Planning for the perfect screenplay?

May 28, 2020
Bob Eckhard

(above: mood board that accompanied short film idea pitched in finals of Enter the Pitch) 

Hi all,

Like many of you, I  have  also found myself with time on my hands over the last few months. A lot of it I have used for writing, editing, catching up on reading, getting things made, watching videos, exercising and (occasionally) struggling to write.

Okay, in regard to the second from last activity on the list above, I have come across what I think is some fantastic advice to screenwriters everywhere. Not that I thought that at the start when I discovered the video was 1 hr 42 mins long – that would normally have been enough to deter me. However, I watched the video and was amazed by the observations – so much so that it has revolutionised the way I go about planning, writing and editing my screenplays.

The most helpful part of the process was taking notes of what the contributors were advising which obviously meant that the 100 min video took 250 min to complete as I had to keep stopping and restarting it as I wrote notes down. That said, after transferring the advice from rough scribble into typed notes and sorting, I ended up with  a catalogue of 8 checklist sheets which I hope will ensure that future screenplays will fare better with readers in future.

Reflecting on it, the most important part of the exercise (for me) was listening to the contributors answers again and again until it was ingrained into me. Now, while I am normally have no problem sharing notes and resources from this blog, I am not going to do that with this post because if you really want to improve you will need to really engage with the video and make notes that are useful to you – however, I will attach my one page of notes on Protagonist/Nemesis needs which are a few of the new things I learnt that I hadn’t heard or remembered in my writing.

Okay- watch Film Courage’s video ’42 Ways to Avoid Writing a Boring Screenplay’  by clicking here  My one page notes on Protagonist/Nemesis can be found at bottom of page.

Things to Avoid

Problem Solving Tips

Overall

About this Story

Final things to check

Getting Started

In regard to the protagonist/Nemesis

Checklist for every scene

My one page on Protagonist/Nemesis taken from Film Courage’s video ’42 Ways to Avoid Writing a Boring Screenplay’ can be found by clicking here

Getting your screenplay made in the future?

May 26, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

I came across a really interesting blog from Guy Ducker in regard to writing films that have a chance of getting produced in the post Corvid 19 future – at least that’s what I took away from it! You can read Guy’s blog by clicking the link above .

However…for me the one thing that stood out was his encouragement to write 3-hander feature films – that is writing for a cast of three actors and only three!

‘Can’t be done!’ I hear you say but it can be done as proven by Roman Polanski in his first feature ‘Knife in the Water’ (see blurb on above image)

You can watch ‘Knife in the Water’ by clicking here – yes,  it’s dated at 58 years old (1962), foreign language and involves reading subtitles but it does show how a budget script with minimum cast can be written and produced for a fraction of the price and with an interesting storyline and premise.

All of which makes it a greater challenge for your next screenwriting project and more chance of it getting picked up and made if it hits the mark?

Till next time…write on!

Being productive in testing times

May 20, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Hope you have been keeping well and safe? We live in strange times, indeed. Okay, apologies for the break from blogs but with every artistic organisation desperate to get their material out there (as much to assert their raison d’être), it seemed as if the Internet went into overdrive with a vast array of free online resources appearing overnight – too much in fact for the majority of us to make use of unless prepared to stay on the computer 24/7 for the year.

Now, I’m not sure about you but for me, the call to write, film or record pieces about living in isolation had absolutely no appeal.

While I appreciate others will enjoy creating work that also contains a carthartic benefit, I ‘m not sure the logic that suggests the long-term prisoner should write a story about living in solitary confinement actually works as an idea. Personally, if I was in prison, I’d write about where I’d want to be rather than where I am.

One of the interesting insights I had early on  – after social distancing became normative – was how these measures affected the ability to produce anything – and so for a time, I turned to radio and discovered that even it had its problems in recording unless the producer could also double as technician and actor.

Anyway, using zoom, some actor friends and I have started recording a sitcom developed from the comedy farce that was staged last year. Now, while that is a work in progress, I did dig out my short comedy ‘Waiting for Peter’ and with the help of actor friends Laura Ferrin and Thomas William Cove (who is also radio technician on it) produced my short radio play ‘Waiting for Peter’- find it by clicking here

It’s less than 8 minutes and funny (but then i would say that given I wrote it)

Til next time!

 

ps probably the hardest part in making it was finding someone with radio skill to create FX (special effects) and record – but people who can do it are out there!

 

Exploring the artist’s opportunity to thrive?

April 8, 2020
Bob Eckhard

I wonder what this image brings to mind?

For many of us the picture will speak of freedom or wild abandonment. For some, it will suggest a chance to explore and discover new things. Yet for some, it serves the despondency and grief that many are feeling in this time of Covid19, isolation and lack of structure.

My initial title for this post was ‘Boxing clever in a time of isolation.’ However, I have since settled on ‘Exploring the artist’s opportunity to thrive.’

One thing most writers soon become adept at is understanding what the industry is seeking in regards to genre, tone and format. In fact we are so good at this, that a slew of scripts inspired by a successful TV series will often materialise within months. And yet, we live in uncertain times as revealed by the present crisis for film and TV output. A time in which some ‘creatives’ are sought to write, act in and film their own response to isolation from their own homes.

Why? Because this is the only way that TV production companies can make new content at the moment.

With this in mind, one possible opportunity that is available right now is to write a monologue drama or comedy for radio. A script that requires one actor, producer and equipment. Or perhaps even a producer who is also the actor with equipment at home.

As I write this blog, I am currently engaged in several projects at different levels of completion. That said, I am also adapting a long forgotten comedy play into a monologue for radio  (3o mins – comedy, 40 mins, drama).

Why? Because it will be great to see something produced and an opportunity to get a radio writing credit. Something that others might consider also?

All the best

NB BBC producer’s emails are usually name.surname@bbc.co.uk  ie) john.smith@bbc.co.uk

Are you maximising your creative output?

April 2, 2020
Bob Eckhard

In last week’s post, we considered the way that the isolation of Corvid has afforded us time and opportunity. Today, I’d like to return to a post from last year which is the gift that just keeps giving. I refer of course to Andrew Price’s seminar on the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Artists.’ I think I must have watched it four or five times now and each time I do, I am alerted to something I am no longer putting into practice.

Recently, I have taken to posting advice on Quora which is a new one for me. I started around February of this year after reading Lucy V Hay’s excellent post on utilising Social Media. Anyway, as I was answering a question on how to be a successful director – not that I am one at all – I remembered Andrew Price’s talk. Listening again, I realised that I have lapsed in a few areas. The one that jumped out at me was the problem of seeking perfectionism of a project at the expense of the others I could be producing.

Okay, the skinny of his 20+ min talk (in my words) is at the bottom of the page though I would recommend watching it as there is something in it for everyone. (Whatever art you’re involved in).

WATCH: Andrew Price’s seminar on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Artists by clicking this link 

TAKEAWAY: The few notes I made while watching the session are here


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists- Andrew Price at Blender Conference 2016.

  1. Daily work
  2. Volume: not perfection – get on with your next work
  3. Steal!
  4. Conscious Learning
  5. Rest
  6. Get Feedback
  7. Create what you love

Self-discipline in the creative’s new normal

March 26, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Without diminishing the horrendous scourge of coronavirus that is currently decimating families and communities across the world, it does seem that the self-isolation that accompanies it is also bringing its changes to our human interaction, both socially and individually.

Interestingly, one change that has surprised many of us is being paid to stay at home. For some, this has given them the rather unnusual opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a full-time writer (albeit without the accompanying salary/pay). Now, as someone who has worked part-time to facilitate more time for writing, I’d like to offer some advice as to how to make the most of this valuable opportunity.

1 Think through your options.

When I bought my house, a friend advised me to spend time living in it before deciding what renovations I would make. It was good advice as my initial idea was to do a loft conversion. However, a year on – having walked downstairs in the middle of the night from bedroom to bathroom/toilet – I opted to extend the kitchen to facilitate moving the bathroom/toilet upstairs.

Similarly, with our writing we also need time to think and reflect as to what is the best way forward for each of us, be that writing novels, screenplays, TV pilots, stage plays. Which route will result in a piece of work that will get us noticed so that we can build a cv and portfolio etc? TIP: Make a plan. Map it out on paper. Write your aims and objectives on a sheet and pin it to the wall in front of you. Then ask yourself at the end of each day if your efforts of that day exceeded or fell short of that expectation. Don’t beat yourself if you fail on any day. Instead, resolve to do better tomorrow.

2. Think about your day and what you use it for

As I write this, I am currently working on getting several projects completed in time for entry into competitions and to send to producers. However, the problem is that when you have a whole day to spend on your writing, it is really easily to become lax in out own writing discipline and routine. I would love to be able to say that this is now sorted for me but I do lapse on occasions and take a day off. Actually, I have no problem with this as we all need time to rest but my advice is treat ‘writing days’ like a day at work and be ready to engage with it as a 9 to 5 schedule when writing a script, planning another, researching production companies, networking and editing. TIP: schedule checking your emails later in the day and commit to writing (etc) straight away.

3. Think about what you produce.

Unfortunately, the focus that many creatives have in using all avalable time for writing scripts, means that this is achieved at the expense of networking with others or producing their own work or a career change (like joining a TV production company). Now, while the writers’ intention is to see their screenplay or TV series screened, it is all too easy to put our effort into one aspect which (if it doesn’t come off for us) undoes all of our plans and options. TIP: be versatile- write great scripts but also be prepared to take the initiative and produce your own or someone else’s work. Become a director, a filmmaker, a producer, a novelist, or chief executive of a large film company – in which case, remember my sage-like advice to you in this post and your innate desire to reciprocate 🙂

Til next time

Happy writing

Why every screenwriter should have a low-budget screenplay in reserve?

March 18, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all, As there may not be much else for many of us to do in the coming weeks, I thought a post on writing low-budget screenplays might excite?

Okay, I happened across a post by Jacob N Stewart of internet site ‘Screenwriting Staffing.’ In this, he extols the benefits of having a low-budget feature in your c.v. If you’d like to read his full article you can do by clicking here  or you can read my skinny of it below.

In his article, Stewart advises every screenwriter to have at least one low budget script in their portfolio. A screenplay that comes in at less than a million pounds.

In the 1990s, many films grossed a 20-50 million US dollar price range. Since 2o10 they have downgraded to 1-2 million budget with most budget films coming in at a million dollars or less. Which means that the person who pitches a lower costing spec script will fare better than one with a lavish, expensive script.

Some of the reasons that Stewart suggests people should pitch and write low budget films are:

a low-budget script will get read faster than one that isn’t.
it serves as an amazing ‘calling card’ for the writer
its a great way for an unproduced writer to get produced
it results in the writer getting a screen credit

Low budget films also help writers by moving them away from a script that is dependant on many locations and actors.
Stewart advises that writers would do well to develop a portfolio of 6 low-budget screenplays as this is the new way in to the industry.

Lastly, if you’re also a writer who dabbles in plays with a few scenes, then you are not far away from writing a low budget feature. Actually, there is so much more to the article that I would suggest reading it in its entirety.

Alright, now that you know what you have to do, off you go – write!

Til next week!

 

Bob’s secret find of the week?

March 11, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Apologies for those looking for the final film poem post. I still have a bit of work to do on mine as busy writing at the moment. It will appear on here soon – just not this week!

Instead, what I’d like to talk about is that which is the scourge of most writers and their least favourite thing to do  – I refer of course to the act of putting down the pen, leaving home, travelling to a specified location and making friends with other creatives: some of which you will be able to help; others who will be able to help you.

I refer of course to the dreaded ‘n’ word – yes:  ‘networking’ which most writers avoid yet it is just as important as the writing process and should command as much of our time (if not more). Why? Because if we want our TV idea or screenplay masterpiece to get read and commissioned, we need to be proactive in this proces!

As some of you will know, I try to attend different networking events most months. Everything from BECTU ‘meet and greet’ to a BFI showcase, BAFTA Rocliffe events…and most recently a Royal Television Society showing of ITV’s ‘Liar’ (series 2) with a Q&A with Two Brothers afterwards.

Now, don’t ask me how the email appeared in my box inviting me to attend the premiere – possibly related to a Horrible History event I went to a year ago and loved – but suddenly I was paying for my non-member ticket of £10…….. …but not next time! (read on!)

Aside from the free drink and making friends with an actor and others on the night, my BIGGEST TAKEAWAY from this was that for £65 a year, I can have annual membership of RTS, attend events and mingle with the best of them for little over a fiver a month. And RTS are not just in London but all around the country so do check them out by clicking here

Okay, now you know I expect to see you at an event real soon. In fact, let me know if you’re London based and going and we can keep an eye out for one another.

Til next time, be the network!

🙂

Making a short film poem – step 3

March 4, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Firstly, apologies for the absence of a post last week. I’ve no excuse other than time ran away from me with work and other things. That said, I did spend the Tuesday with six fab actors and Bridget – our equally fantastic sound person – recording my poems and a few additional ones into sound files.  The purpose being to create the accompanying tracks for future short film projects including the one I am doing as part of the film poem challenge that I know a few of you are also engaging with.

Okay, as I have yet to edit the filmed scenes, I cannot place the backing track with it just yet. That said – if you promise not to share it around the Internet you the rough copy of my poem ‘Back Road to Ballingeary’ as read by actress Emma von Schreiber can be found by clicking here (NB I’ve yet to edit the sound engineer data info from it). For full effect, once poem starts try scrolling down the visual images below (from last week’s post) at the same time it plays.

Til next week..all the best!

 

Back Road to Ballingeary

Behind the lake to Brigadoon

A place for sheltered lives

Ancient cottage, rustic farm

Stone slab bridge over simpering stream

And up the track to see the world

Gorgane Barra – shining like glass

© Bob Eckhard

and my storyboard …

 

Behind the lake to Brigadoon

 

 

 

 

 

A place for sheltered lives

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient cottage…

 

 

 

 

 

Rustic farm…

 

 

 

 

 

Stone slab bridge over simpering stream

 

 

 

 

 

And up the track …

 

 

 

 

 

…to see the world!

Gorgane Barra – shining like glass

 

 

 

 

 

Making a short film poem – step 2

February 19, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Welcome!

Those of you who read last week’s post will know that in my attempts to get writers to produce things, I have set a challenge to make a film poem in 3-4 weeks.

In that post, I set the challenge of creating a short poem that could be made into a storyboard and filmed. Obviously, not everyone is going to want to do this but those of you who are interested in moving from ‘poet’ to ‘producer’, today we learn how to fit your poem into a storyboard in readiness for filming it. That is the specific series of shots that will accompany the words of the poem. Below, you will find my poem ‘Back Road to Ballingeary’ to which I have now added photographs that I took in that area of SW Ireland last August.

[USEFUL TIP – when filming an area, make sure you also take a few photos to remind yourself where you were when five years later you can’t remember a thing]

[2nd USEFUL TIP – do consider PIXABAY as a site for resourcing images – basically you submit photos to them for others to use and in return, (for each one downloaded) you get to download that number of photos you like on their site for free. Later, as more of your photos are taken up, you can claim more]

[DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE – not sure where I got these from but download a storyboard grid (for sketching on) by clicking here]

Okay…

Back Road to Ballingeary

Behind the lake to Brigadoon

A place for sheltered lives

Ancient cottage, rustic farm

Stone slab bridge over simpering stream

And up the track to see the world

Gorgane Barra – shining like glass

© Bob Eckhard

and my storyboard …

 

Behind the lake to Brigadoon

 

 

 

 

 

A place for sheltered lives

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient cottage…

 

 

 

 

 

Rustic farm…

 

 

 

 

 

Stone slab bridge over simpering stream

 

 

 

 

 

And up the track …

 

 

 

 

 

…to see the world!

Gorgane Barra – shining like glass

 

 

 

 

Did you spot the Pixabay image? Answer in the comment section if you want : I’m not proud 🙂 Yes, you guessed it – although I climbed a short way up to film the lake,  I forgot to take photographs while there. (doh!)

Okay, feel free to post your poems and email me a link to where I might read them – if you have already put them into a storyboard,  again, send the link as I’d love to see them. All the best and…

Looking forward to the short! We move onto sound and moving image next week. Those of you interested in making a poem film over the next month, please find instructions to the creating a poem film challenge by clicking here

All the best