Welcome 2016!

It’s 2016.

A new year. A bookmark, a new chapter of your life. This time is when lots of resolutions are made, mantras created, positivity abounds. It’s a good time of year to create goals (not deadlines) for the things that you want to achieve throughout the year. It’s also a great time to reflect on the chapter that has just ended and what that has given you in terms of skills to move forward with your life, both personally and professionally.

For me, thinking about it, 2015 was all about learning. It was a massive learning curve for me in so many ways. I started the year by enrolling myself into John Yorke’s Storytelling For Screen course and working through that part time from January until May, as well as working full time. That helped me grow as a writer as well as honing my analytical skill set, helping me to really get into story on a much deeper level.

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In January, I finished up on the third series of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries as a production secretary, then moved on to the second series of Utopia as a script assistant in February. That finished up in May and I spent five weeks in the UK, working and writing with my co-writer, Anton, polishing up our projects, chucking everything out and starting again with something stronger, coming up with new projects, entering sketches into small competitions and generally enjoying skipping winter in Australia. When I came back to Australia in June, I am so grateful to have hit on one of those ‘right place, right time’ moments, and ended up with a gig as a script co-ordinator on the Jack Irish series. It was supposed to be four weeks and ended up as four months. I finished up there in October, went to India for four weeks to work on a documentary as a production manager and general everything. When I came back in November, I had two weeks work developing a new series outline for an Australian/UK co-production, and ended up with the opportunity to write the pitch documents. That brought me to mid-December, when I decided to focus on my own work once again – especially as I have some time off until my next gig!

It’s interesting to look back and reflect on all of those experiences, and how each one of them brought out something that knocked on to the next one. Miss Fisher gave me great friends, Utopia gave me the chance to return to a team I really enjoyed working with. The documentary shoot pushed and challenged me in all kinds of ways (overseas shoots are tough!) and the co-pro was really the cherry on top of a great year for me professionally.

Jack Irish was easily my favourite job of the year. It taught me immeasurable amounts about myself, writing, the process, how to work within a production, how actors can influence scripts, how changes can come from any department, how different directors can interpret different material and I found myself thinking, even on the hardest days trying to get script pages out at the last minute, that I completely love my job. I feel so lucky and so blessed to have had that opportunity and I know that I have more work coming my way from the same company next year, so I’ve definitely done something right.

Another highlight was having the opportunity, once again, to work with writers, directors and producers to read their scripts and give them feedback through my script reading services. It’s always so amazing to work with filmmakers from all over the world and have the honour of reading so many different stories. I’m looking forward to many more coming my way (my services are listed here)!

But my year hasn’t just been about learning my craft. I’ve learnt so much about myself. I started meditating this year and challenged myself to learn more about mindfulness and ways I can incorporate that into my life. I also started yoga, which helps to keep the mindfulness practise going. I feel that 2015 was very much about learning, so I have an equally strong suspicion that 2016 is where I can put what I’ve learnt, and am still learning, into practise. I’m hoping that 2016 is where my hard work over the past few years really starts to pay off.

I hope that your 2016 does the same for you.

Happy New Year!

Writing Within Genre

On the surface, movies all have a similar structure. Regardless of whether you use three act structure, five act structure, ‘Save the Cat’, ‘The Hero’s Journey’ – it could be argued that it’s all different names for the same formula. People understanding the elements of the same concept in different ways. No particular way is right or wrong, it just is how each individual writer uses it.

Genre, however, is another definition that will dictate the way your story will go. Romantic comedies will be different from action films, which will have different beats to horror movies, which will be different again to a film for children. A cookie cutter, write-by-numbers approach to structure could also lead to a similar attitude to genre. The thing about genre is that if you take the time to understand it and analyse it, it will really help you as a writer and a filmmaker. If you ‘kind of’ know what film you want to write, genre can destroy you.

How often have you watched a film and known exactly what’s going to happen next? To predict the next move of the protagonist? My special skill these days – which often gets me booted out of the room – is to say the next line of dialogue before the character does. When I’m word for word perfect, that’s when I get a cushion thrown at me. But the thing is that predictability comes from a creator not understanding genre, either on a script or directorial level.

Genre does more than define which category the movie slots into on Netflix. Genre demands certain expectations when it frames a film. What’s an action flick without explosions? A romantic comedy without a couple of interest at the heart of it? A horror movie without a scare? But as we now consume such a high level of story on a television and film medium, genre can now seem more and more difficult to master. You can’t reinvent genre. You have to work within the limits of it and use it to create something new.

That scene in a romantic comedy we’ve all seen a million times before – the scene towards the end of the film where the couple split apart, seemingly forever. We all know what it feels like when it’s done badly, when you just know that in the next few scenes they’ll be back together again after a chase and a declaration of love. So avoid that. Split the couple up, but use the rest of your film to set up why this is irreconcilable. What have they done to each other that means that, seriously, these two are not getting back together. At all. Do you need a chase? The chase brings a sense of urgency, yes, but is there another way you can do it? If you need a chase, that’s fine, but how can you do it in an original way that an audience won’t have seen before? Do you need the immortal ‘When Harry Met Sally’ style speech that Nora Ephron nailed and consequentially made sure that no writer would ever be able to recreate it after her? Or can you do it in a different way?

Think about the things that your audience expects from genre and how you can tell the story differently. Perhaps instead of following the chaser, we follow the chasee and see what they’re going through, hoping against hope that their partner will show up and make it right. Or maybe their partner doesn’t show up at all – what happens if they miss each other? What then?

Chances are that the things that make you scream at the screen (‘CALL HER! YOU HAVE A PHONE IN YOUR POCKET!’ ‘FOLLOW HER WHEN SHE LEAVES, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!’) will also clang loudly as cliche and naff for a more general audience. How would you write the moment before the protagonist kills the villain in an action movie? Would you nail a cheesy, Bond-esque line or do you just shoot them in the chest? Does the protagonist’s accomplice shoot instead? How could you do it in a way that hasn’t been seen before?

Keep in mind that you might not be able to ditch certain genre conventions entirely. There has to be a stand off between the hero and villain in an action movie. There has to be a final committal to the relationship in a romantic comedy. There has to be at least one casualty in a horror movie. You can’t drop these things to make it ‘original’. Chances are, the story has been told that way for a reason and when you begin to pull pieces out of the puzzle, it becomes something else entirely.

Know your genre. Know what’s expected of it. Then subvert the expectations of your audience by twisting your genre and giving them something new that they wouldn’t have expected.

If you’re looking for some thoughts on your script, I’ve only got a few script reading slots available for January! Get in touch now to secure your spot and nail your script over the festive season!

Never Give Up

 

Writing is like any skill or hobby – you need to learn a lot before you get good. Sure, you can have natural talent, but it takes more than talent to create a prolific output of work. And as things change, your writing changes. As you grow as a person, your writing will grow with you. I know lots of stories about people who become parents wanting to create more content relevant to children. They have new life experiences to share now that they have kids. Likewise, someone who has travelled the world will write different stories to someone who has stayed in the same place their whole life. Neither is good or bad, it just creates different life experiences for writers to convey.

The hardest thing about writing, I find, is matching what’s on the page to what’s in my head. It’s like when I draw – I often have an image in my head that Michelangelo would be jealous of, but when I try to commit it to paper, the perspective is out, it’s much more simple than I imagine and it’s nothing like what I want it to be. And so, it’s frustrating when I know my script isn’t right, but I can’t figure out why. That’s when despondency can set in and I resist the urge to go over and over and over again.

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I’ve been working on a film script for a few years now. On and off for maybe four years. There’s a lot that I like about it but there’s always been something that doesn’t quite work. In the space of those intervening years, I’ve worked on my writing a lot. I’ve done courses, I’ve written other scripts, I’ve co-written sketches, co-developed ideas. I’ve grown a lot as a writer and as a person. I’m definitely not the person I was four years ago, nor am I the writer I was four years ago.

The biggest problem for me was that this issue has been present for the last two or three big passes I’ve done on it. I mean, really sticking out like a sore thumb. But it seemed like a blind spot to me – I could not for the life of me work out what the main problem was. And now it’s been there for a year and a half, maybe two years, and the project has stagnated. Massively. I’ve had other people read it, I’ve gone over it myself a thousand times, I’ve talked about it at length with my co-writer, Anton. I did a pass where I changed small things, I did a ‘writing from scratch’ pass which I think might’ve made the whole thing a bit worse (but that’s okay, cause I know I can fix that easily enough).

Nothing that I did has fixed it.

So I took a breath. Something was fundamentally flawed and no amount of banging my head against the wall was going to fix it. I left it alone. Really alone. I’ve not really thought about it or wanted to think about it for around two and a half months now. I’ve been busy with work and other projects. It did, of course, tick over in my subconscious. And I kept coming back to the same conclusion – the way I’d built my main character wasn’t right for this script. There was something wrong with him. I didn’t want to think about it too hard, I knew it would open a can of worms I didn’t have the time to dedicate to fixing it just yet.

Then, yesterday, I thought I’d start simply. I’d read a script, one that I’ve used as research for this project before. I’d look at that and I’d map the journey of the protagonist to see how they handled his journey and maybe that would unlock something about the way I was writing my main character. So I started to read. I got about a quarter of the way through the script and I suddenly realised a completely new way to portray my character.

It’s funny, because the two films have nothing alike on screen. The thing that I was researching in that script was about ensemble pieces, even though I’ve long since decided that that’s not the right road for this project. But there was enough in the script to made me think about my lead differently, to figure out a way to change him that will provide much more conflict and friction in the story.

I have no idea if it will work yet, but I feel like it’s a good step in the right direction. This is just a little reminder to myself, more than anything, to never give up on something just cause it’s hard. Sometimes you just need a little more time to really break something open. So never stop trying to find that.

Judge A Book By Its Cover

When I was living in London, I used to catch the Tube to work. Everyone did, and often I’d bump into my work colleagues either on the train or as we got off at the station and walked to the office together. There was an editor who worked in our office for a few months and I remember once he came up to me as I was eating my lunch and started chatting. I was a bit perplexed as to why – we rarely spoke during work as he was hidden away in his edit suite and we’d exchanged polite small talk on the way in from the station that morning.

After a little awkward small talk, he segued into the real purpose of the conversation.

“So when I’m on the Tube, I play this game,” he says. “I look at people’s shoes and I try to figure out what their personality traits are from their shoes.” Bit of an interesting conversation topic, right? But I was kind of intrigued by this – as I do like making up people’s life stories as I watch them walking past or wonder where they’re going when they’re on the train.

“This morning, I was looking at this pair of shoes,” says he. “And I looked up and realised they were yours.”

“Oh really?” says I, even more interested now. “What did you figure out about me from my shoes?”

But he just shook his head mutely and drifted back into his edit suite.

London

To this day, I have no idea what he ‘surmised’ about me from my shoes. I figure his judgements were wrong or wildly off the mark as he was too afraid to tell me and I’m guessing the fact that he admitted the game to me was his way of some sort of an apology. I think about the shoes that I was wearing and I can perhaps guess what the outsider might judge about my appearance, but it does make me think about how you can build your characters in your story.

How do they dress? As my old workmate showed, how your character dresses immediately tells us things about them. Are they dressed in Armani? Are they dressed in worn out clothes? Are they dressed provocatively? Are they dressed for the gym? Do they take pride in their appearance? Or do they not really care? Everything is important, from the accessories in their hair to the socks they wear. Honestly. Have you ever heard the story that businessmen often wear brightly coloured socks as it’s the only thing that is rarely seen to the public? It’s true – I used to look for the different kinds of socks when I was on the train. I think my favourite pair was a Star Wars pair that were bright red sporting Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Is how they dress a true reflection of the character? Someone may dress incredibly conservatively, but be a real wild child. A sloppy businessman could actually be a CEO of a company. In the same way that the editor’s judgments on me were (possibly) wrong, what are some ways that you can create a conflicting audience view of your character through the way they portray themselves?

How do they act? What will your audience gather from how your character acts? Are they blunt? Rude? Friendly? Warm? Generous? Stressed? Are they predictable or do they make you play a guessing game with what they’re really thinking?

And, to be honest, one of the best things you can do to help you build characters in your story is to play this game with real people. Sit in a busy place and watch people come and go. Focus on someone and see what the way they dress tells you about them. About where they’re going. What does jeans and a t-shirt say that a business suit doesn’t? Are they wearing a big winter jacket in the sunshine? What about shorts and a singlet in the rain?

The snap judgments you make on other people will be similar to the judgments your audience will make on your character. So check that the signs you’re selling to your audience are the ones that you want your audience to be aware of.

Check out my script-reading services if you want a second opinion on where to take your script next!

How Important Is The Script?

It might seem an odd question. ‘How important is the script?’ But more and more I’m seeing and hearing stories about times when changes are being made to the script on the fly, only for it to end up in the editing room and, suddenly, the story makes no sense.

The answer is: ‘It depends’. An appropriately odd answer to a strange question. But it does. Just like every script is different, so too is every production. I’ve worked on many of them now and there are elements that are the same, sometimes the same people crop up again, but at the end of it, it comes down to two things that define your production.

Your Producer.

Your Director.

The way that these two people handle their respective roles in the production are key. I’ve worked on productions with producers who expected everyone to put in 200% every day – resulting in a very harried and stressed office with an intensely high workload – and I’ve worked on productions with producers who demanded a high quality of work, but not at the expense of everyone’s sanity. Both got incredible results on the screen, but I can guarantee you there’s only one of them that I’d be working for again.

There are many elements that a good producer and a good director have. And one of them, in particular, is respect for the script.

Producers are usually pretty good with scripts. I’m seeing more and more that the head writer of a show is also an executive producer. You also usually have a second exec who handles more of the running of the show itself. Sometimes you don’t. It depends on the set up of the show. But, at the end of the day, the producer liked the idea enough to develop it into a script. They like the scripts enough to find the money to make it into a show. The producers are often there with the writers every step of the way writing-wise, to get the scripts up to scratch.

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Directors don’t necessarily work like that.

In my experience, directors (particularly television directors) come on board at a later stage, once the story is outlined and (often) there’s already a shooting script draft circulating the production office. They offer notes, amendments come out – but on every show I’ve worked on, the director’s opinion and vision has been incorporated into every script (or at the very least, been discussed and then decided against).

What I have noticed is, once out on set, some directors like to riff on what’s on the page.

Just for the record, I don’t have a problem with this. I think that ad-libs and additional dialogue often need to happen to help get more deeply into a scene or perhaps suddenly a line of dialogue doesn’t make sense because of the location or blocking – things have to be changed for whatever reason. But when things are changed without telling the script co-ordinator or passing it by the writer, that’s when things become a little messy.

I worked on a show where this happened quite a lot. Lines got changed everywhere, action lines (or big print) stage direction got chucked out and new stuff brought in. The director was only directing two episodes in a series of eight, but they didn’t have any regard for what had come before or what was coming after. They changed things without thinking about it.

It meant that, come editing time, that the scenes shot didn’t really resemble anything that was scripted. Dialogue that was supposed to continue over from one scene to another got cut, so there was no real link from one scene to the next. A character who has no technological know-how began to brag about their prowess of finding the right website – whereas in other episodes, they can barely figure out how to turn on a computer. Timing and tension of scenes got all scrambled because the rhythm was thrown out of whack with all the changes.

All these ‘small’ changes on set had big consequences for the story. It meant that plotlines that were supposed to start, didn’t. That incidental line of dialogue they changed? It was actually a seed for a storyline that pops up again in a later episode. That line of big print they ignored? It completely throws out the pace of the scene because there’s not enough movement. The poor editor was tearing his hair out.

So the answer to ‘How important is the script?’ is ‘It depends.’ It depends on how well you know the rest of the story, not just the stuff you’re shooting at that second. It depends how well you know the characters – their backstory as well as what comes next. It depends on whether you’ve checked changes with the script department or the writers and make sure they’re all okay.

It depends on how much homework you’ve done and how much respect you have for the other people in your team. Because if you make a change and it is the wrong change, it can have serious implications on many other people and their workloads.

Respect the script. Every word on the page has been written for a reason – so make sure you know what that reason is before you begin changing everything.

Don’t forget, if you want another pair of eyes on your work, I provide a script reading service that might help you get the best out of your script! Check out my prices here.

In The Cinema: Fabergé: A Life of Its Own

Fabergé: A Life of Its Own

Fabergé: A Life of its Own

February 2011, I was living in London and I’d fallen into a job working at a documentary production company called Mark Stewart ProductionsI’m still of the opinion that it was one of those divine intervention moments – I sent off my CV to the company on Tuesday, got an interview on the Wednesday, had a second interview on Thursday and was offered the job on Friday. MSP had done a lot of varying projects – many F1 themed – and so I started work as their office administrator and slowly began to familiarise myself with the way the world works when you’re working in a boutique production company. The main thing I noticed was that the slate of films is particularly diverse but incredibly fascinating – each project an insight into a world I had previously known nothing about.

One of these was a long running project about Fabergé. It had been in production for a few months when I started – the first week I was there coincided with the first week of shooting in Russia. I think one of the first things I had to do that directly related to the project was transcribing the interviews. Transcription is a job some people hate, but I actually really enjoy it. What it did allow me to do was to start to get a picture of the world the documentary was traversing – and I did begin to become enticed into this world of jewels and death, wealth and poverty.

I’d been working at MSP for a few months when the main director there, Patrick Mark, discovered that I had skills in production. I hinted at the fact that if he ever wanted a hand on set, I would be more than happy to oblige. It wasn’t long before I was being taken on nearly every shoot with him on several projects that were running concurrently at the time. But Fabergé was Patrick’s big project and it stretched itself comfortably out over the entire eighteen months I worked there. I went on a trip to Russia to explore secrets in Smolensk, Moscow and St Petersburg. I got to see up close these amazing, astonishing pieces that had been created over 100 years beforehand. I spent time in Sotheby’s, I met people with impossible amounts of knowledge about Russian history and jewellery. I also got to model one of the pieces which is featured in the documentary itself!

That's me wearing Fabergé!

That’s me wearing Fabergé!

I left after eighteen months working there because my visa ran out and I had to leave the UK to return to Australia. But even when I was back in Australia, Patrick asked me to review cuts of the film for feedback, to make sure the story was working, that it all made sense. It seemed that, for awhile, the film would be in a kind of perpetual production!

That is, until earlier this year when I found out that the documentary had been picked up by Arts Alliance for a limited theatrical release. There was no confirmed date as yet, but I was assured it would be a global release. I just missed the UK release by a matter of hours – I was on a plane on my way back to Melbourne when it was initially released. However, lucky for me, the Australian release was delayed until last weekend.

It’s hard to describe what it was like watching the film in the cinema. It was a full house, so that in itself was pretty amazing. I wasn’t hugely nervous as I wasn’t the writer or director of the film – but I really wanted it to be well received. The film has a special place in my heart and I just knew that all the shots covering the detail of the pieces would look astounding on the big screen.

And they did.

But the thing I noticed the most was the audience reaction. The film has a really strong emotional thread running through it and the audience responded really strongly to the story – there was laughter, there was shock, awe; even involuntary gasps of surprise. It reminded me that it doesn’t matter what story you’re telling, your audience is key. And the best way to get your audience in is with a strong hook and an emotional line that arcs and changes with your story and with your characters.

There are still some screenings of the film around the world, so check out cinema times and dates here!

AP

What I’ve Been Watching: Sense8

Sense8 – A Netflix original series

Thanks to the advent of Netflix in Australia (finally), I can once again legally watch all of the television shows and movies I want. Having Netflix whilst I was living in the UK, then moving back to Australia and surviving without it for the last two years, it now makes me appreciate it even more. One of the trends developing out of the streaming model is Netflix generated content – of which more and more are popping up in the Netflix library.

Sense8 is one of these (don’t worry, there’s no spoilers). It’s got really strong credentials – it comes from the Wachowski brothers who directed a small series of films called The Matrix Trilogy, as well as J. Michael Straczynski who developed the story of Thor and World War Z. The cast – although not really high-profile yet – are incredibly strong and they work really well, considering how difficult it would’ve been to shoot a show like this (eight main cast, nine different countries – I feel for the ADs). It’s actually just been renewed for a second season, so this is a very timely blog post.

Sense8 is about eight strangers across the world, dealing with their own lives and problems, realise that there are other people in their heads that they are connected to. They can step from their own point of view (say, in London) into the ‘sensate’ they’re speaking to (say, in Chicago). They can touch and feel each other – even take over their bodies and use skills that they have that the other sensate might not.

Considering all these story elements, it would be very easy for it to get unwieldy and hard to keep track of. I mean, when I watch Game of Thrones with my mum (yeah, yeah), we have to pause the episode at the head of every scene and recap where we last saw them and who they belong to (‘This is Reek, who was Theon Greyjoy, who was best mates with Rob Stark – he’s the one who’s the eldest son of Sean Bean – you know, the one who was in Lord of the Rings?’). It’s easy for a big story with lots of elements to lose its way.

Sense8 counters this by taking advantage of the fact that 61% of Netflix users binge watch their television shows (i.e. watch five or six episodes in one sitting). A 12 episode series gives the audience more than enough time to spend with each character, learn their worlds, their friends, their enemies. If anything, it spends a little too long keeping everyone separate – half of the conceit of the show is how these eight characters learn about each other’s existences and how they’re going to come together to survive. I wanted more overlapping action between everyone earlier – using each other to explore new worlds, test new skills, figure out what this connection to each other meant.

Sense8 – Eight main characters in the ensemble cast

That being said, the characters are easily the best thing about this show. When the plot flagged a little in the middle and I got a bit restless with no massive, cheeky interaction between the characters (I would’ve loved to have seen Wolfgang causing a bit of havoc in Will’s life when he was bored), it was the strong connection between Wolfgang and Kala, Will and Riley that kept me hooked. Everyone is so completely different and there are so many different types of representation here – it’s unlike any other show on television.

Nomi is transgender, living with her black girlfriend Amanita; Lito is a gay Mexican actor; Will is a bi-curious cop from Chicago; Riley is an Icelandic DJ living in London; Wolfgang is a safe-cracker in Berlin; Capheus is the happiest bus driver you’ll meet in Nairobi; Kala is a pharmaceutical scientist in Mumbai and Sun is the brains behind her family’s big business in Seoul.

Seriously, you would never find this cast on network television.

This diversity is what helps to make the episodes that aren’t as pacy still interesting to watch. Never underestimate the power of a character exploring a completely new world for the audience. Each world is completely unique to the character and each character would respond entirely differently to each situation. As long as your audience can empathise with your character – that they make your audience feel something (love, hate, admiration, loathing – it doesn’t always have to be a positive emotion) – that’s the key. I’m not a gay Mexican movie star, but I know how it feels to have to hide your true self. I’m not a safe-cracker in Berlin, but I know what it’s like to be under enormous amounts of pressure with a ticking clock.

Find the universality in your character and then draw it out to make your audience connect with and feel something. The emotional journey will always help carry the audience through if the plot has flabby, slower moments.

That being said, don’t foresake plot for character! It’s a fine balance, but when it’s done right, it’s amazing.

AP

Back In The Swing Of It

On this day, the auspicious day of 6th August, 2015, this day is the day I launch back into blogging about writing, filmmaking and all other kinds of things that fall around those banners.

As you may have noticed, if you’ve visited my website before, we’ve had a bit of a facelift. The wonderful, talented team at Apraze have put together this incredible new site and revamped it and I, personally, absolutely love it. If you’re looking for a website for your film, folio, reel, yourself – you should get in touch with them for a quote! Honestly, I can’t recommend them enough – so what are you waiting for?

For me, this year has been a busy one – but then again, aren’t they all? I kicked off the year working in the production department of a drama series called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, then went onto be a script assistant on a comedy series called Utopia (which starts airing on the ABC [Australia] on August 19th). Whilst I was doing that, I also completed John Yorke’s Into The Woods: Storytelling for the Screen writing course run by the Professional Writing Academy.  I had six weeks off and headed overseas to the UK and knuckled down with my co-writer and best mate Anton, where we worked on a couple of our projects, submitted to competitions and just generally enjoyed the English sunshine (yes, there was sunshine).

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

When I hit Aussie soil again, I faced the unenviable task of trying to find a job again – but out of the production department where I’d been working on and off for the past two and a half years and getting more firmly ensconced in the script department. With a little bit of luck and sending the right email at the right time, I managed to land a job in the first week and a half I was back and so have been working for the past month as a script co-ordinator/editor on an ABC thriller series. I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to mention it, so I’m going to err on the side of caution and refer to it as Project G. I’ve also done a Script Editing short course through the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), been reading and assessing scripts and was also fortunate enough to submit a writing sample with Anton to be considered for a reasonably big film (always a long shot, but certainly worth it).

It’s been a busy seven months, and I want to keep it going. One thing I missed most about not blogging was that a blog post throws up all different opinions and points of view and that conversation is something that I think definitely keeps you honest as a writer. That’s the beauty of story – it evokes different responses in different people and one writer can’t always portray every single one of those correctly.

I’ve learnt a lot this year and I’m looking forward to discussing it more with everyone in the internet world!

AP

Links:

Apraze
Utopia
John Yorke’s Into The Woods: Storytelling for the Screen writing course
Anton’s Twitter
Australian Film Television and Radio School

 

Welcome!

Hi there! Welcome to my website.
I haven’t had the opportunity to blog on this for awhile, however I do think that some of the posts about the short filmmaking process and screenwriting thoughts hold true. So please feel free to rifle through the archives and find what information you will.
I do still offer my script-reading services, so please feel free to get in touch and we can discuss your script or project and see how you can take it further and make it stronger.
This is certainly not goodbye, more of an extended hiatus whilst my priority becomes different things. I daresay that come the future when I’m working of something of my own in a more full time capacity, instead of someone else’s, I will likely dust this off and fill it once again with comments, thoughts and ideas.
But for now, I’m going to pop my blog on the shelf and focus on juggling my scripts, my full time work in Aussie TV and continuing my quidditch career.
Yes, you read that right.
I have a silver medal to prove it.
Seriously.

Writing Comedy: My Process

Everyone writes differently. There are definitely no right or wrong ways to get words down on the page – there are certain standards and formats that you can use to your advantage, to present yourself as knowledgable and professional. The most important thing you can do is figure out what works for you – then stick to it. There’s no point in forcing yourself to write the way someone else does it, just because they do it that way. Try new ways to set up structure or pull out story, sure, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to say that it doesn’t work for you and go back to what you’ve always done.

I write comedy. It’s a bit of a beast, comedy, because there are so many different types. There’s romantic comedies, action comedies, balls out comedies, sitcoms, sketches, radio, television, film – it goes on and on and on. My style isn’t about having a huge belly laugh every minute, mine is about making people laugh with a touch of humanity – something to think about at the end.

As a result, my first drafts aren’t always so funny. I have to resist the urge to go back and tear everything apart in my early drafts – but this gets easier the more I write, as I know that I’ll probably tear it all apart in rewrites anyway. The first few drafts are all about getting the story right. The comedy comes later – there are always a handful of jokes in the early drafts but I’m more concerned about character arcs and plots instead of making people laugh. If jokes are there, it’s because they’ve happened naturally when I’ve written them.

The key thing I’ve found for me is to give myself permission for my work to not be bang on the first time around. It’s okay if it’s not perfect – that’s what multiple drafts are for. I can do a lot of work beforehand – outlines, scene by scene breakdowns – to make sure that the structure will do what it’s supposed to in the early drafts (and, I say ‘a lot of work’ but I know that I, personally, do less figuring out everything beforehand and let a lot of things happen on the page), but I need to remember that writing is a process, not a science. It’s part of the process to change, shape and mould things as you go along.

Another key thing I’ve learnt about myself as I write is that you have to trust yourself to be ruthless. You need to trust your instinct. Where does your script begin to soar? That’s most likely your strongest part. Where, when you re-read, do you feel like it’s still a bit of a slog? That’s likely a part that needs work. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge this. I find that looking back over my core idea for the scene and simplifying is a great way to cut extra weight. Likewise, getting out of scenes early and starting them late. The more scripts I read, the more I realise that this is really vital.

Once I’ve got the structure locked, the story strong, that’s when I start to do passes on the jokes. There will always be some in my early drafts – some I’ve worked out in an outline or a breakdown, some have happened on the page as I wrote. But they’re probably not the greatest jokes. Sometimes they are and they make me laugh like mad, so I’ll leave them in. Other times, they’re not working for the comedy as well as they should and so I analyse the scene, the character, the line and see what I can do to up the laughs and ramp up the hilarity.

I’m lucky in that I have a great co-writer who has a nose for comedy. That means that we can talk about scenes together and we’ll always end up throwing around new jokes, ideas, trying to keep the ball rolling until we hit the wall and then come up with a few more. Even on our individual projects, we work together in feedback on drafts, to try and bring the best out of the script.

Right now, I’m doing a first draft of our sitcom pilot. It’s been planned, written, torn apart, re-written. We’ve hit character problems, created new backstory, found new running jokes, developed new storylines. We’ve tried different structure formats to make the spine strong, started outlining and hit problems. Now, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve an outline we feel good about and I’ve started the new first draft this week. And I just wanted to note this somewhere – that it’s okay for this draft not to be particularly hilarious; I trust Anton and I to enhance the comedy in later drafts. These early drafts are all about structure, story and character. Without those three, you’ve only got ink on a page or pixels on a computer screen. And that’s not all writing is. Writing is about emotion. Emotion comes out of characters you can relate to and a story you enjoy. And you can’t have either of those things without a solid story structure.

Right. Good little pep talk. Back to it.