Why producing your own script might be the best thing yet! (part 2)

October 22, 2019
Bob Eckhard

 

Hi all,

Okay, following on from last week’s post about the seminar I attended a few years ago at the Soho Theatre in which the speaker admitted that scripts sent to BBC Writersroom seldom end up being made into TV – and the angst-ridden horror of the 100+ playwright attendees when they realised their beautifully crafted play would never see the light of day on TV – we turn our attention to the positives that did come out of this session  – if you haven’t read the last post, find it here.

( Just to say I managed to locate my notes on the ‘Perfect Ten’ – the talk I attended which is really helpful and  you can download by clicking here!)

Okay, the main thing I took away from what was said at the seminar is that those who write plays have a ‘head start’ on those who don’t. Mainly because they possess many of the skills necessary for writing TV drama. Things such as:

  • writing in a medium that is dialogue-driven
  • creating well-crafted characters with flaws and disparate personalities that will be exposed on stage to a live audience
  • working in a way to manage tense conflict within small set/locations
  • developing interesting storylines that keep an audience hooked while facilitating a slow-burn
  • not giving too much away while keeping tension and suspense
  • writing in ways that are not overtly elaborate or exhaustative on budgets for actors/locations……and dare I say it…
  • tried, tested and approved by theatre audiences long before they take that step into TV writing and production.

Indeed, look at the CVs of most writers and you will see they were writing plays long before the opportunity to move into TV happened. And a number of them will point back to one of their plays garnering interest from someone who saw their potential of them as a writer in other mediums/formats. Moral of the story – take a step sideways to move forward? Unless of course you love theatre and want to write for that medium in which case keep on, keeping on! Til next time…

(ps I have decided to add a third part: ‘why producing your own script is good for your health and well-being”

 

 

Why producing your own script may be the best thing yet… (part 1)

October 17, 2019
Bob Eckhard

 

Hi all,

Several years ago, I attended a morning seminar at the Soho Theatre in which a senior BBC reader presented the 10 rules of writing a good script – actually, I probably still have the notes for it somewhere and (if I can find them) I will post them next week.

Anyway, as BBC Writersroom was at this time still running the send us your script throughout the year approach, an assortment of playwrights listened eagerly as the reader detailed what makes a great script. Suddenly, someone asked him a question that – although off topic – had relavence for everyone who was attending. He asked:

‘What was the last production that resulted from a script being sent into BBC Writersroom?’

The reader thought about it then answered: ‘The Smoking Room.’

CUT to ‘audible gasp from attendees’ who were astounded that the last BBC show produced from a script submitted to the Writersroom was over four years old. More pertinent was the playwrights’ collective realisation that their chances of having their script produced had just gone from ‘moderately hopeful’ to ‘somewhere just above zero.’

In fairness to the reader presenting the talks, he went on to explain how BBC Writersroom were more interested in looking at scripts to find excellent writers who may be able to work with others on BBC projects – he didn’t elaborate which projects – but as people left at the end of the session, my sense was that a lot of dream balloons had been popped that day.

Now, if you write for stage (and even if you don’t) , I do have a positive in the next segment of the story. Til next week…don’t wait for someone to produce you – do it yourself and show initiative, guile and a belief in your own work!

 

KIcking your can or making a film?

October 1, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Yes, it’s a tin can with the wrapper removed…but to Queen lovers everywhere, it serves up the mnemonic of  the proverbial ‘can’ that is ‘kicked all over the place.’  Whichever way you see it, if you’re a writer, the reality of seeing your screenplay made into a film – that is getting it ‘in the can’ can be a lifelong ambition. One that for many may sadly never be realised.

Last night- while watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets  I was not surprised to find Luc Besson was both screenwriter and director. Why? Because he also wrote and directed ‘Lucy’ and probably countless other films that are on his IMDb page that I need to research. All of which got me thinking that screenwriters can enhance their chances of getting their work produced by also developing skills that enable them to be proactive in the field of production as producer, filmmaker, director, editor, etc.

Where to start? Well, a couple of years ago I enrolled on a (free) NFTS online course on filmaking – find link by clicking here

If its the same as when I did it, it runs for 6 weeks and require 3 hours per week…but it’s a start!

Til next week…Onward and upward!

Learning to write clever in a data world?

September 25, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A few weeks ago, I decided to catch up on all my unread emails – a huge task as there were 300+ Obviously, a lot of the circulars were easy to delete without reading, others not so…but then I came to the weekly email digest about all things film from writer, filmmaker and data researcher Stephen Follows. (Actually, I’ve met him at the London Screenwriters Festival back in 2013 and he’s a great guy).

Anyway, Stephen is the ‘go to person’ in the American Film Market and research industry and I guarantee that what he researches and writes about can and will help writers and filmmakers to rethink their strategy. Things like:

  • the advisable length of a screenplay for genres – not too long for comedy but make it really long for history (which scores high in US)
  • how a Christmas themed film that does not occur over that December holiday will not fare so well in the box office as one that does.
  • the affect of happy endings in film and the type/length of scripts that might fare better with gatekeeper readers.

Okay, find Stephen Follows blog/website by clicking here

Til next time…

Can the act of drawing make you a better writer?

September 17, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Today,  I’d like to explore how the act of drawing can be an invaluable process in shaping our stories and resolving issues within them.

I first became aware of the benefits of drawing back in the mid-90s while studying an Open University module about Mathematical Classrooms. Within the pages of the dense reader on educational research and number cruching, I came across a story from the 19th Century in which university student Harold Scudder is given a task by Professor Louis Agassiz to….(find the short account I read and later adapted into  a play by clicking here.)

OR ( for those of you who would prefer the ‘skinny’ of the story…)

The Professor sets student Harold Scudder the task of examining a dead fish to discover what makes the species unique from other fish. But there’s a catch: Scudder must achieve this feat without using a magnifying glass or microscope.

Initially, Scudder is excited by the task but soon ends up hating the fish because of his failure to progress and its rancid smell which results in his interest fading. Worse still, because the Professor goes days without checking in on him, Scudder is forced to persevere with a task that is loathsome to him. (Hopefully, we see the correlation with the writer’s dilemma when things just aren’t working).

Anyway, one day – bored out of his mind – Scudder has an idea and decides to draw the fish and is soon enthralled by all the new things he discovers. No longer is he bothered by the fish’s smell or clock watching until the Professor’s return. Indeed, when Professor Agassiz does arrive, he catches Scudder by surprise with the words:

‘That is right…a pencil is one of the best of eyes”

But what has this to do with writers and screenplays?

Well, it means that when we find ourselves stuck or struggling to structure our story, it’s very likely that drawing it in pictures unclutters the mental log jam we are experiencing. I have found this to be true and often use this method when plotting out each act of a screenplay or creating a storyboard for a short film, etc.

All of which means, next time the muse removes itself from you and your project, remember ‘a pencil is one of the best of eyes!’

Now get drawing!

image by Domas from Pixabay

Why you shouldn’t wait for someone to produce you!

September 10, 2019
Bob Eckhard

 

Hi all,

As many of you will know, I am currently on a mission to help writers (myself included)  find alternative ways of getting their work noticed by those who have the potential to read and develop it. My thinking being that no matter how great the script is, it’s still really hard getting it produced – which means, all of us have to find other ways of meeting people who we can impress with our masterpieces.

A year or so ago, I heard a podcast in which a producer when questioned about how he went about selecting writers to invest in, explained that he always asked the writer (seeking to be produced) if they had ever put money into any of their own projects? He went on to say that most of them answered ‘no, they hadn’t’ to which his retort was:  ‘Well, if you’re not willing to invest in your projects, why should I put my money into it?

Now, I know not all of us have large sums of money to invest in our projects to stage that play or make a short film but I do think there is a kernal of truth in the producer’s observation. My response to it was to produce one of my plays at a review theatre – not just so that I’d be able to answer any producer who asked that question in the future but also to show that I was a person who could be depended upon to get things made. And if you follow my line of thinking, that might not involve huge amounts of money so much as time and effort learning how to film or make a podcast or stop-animation or whatever. Or just helping others or calling in favours from those who possess the skills that can help you get something made. Til next week…

 

 

Generating story ideas from photos? (part 2)

September 3, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Photo - Bob Eckhard. 'Stone slab bridge over simpering stream...'

Those of you who read my last post will know I left you with the task of developing a story idea for each of the 4 photos I took while in Ireland.  See below for photos 3 & 4-which we will consider today – click here to see larger images of the 4 photos)

3 The Gearaghclick here for more                                                                                                        This picture shows a flooded forest – known as the Gearagh – which was once densely populated with ancient oak trees from one of the last surviving forests in Western Europe. That was until a decision was made to flood the region to facilitate a supply of water to power stations to service the nearby city of Cork and other towns. While the wetlands they created have resulted it a place of outstanding beauty with a diverse ecological system, from a filmic perspective we might ask what else lurks beneath its murky waters? What monster or entity might come forth to seek revenge for the destruction of its environment  for the advance of science and technology? Moreover, do the trees still live and if so, are they seeking revenge?

 

4. Bright light in dense forest.

For me, the most obvious choice of film idea from this photo, involve aliens. Maybe a story about a couple who trek through a forest only to encounter an alien life form. Or maybe the genre is fantasy?  Something about a gateway into a mystical world such as ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ where there is a portal into another time or dimension? Or something current to our situation in which a future world is fashioned out of ecological disaster where people are no longer able to venture outside during the day for fear that the sunlight will burn/blind/kill them. Now, add a story of two children who embark on a journey to find their parents who have been lost on route to them while travelling through a drought-ridden environment on route to them and we have a real survival story to tease out.

So there you have it! Four photos (over two weeks), all with multiple possibilities of genre? format? structure? protagonist? etc. It’s really up to you. Till next time…keep the creative fires burning!

Generating story ideas from photos? (part 1)

August 27, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Following on from  last week’s post in which I enthused about using a camera for inspiration for when the muse departs, I’d like to explore today how the actual history behind a photo may provide as much of an engaging story as we might conjure up ourselves – consider the two photos below..

Those of you who read last week’s post may remember I left you with the task of developing a story idea from 4 photos that were taken recently in Ireland – click here to see larger images of the 4 photos.

1 Red Bridge (Cappoquin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not so easy to see from the first angle but (today) Red Bridge and its railway line suddenly come to an abrupt end as it reaches the road and its perimeter wall. (More about the bridge and its history here )

Life for the townspeople of Cappoquin changed completely in the mid-19th C when their town was selected to be the crossing point for a new railway line that would link them with other towns in Ireland, including the seaport of Rosslare. But the building of the two bridges and railway came at a price for the town’s people as it required the demolition of a street comprising a dozen houses (which displaced families), and a rerouting of a (tributary) river in order for it to join the main Blackwater River further downstream with all the disruption that caused.

Interestingly, the lack of height of the Red Bridge later affected the town’s ability to receive yachts that once travelled up the estuary, leading to a loss of business and trade. More importantly, the railwayline changed the town forever. Years later – with the country in economic decline  – the railway line provided the only means for young people to survive as they left Cappoquin (and other towns) in their droves, migrating to America and other far flung places – later on, some to war but for many, never to return to their town/country again.

Personally, I think this actual piece of history offers a great opportunities for generating story – for example, opportunities for drama between locals resisting developers? Or perhaps the plight of people who in the economic downturn after the potato famine are forced to make hard choices as they debate leaving the country and lifestyle to find work and a new life in America?

2. Hidden Boat on River Blackwater

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, this photo screams  ‘journey!’ Perhaps something akin to ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘Stand by me’ – but a case could also be made for an adult voyage of discovery such as ‘Deliverance’. The imagery of the dark leafy tunnel into a river bathed in light suggests a movement from darkness (or innocence) into an illuminated world where the outcome is unknown but a greater truth awaits at the end of it. The danger being not just the physical prospect of drowning but those who will be encountered along the way who like The Sirens experienced by Odysseus will seek to seduce them away from the noble task that is before them – or maybe its one of survival as with ‘Ice Cold in Alex.’

Okay, we’ll consider the other two photos next week! See below if you want to muster your own ideas/thoughts about possible stories for each between now and then.

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Bereft of ideas? Reach for the camera!

August 23, 2019
Bob Eckhard

( photo taken close to the source of the River Blackwater which rises in the mountains outside of Killarney.)

Okay,  first things first. Apologies for this late blog. Also, for the post I missed altogether last week. That said, I have been in Ireland filming for a  fortnight, capturing anything that caught my eye or I thought would make a great accompaniment to a poem or inspire a narrated short story, etc.

Now, while the image (above) was taken as an aide memoire to the footage I’d filmed on my camera, I was suddenly reminded of how in my last post   I observed that most writers baulk at the prospect of producing their work because learning new skills or making it happen becomes too daunting for them – and yet here, using a digital camera (perhaps the one on your mobile phone) is the first step to framing your shot and sequencing your story. Dare I say it? Perhaps even improving how you describe your scene or character? What part of scene is seen first? What is striking about the person?

All of which got me thinking about how most of us possess a camera yet never consider using it to inform or assist our creativity. Or plot out the storyline for that matter. Indeed, an interesting photograph should raise questions and inspire us to that world and what storylines might result. If you have a few seconds try it out for yourself using the photos below (taken while moving around Ireland). Til next time,

Bob

(ps photos 1 and 3 have the most interesting real-life stories – click here to see larger image of the 4 photos)

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