The importance of scene structure

August 5, 2021
Bob Eckhard

 

Hi all,

Sorry to be off blog just recently but I’ve been rewriting a feature that I planned out and wrote several years ago but it required an overhaul of its shape and structure. My problem being that it’s an epic biopic from the 19th C with interesting characters and charting several countries (Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain, America). Add to that relational dramas, crisis, conflict, death, glaciers and a mammoth – yes, you read that correctly – and it makes for a structural nightmare. So much so that I put it in my bottom drawer a few years ago as finding the right structure for it was doing my head in!

Anyway, it’s now nearing completion but one of the things that has helped me in reworking this project has been moving away from three act structure to tell multiple storylines from different times periods in an interconnected way – oooh. By that I mean hoping back and forth from present to past then into the future,  interspersed occasionally with a series of dream sequences. Sounds offbeat? Maybe it is – and the author as well! (Talking about myself in the third person would certainly suggest I am losing it!)

Now, what I found really helpful was a scene grid that I had developed using notes from a Luke Ryan session at London Screenwriter’s Festival a few years ago which you can download by clicking here. The above pic is the second of two planning boards in which 30+ scenes have been analysed to ensure the structure works.

Okay, you can download the grid template (in Word Doc) by clicking here

SCENE___              (insert scene number in space)

INT/EXT ?               Good scripts will be plotted so that EXT and INT scenes follow one another (if only as establishing shot)

Whose scene is it? Hero, Antagonist, Trickster, Mentor

S/he wants?          What is their objective in this scene? eg. lure hero away?

Achieved?             Is s/he/they successful in doing this?

Conflict Y/N.       If there is none and its not a transition short you need to rewrite scene of delete

Transition/show stopper/dramatic. Make sure there are  4 to 5 show stopper moments

Get what s/he wants? – Does the person (whose scene it is) get what s/he set out to achieve?

Scene is +ive/-ive – Does the character (whose scene it is) find success or are they thwarted?

Visceral/vicarious – does audience know or not know stuff as it happens – it affects emotions experienced

Story emotion is        -(highlight all emotions audience will experience in the scene)

  1. Interest
  2. Tension
  3. Curiosity
  4. Surprise
  5. Anticipation
  6. Humour
  7. Cliff hanger
  8. Regret
  9. Elation
  10. …………………….  (space to add those not shown but relevant for that scene)
  11. ……………………

What is the value of a produced script?

June 3, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Following on from our series on the value of getting things produced, I thought it would be good to consider its benefit in the long-term scheme of things.

As some of you will know, back in 2019 I wrote, directed and produced a comedy farce and a dark dystopian drama. They both  played at a west London theatre for four weeks.

One of the reasons for doing this was

  1. a  belief in the script that  I had written and a sense it deserved to be on the stage
  2. a refusal to allow script/production gatekeepers to determine what does and doesn’t get made.

Now, while as a newbie I imagined a stage writing credit would be a great addition to my cv, I never thought it would open as many doors as it did – to date, my script has been requested by a film director and TV producer. It has also been influential in  an animation company contacting me (through LinkedIn) to provide a writing sample for their (then) biographical cartoon idea. Of the three, all have offered me writing projects and -as a result – I followed up on two of them.

In addition, the two stage writing credits facilitated my recent application to BBC Drama Writers initiative (back in July 20) – you needed two to enter. Now, although that opportunity didn’t provide me with a win, it was good to know I was entered in something where I stood a much better chance. That said,  I did  recently do okay in a BBC Writersroom window which has got me wondering

‘ Does  taking production into your own hands initiate a sense of confidence and belief that gives us courage and a front foot approach when engaging with projects?’ 

Q) So what is the value of a produced script?

A) Well, it shows people you are a safe pair of hands – that you have production experience – and you can be trusted to get it written/made/whatever

Q) And the takeaway?

A) Don’t wait for that elusive competition win to come calling – if you wait it may never happen. Instead, become a winner and produce yourself.

Bottom line is that just like your writing/creative ventures, your future is in your own hands – not the gatekeepers! So start to make this happen for yourself today!

Til next week

Bob

Why producing your own script may be good for health and well-being? (part 4)

May 20, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Today I’d like to explore how the creative decision to produce can have a positive affect on health and well-being.

Unlike occupations in which the outcome of our labour and hard graft is instantaneous in that we receive a wage/salary, this unfortunately is not the experience for the majority of  writers. While the teacher will be paid for helping the children in class, staff in a store will be complimented by the grateful customer, the lecturer will take a bow at the end of an insightful seminar and the taxi driver who takes him/her home will be paid and (hopefully) receive a generous tip, most writers do not experience these positive encouragements.

Indeed, while many occupations in the world result in gratitude, encouragement and acclamation, the majority of writers do not experience this, not because their work is undeserving but because it is yet unseen – and here we touch upon the world of gatekeepers and the writer’s quest to find a way around them so that their script can be placed in front of the person who can make it into a film, novel, television series, play, etc.

Sadly, the majority of writers discover too late that becoming a produced writer is far harder than they imagined. So what’s the answer?

Produce yourself!

Write a play and set about putting it on at a theatre! Gather creatives around you and make a short film! Buy the Stop-motion app to create an animation film by manipulating plastercine models, filming it on your mobile phone, etc…The opportunities are endless  but in actuality, what is really needed is:

a changed mindset that breaks out of the cycle of continuous writing of stories (that will not be made) into producing your own work.

In short, a change in thinking that determines to sidestep the gatekeeper by taking it from the page and placing it in front of a live audience – be that theatre, web or screen or whatever. Only as we do this and others gain access to our work will our potential be realised. Moreover, we will become more fulfilled, positive and confident in our writing ability as it brings other opportunities our way.

Until next week…

 

 

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

May 4, 2021
Bob Eckhard

 

(pic of actors Laura England and Tom Cove who acted/recorded my audio production last year)

Hi all,

Following on from last week’s post about the seminar I attended  at the Soho Theatre in which the speaker admitted that scripts sent to BBC Writersroom seldom end up being made into TV, let me turn to the positives that came out of the session. If you haven’t read last week’s post, you can find it here.

Notes on the ‘Perfect Ten’ rules from that session can be downloaded  here

Okay, back to the main thing taken way from that seminar which was to do with why many playwrights make an easy transition into writing for TV and radio series.

The reason? They have a ‘head start’ on those who aren’t playwrights because they possess the skills necessary for writing TV drama as they are versed and honed in:

  • writing for a medium that is dialogue-driven
  • creating well-crafted characters with flaws and disparate personalities that will be exposed on stage before 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 on the reveal
  • 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 the writer takes that step into TV writing.

Which brings us to the question of production and how the writer understands this. For most writers, the ‘term’ production is understood as ‘getting your written work made into a film, play, TV series, film, audio piece (etc).

Now, while that is true – and I would encourage all writers to be production minded in regard to all of their projects – I do think there is a different understanding of producing which we need to be aware of – I refer of course to our rate of productivity.

If it takes a writer five years to write a play, TV pilot, screenplay or whatever, then it better be amazing because no TV producer, Theatre Company or Film Studio will wait the same amount of time for the follow up project. And what if the theme of your play or premise does not ‘fit’ with the current milieu?  Do you have other projects to pitch  if they don’t like what you bring on the day?

[Moral of the story – you cannot bring one piece of work to the meeting. Come with four scripts (at least) that you can pitch and three ideas for other projects you hope to develop and be prepared too elaborate on there and then.]

Look at the CVs of most playwrights who became writers and you will see they were writing plays long before the opportunity to move into TV happened – Moira Buffini is one who immediately springs to mind.

And a number of them will point back to one of their plays garnering interest from someone who saw the potential for 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 solely for that medium in which case keep on, keeping on! Til next time, when we will revisit the reason ‘why producing your own work may be good for your health and well-being.’

Be productive!

 

 

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

April 27, 2021
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. The man 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 five 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’ or ‘out the window.’

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 the dream balloons they had brought with them 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!

Truth be told, attendees came to the session, hopeful that their work would be selected and made or adapted for TV or whatever when they should have been thinking I can

  • put my stage play on at a local theatre and get a writing credit as my reward which might open doors?
  • adapt my stage play into a radio drama/comedy and send it into Radio 4 or produce it as a podcast?

Bottom line – don’t wait for others to produce you. Make it happen by taking charge or your artistic destiny!

Til next time

 

Get things made!

April 20, 2021
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 to get 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 who – 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…

( above pic: the image from one of my monologues produced during Lockdown for Wokingham Digital Arts)

The ‘How to’ on producing your own work

April 13, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Having last week tackled the basic self-promotion skills we all need to be in the game, I’d like this week to give some insight into the benefits of getting something produced.

Okay, as I have adapted this post from 2 years ago, it’s a bit dated – that said, I think the way forward for most writers is to get something produced – be that a short film, an audio  piece, radio play, stage play, music video, stop motion animation using your iPhone – basically, anything!

With this in mind, here is a previous post on how to produce a stage play which I did in 2019 for one of the two stage plays in 2019 – and believe me, if I can do it, you can too!

And then, somewhere in-between, I was part of London Screenwriter’s Festival’s  Impact 50 competition  in which myself and 11 others (actors and crew) went about making it in May 2019. Click below for the write up I posted on the Impact 50 website and at the very bottom- a link to the finished 2 minute film which makes up part of the collective IDMB feature that will be hopefully completed once Covid is over – its been in post since 2019 end.

https://www.impact50film.com/2019/05/13/the-route-to-making-our-impact-50-film-ultimate-cosplay/

Ultimate Cosplay

Til next time…don’t just sit there, plan how you will make your written piece ready for performance!

All the best!

Why writing the script just isn’t enough.

April 7, 2021
Bob Eckhard


Hi all,
I posted this a couple of years ago but I still see the same old complaint from writers about scripts being overlooked by ‘gatekeepers’ searching for the next new thing. Now, while I have some sympathy and experience of similar disappointments, I am not so easily derailed these days. What follows are a few pointers people might consider doing to facilitate making it happen for themselves.

(The parts written in orange text are practical things that I have done or I am currently in the process of doing to make things happen for me. I share them not as pomp but as an encouragement that if a die hard writer like myself can do it then so can you!!!!!!)

1. Profile – develop a social media presence (blog on twitter, post facebook, contribute on web forums…you get the idea )
If you don’t have a website, attend a WordPress or other site building course to get one up that will help you to promote your writing.
(Currently, I have 4 websites and blog on 3 of them once a week. Also on Facebook groups, Twitter and Google+) 

2. Network – do this as much as you write. Get onto Linkedin and join other Facebook groups that give you access to directors, producers etc. Set yourself a goal of  (remotely) attending one networking event per fortnight/month/term etc.

3. Have a plan – if we aim for nothing, we hit nothing. Set yourself targets to get a script ready, a number of people to network with in a month, socials to attend, actors to work with you to help film or record something
Set yourself a goal even if its just writing an audio project one month and finding an actor for it the next, producer to record, etc

4. Produce! –  if you want to see your ideas on screen, stage, online or wherever, then take production into your own hands – set goals to get things made whether that’s an ebook, novel, short film, an animation filmed on iPhone, a blog,  hosting a film event – the list is endless but do something in addition to writing  because life’s too short to wait for the Golden Ticket to arrive.
During the year of lockdown I have – in addition to writing a number of scripts – also (with the help of actors and tech peeps) produced 2 audio sitcom episodes, one comedy monologue, one two-hander audio comedy (and) been placed in two film freeway competitions (albeit for short film scripts). 
Presently, I have another 8 projects in differing states of production, one of which involve eight (2 minute) comedy episodes of filmed series.

5. Learn new skills within the industry. Invest in a camera and make some short films – download the free edition of DaVinci Resolve or another and learn how to edit your work. Check out BFI and Future Learn who both run free online course on screenwriting,  films production and distribution. Go online and watch short training films on how to direct actors.
ps when making short films make sure you direct them yourself (as videos are never a showcase for writers, only directors!)
Currently, I am storyboarding my short scripts ready for filming when the restrictions of pandemic finish or lift enough to film. Moral of the story? Now is the time to be writing your short film and getting people on board ready for when you can make it outdoors.  The Kings of Urban’ Image (top of post) is from the mood board that accompanied my pitch when I reached the finals of the Enter the Pitch Competition at Pinewood a few years ago now.)

And finally…in regard to script writing:
Never stop learning and definitely do not ever think you know it all! Instead,  keep engaging and honing your script until it is the most interesting, enthralling and compelling read that the person who picks it up has read in weeks.
 All the best, Bob

Developing a production mindset

March 31, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Good Morning

A couple of years ago, I happened across Andrew Price’s excellent seminar.  Although Andrew is a graphic artist, the seven points he makes have application for all creatives whether they are screenwriters, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers or whatever. Okay –

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

For myself, point 2 ‘Volume: not perfection’ has helped me over this last year as I have sought not to get bogged down in seeking perfection in one script at the expense of others I that otherwise could be creating or producing.

Again, the skinny of his 20+ min talk can be found at the bottom but I would really recommend clicking link above and watching it as I think there is something in it for every creative amongst us.

ATTENTION: Those doing the 6 week Write4Production course , I will send out your tasks for the week tomorrow.

(There are still 2 places left and if want to become more productive in getting work made, leave names beneath this post)

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

Competitions and traction

March 9, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Firstly, sorry for the absence of posts over the last few months. Hopefully you are reading this now otherwise its back to the drawing board to sort the SSL issue. If you are reading it, I want to talk about screenwriting competitions in regard to the mindset of some who believe that winning a festival will also result in their film being made. Sadly, this is seldom the case – cash prize, yes! Millions of pounds producing a newbie writers project? – er, no! Or very least, unlikely. So, what are we to make of competition wins?

Well, firstly, competitions can be a useful measure of how we have (or have not) developed as a writer. From not listing in a competition one year to making the semi-finals the next..yada…yada.

Another way to gain traction is by submitting with the intention of getting it placed in an industry competitions – the laurels (above) are for my 15 min supernatural short script ‘Sadie’ that I entered in a Film Freeway competition just recently. Will I make it into a film now? You bet because if the judges thought it worthy of reaching the finals, then it must be worth making.

And lastly (though there are probably more reasons than I could think of here)  a lot of competitions will for the entry price or an additional fee on top, give you feedback which will be useful in the rewrite process – especially if you choose to produce it yourself. Of course – sometimes, rather than using your money in a competition – for the same price you may be able to get a reader to give you a detailed report which will help enormously.

To finish, let me add one last thing –  as many find when starting out, it is not enough to be ‘just’ a writer – in short, we need to be our own producers and cheerleader team wherever possible. Also our own financiers (money permitting) to make that short film or feature, play, audio piece, project, etc  After all, why should a producer take a chance and invest in you or me or our projects if we are not prepared to take risks ourselves? (Just saying!)

Til next time – create that epic!