our projects with - Dom Lenoir and Giles Alderson respectively as well as our recent features on twitter, instagram and facebook: @winterridgefilm and @thedarefilm

Our first announced guests are Fizz and Ginger Films who are currently premiering their latest movie The Isle in L.A.

Tickets here for our March event:

ABOUT the Make your Film hosts:

Dom Lenoir - Directed & produced his 1st feature age 20 and achieved his goal of 3 features before 30 yrs old with Winter Ridge starring Alan Ford (Snatch, Lock Stock) and Oscar winning sound designer Glen Freemantle (Gravity) which had a 25 screen cinema release and 16 festival awards. Doms back catalogue includes international shooting in Sicily, Scotland, Austria, Spain and Germany, showing an ability to create high production values and focus on acting led drama.  His work is very much story and character led, delivering heightened drama and thought provoking messages within his films. His next film in development We Called Him James is written by Daniel Graham whose last script attracted and featured Willem Dafoe.

Giles Alderson - Giles was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire, UK. He has recently directed studio film with Millenium 'The Dare' and 'The World of Darkness feature films. He starred in the films, I Want Candy, The Torment, The Harsh Light of Day, The Damned United and is the founder of Gold Films & Figi Productions where he has produced and directed eight award winning films including, 'The Heart of the Forest', '47 Cleveland' 'Taken' 'Barry Brown' and the first 3D short drama to be filmed in the UK 'Sportsday 3D'. He is now in prep for his drama feature 'The Nobodies' and is in post for his writing and directing debut the psychological horror feature 'The Dare' starring Richard Brake, Alexandra Evans, Richard Short, Bart Edwards and Robert Maaser for Millennium Films and B2Y.


The Dictionary is Wrong... Or Is It?

So... there's a common expression "to shoot yourself in the foot" and it's so self-explanatory that everyone can agree on its meaning... you might think.

A calamitous own-goal, yes? To be hoisted by one's own petard, surely?

Except they can't all agree, and maybe shouldn't, because once upon a time, about 100 years ago, it was a deliberate action — not even self-sabotage, utterly deliberate — following from the premise that it would cause a non-fatal wound which would very likely get you removed from the front lines of battle. (There was even a Blackadder bit about it).

English Language & Usage

So who's wrong and who's right? Well that's the interesting thing: everyone's right.

Whether you do a thing deliberately or not, a thing is done. Both interpretations have meaningful meanings. Whichever one you intend is probably easily inferred. Why not have two options?

Is this to imply that "I could care less" is also permissible? No. That is still plainly wrong.



Spatial Awareness

Painting: Dive by Daniel Mullen — Website

Recently I asked some clients if there were any specific areas of interest they'd like me to post about on this blog — particularly as I haven't been very active on here for a while (having run out of steam a little while back after a good few years slogging at it).

One subject that came up was the notion of 'geographically blocking out' a scene for maximum drama and clarity. It's an interesting one. Certainly, it's a key aspect of the craft, and it's true that I don't see a lot written on this, particularly compared to character, story or dialogue.

Now that I think about it, this is one of the major parts of what defines a writer's voice. What could be more quintessential to screen-based drama than the writer's choices of how the reader or viewer is oriented in space relative to the scene? It surely then stands alongside character, story and dialogue in its importance. Let's take a look.

A key tenet of modern screenwriting technique is one-sentence-per-shot, and this convention is one of the main things which sets screenwriting apart from other literary forms. Quite apart from sheer practicality (avoiding unfilmable information) it's a writer's best tool to convey what they want on screen without committing the cardinal sin of over-directing or listing shots.

Well-thought-out geography with strong visuals can allow you to build tension without dialogue, ratchet up the dramatic power of a scene with dialogue, and can add suspense to the most high-octane action set-piece, or the quietest parlour.

At the very least it's the only way I know to keep every reader totally apprised of how all the characters and important dramatic elements are arranged on your proverbial chess board, and how that evolves over time. That also extends to the actors and the director, most of the crew, and onwards into the edit suite. Sure things will change once it's out of your hands and the realities of filming kick in, but you have the best shot of your script being what you see on screen if you're specific about the placement of the pieces.

How Much is Too Much?

The next question has to be how specific is too specific. I think the best answer to that is that it kinda depends how you want to convey pace and tone at any given moment.

If Darcy stands beside the fireplace in a stately home, then he presumably has at his disposal several possibly heavy ornaments on the mantlepiece, and a set of fire irons. Who else is in the room, and their whereabouts, is probably therefore also interesting. The tension deriving from other aspects of the drama should be your guide.

If Knuckles follows Arabella along a canal path in the fog, then the reader might make some assumptions about that, based on how far apart they are, and who can see whom (if she trips and breaks a high-heel how much time does she have left?) but not care about much else, as it would slow down the action for no good reason. (And if you tell me it's a Jimmy Choo that'd better be super-relevant).

How much you describe is always a trade-off, and a pro will often obsess about the right amount for pace, but that's one of the problems about quality writing: it takes a lot of time, particularly at first.

One Sentence Per Shot

So going on the basis of a page of script to a minute of screen, we can get a sense of pacing based on your action description, and this is a powerful tool in your armoury as well. You can choreograph incredible action and interpersonal interaction, but keep one eye on length. If that's the purpose of your scene or sequence, then go for it. The main thing is to ensure clarity at all times.

I find it useful to enter a very focused and utterly 'literal' state when reading or editing, in the sense of asking "how could a fool or a pedant interpret this wrong?" This again takes time, but you quickly internalise both fool and pedant, and invoke them as you go. This helps to ensure your scenes are rarely, if ever, unclear in important details, to a wide spectrum of readers, most of whom, we hope, will soon have to translate your instructions into sets, lighting, physical blocking, props, camera positions, rigging... you get the idea.

You also get to create a complete edited movie in your head, and what's not to love about that?

Any questions or suggestions based on your experiences, please share below.