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

Why not make a film poem?

February 12, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

As some of you will know, I am a big advocate of producing your own work – by that I mean, in addition to whatever you are writing and submitting to competitions you should also be getting things made – like a stage play, or monologue, or podcast, or short animation, or film or whatever. Here’s why:

Last year, my comedy farce premiered at a theatre which was great in itself. However, just as important is what has resulted since then in which I have :

  •  assisted a producer to develop a bespoke comedy script idea for TV commissioners
  • written two TV format ideas for a Sky producer – both projects are still on-going work in progress
  • advised a friend on his first stage play and will direct it this year. Moreover (if funding is successful) I will also get paid for doing it.

Now, I tell you this – not to big myself up – but to encourage you to not rely on writing prowess alone for as many writers have come to realise, a competition win does not always open doors into the industry in the way they anticipated.

Let me add here that I know the idea of picking up a camera and making a short film generates apprehension for most writers – myself included – because it involves us working outside of our skillset. However, we should not allow that to limit us.

With this in mind, the next few posts will offer an easy introduction into storyboard and basic filmmaking that requires a poem, a camera (or mobile phone) that can record sound – and of course the desire to see something made!

So the task for this week is to create a poem. In true Blue Peter style, below you will find one that I prepared earlier (26 years ago to be exact)

Those of you interested in making a poem film over the next month, please find instructions to creating a poem film challenge by clicking here

and hopefully we can move from being poet to producer by mid-March?

Til next time, keep it creative!

(My poem for this project)

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

Are you putting your best foot forward?

February 5, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hello,

Obviously I can’t speak for every writer who is reading this but if – as a creative- you’re anything like me, you probably engage in a daily struggle that is best described as ‘writing’ versus ‘admin.’

For many of us, it results in a desk that is littered with scribbled notes, half-edited scripts, a plethora of pens and pencils – none of which can be found under the sea of paper – and a whole load of other stuff that obscures scissors and stapler when you need them most!

Now, great as it is to have a mindset that just wants to write, draw, paint, compose, film, sculpt, direct (et al), we also need to be equally proactive in getting our ideas out there to those who are looking for projects to produce. In this regard, those who are creative are not always so keen – probably because it falls under the category of ‘admin’…

 but let me suggest one idea that will not only motivate you to complete your creative pieces sooner but can and will assist producers to assess your potential for future work.

I refer of course to the frequently updated cv.

I have had one on Linkedin for many years now but more recently I have adapted a page on my bobeckhardwriter website to show my finished projects and what I am currently working on – see mine by clicking here.

One reason for providing a continuously updating cv is that it helps producers understand what it is you write and (more importantly) the length of time it took.

Or put another way, the question is not just ‘are we creative?’  but ‘what is the frequency of our creativity over a week, month, year?’

Should a producer give us a project, can we get it made in the required time that is asked of us and to a quality and standard they are expecting?’

So what are you waiting for – tidy that desk (just a bit) and update your cv today!

 

Five reasons why writing a low budget feature is a good move!

January 28, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

As many of you will know, I am on a mission to encourage writers to write that which can be produced. The thinking being that a low-budget writer has more chance of seeing their work produced than one with a 100 fab screenplays that never won a competition (or if they did, were never made into a film).

Now, let me say that it was never my initial intention to write low budget feature ‘ ‘Blossom.’ (Currently, I have just completed the first draft but plans are afoot!)

Initially, ‘Blossom’ began as a short film about a deaf child that I wrote for friend for his final year film-school project. (The initial idea was his). However, in writing this 20 page short  I came to realise that I’d just written a quarter of a screenplay – in actual fact, the section that ran from the end of act 1 to the midpoint of act 2 (albeit with a different ending) – which got me thinking:

‘how easy would it be to extend the short into a screenplay that is low concept yet high on drama?’

Enter Kate Rowlands at a Euroscript event where her observation about how those who write high concept always need to work harder to bring the drama out in their story. As a creative who has a multitude of high concept ideas – more than I can ever write or see produced –  her advice HIT ME like a ton of bricks because I suddenly understood all those reader’s comments about my characters not being on the page (etc).

So what are the five reasons for writing a Low Budget Feature?

  1. It is your best chance of seeing your screenplay being picked up and made.
  2. If someone else doesn’t make it, you can always crowd/fund and produce it yourself.
  3. The nature of writing low budget projects should lend themselves naturally to confrontations that are big on human drama and not explosions.
  4. You as the writer might also choose to direct your film – after all, you wrote it.
  5. The finished film  (if well made) will be a calling card that should open doors in the industry for you as writer, director and producer.

Okay, til next time…

Boldly go!

 

Making a short film? – proactive and productive (part 3)

January 22, 2020
Bob Eckhard


Above: Mood board used in finalist weekend for Enter the Pitch filmmaker’s competition: Kings of Urban

Okay, hot on the heels of last week’s post – which can be found here  – we consider the issues that come with producing a short film.

Now because most first-time filmmakers are usually making their first film on a tight budget, it should come as no surprise they are often obliged to wear several  hats. These may include ‘producer,’ ‘health and safety person’, ‘props’, ‘casting’ and even ‘director.’ (And can I say here that it you are putting time, effort and money into your own film and you feel you could direct it then do just that because at the end of the day, shorts tend to benefit those who direct them more than those who write them),

So how do you go about making a short film? Well,  you will need a…

Location –

…which means approaching friends and asking them if you can borrow their property because this is much cheaper then hiring a roof top in London. So, two choices – either

  1. rewrite the script and replace the expensive location with one that costs nothing  (or)
  2. approach Film London or whoever rents out rooftops in your area, aerodromes, old swimming pools, park area, etc

and pay money for the fab setting and shot.

Crew and actors – 

…are all around you when you’re a screenwriter. Sometimes it’s their day job or what they do on the side. So join a filmmakers group on FB or real world, attend networking events, hand out your cards and ask them for theirs in return. Do the same for actors, make friends and professional relationships. I met at actor at London Screenwriter Festival two years ago – I asked for her card and later invited her to audition for a role in my stage play which she was in last year. Moral of the story: don’t ask, don’t get!

Auditions –

Don’t be overwhelmed by the process. Find an acting friend to assist you as you audition in your living room or cafe or wherever. Remember, it’s your script so you’ll have a good idea from the auditions of who you see in each role.

Rehearsal Space –

Learn from my mistake – casting eight actors in my comedy farce meant most rehearsals required a large space which was costly to rent. My next play had 5 actors and could be rehearsed in the large back room of my friend’s house which cost us nothing while we were reading lines – that is, learning the script. Only after this, did we rent out a large area for physical rehearsals and fine tuning.

Insurance –

Really important if you don’t want a lawsuit hanging over you from an actor getting injured on-set. My insurance is with ‘Showtime’ but do search around and  consider joining a union like BECTU who can advise, provide training, etc.

Health and Safety

Nowadays, it is necessary to provide evidence that the location(s)/theatres has been visited and a health and safety form completed highlighting possible risks and danger areas. This may require training and/or bringing onto the team someone who can complete this task for you. Please find an assessment template form with some redacted H&S extracts by clicking here.

Costumes –

Self explanatory – think charity shops though actors may often have a large wardrobe at home that has the very garment you are thinking of.

Storyboards –

Long before you gather actors and crew together you should have written the film and mapped out the storyboard shots – see opening scenes of Cosplay here. If you are directing – and even if you aren’t – you need to plan the type of film shot you imagine. think of it like a map of the film as to what comes before what and so on. To not have this ready before filmming will delay the shoot on the day costing extra money if employing people on a daily rate.

…done! Phew! It’s a start. Now get writing and building an environment of creatives around you in readiness for your first film – woohoo!

Til then, keep it creative!