Thinking production – utilising your camera or mobile phone?

August 5, 2019
Bob Eckhard

One of the hardest things with producing anything is doing it for the first time – be that an art collection/installation that will be exhibited, a novel, creating a podcast and distributing it, writing, directing and producing a stage play or researching and writing an ebook complete with meta data, etc.

For most creatives, the thing that thwarts them is not the idea but rather the new skillset that is required in order for the project to get off the ground. (Oh, that everything in life was as easy as writing a clever logline to our great screenplay idea).

For me, my creative Achiles Heel is making films – don’t get me wrong, I’m desperate to make them and have made a few short films but I’ve often been left beholding to friends who have provided the necessary production skillsets of filming, recording sound, editing, colourist, acting, special effects, etc. And I’m guessing that for many of you, the lack of filming skillsets in your creative armoury are the things that would make you think twice about embarking on it.

And yet, making a film thesedays is far easier than you think. Last Summer – signing up for an online animation course run by Cecile Noldus – I ended up creating several Stop-Motion animation films on my iPhone which was a lot of fun and really helpful in educating me in the physical piecing and placing of action scenes together.

Since then, I have bought a digital camera (ideal for making longer films) which I am taking to Ireland  to create a variety of short films that will accompany a range of poems I wrote 20+ years ago – I am seeing it as a chance for me to practice framing the shot, editing the frames, adding sound, developing craft and basic production. And let me say if I can do it, the majority of you can!

Okay, those wishing to get started with the basics , you can find out more about the Stop-Motion animation app by clicking here

Though don’t forget most computers  have their own basic filmmaking suite and editing software such as Movie Maker for you to make that short or film trailer or prose background or whatever.

Til next time

Bob

Thinking production – what about stage?

July 29, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Hot on the heels of last week’s post on how writing for radio might be an easier option for producing your story idea (that you once imagined as a TV pilot or screenplay), I’d like to talk about the value of writing for the stage.

My reason for doing this is that like most writers on social media who indulge themselves from time to time by commenting on a TV pilot idea or tweaking a screenplay logline to make it watertight, it is very clear that storyline very often breaks into that which is either high or low concept. Or put another way: something that can be easily adapted for the stage or not.

So, while a story about a cult in which two sisters (protagonists) plan to escape (goal) the despotic leader (antagonist) before they are killed (jeopardy) has just as much potential of being powerfully realised on the stage as it has being filmed. The only difference being that putting on a professional stage play may work out considerably cheaper and easier to make than a feature film.

Which begs the questions:

  1. Is there potential that your fantastic story idea might fare better as a stage play?
  2. Might the production of it as a successful stage play open doors towards it being made as a film or TV series later on?

Okay, follow this link to the page where you can download sessions 1-4 on how to start developing your stage writing craft. For those experienced in playwriting it might seem a bit basic though it is worth noting that the course was developed for schools and universities by a number of groups that include Bush Theatre, St Martins College and practitioners like John Yorke. And for those interested, this link for the review of my recent play and how these may help in the process of getting future work development – or at least, giving  actors, writers, directors and producers, encouragement.

Til next week, keep thinking and writing outside of the box!

Thinking production – try radio!

July 23, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Following my exhortation in last week’s post to think outside the box and find other mediums/formats to produce your stories, I thought I’d start with a quick update about my play ‘The Lost World of Malcolm Ridge’ which had a short run from 15th-20th July at the Tabard Theatre.

Now, whilst it didn’t garner the same sized audiences as the farce did earlier in the year, its concepts and futuristic storyline did generate a lot of interest from those who attended with several requesting to read the script – which bodes well for it as a radio show hopefully.

Anyway, travelling home one night after the show, it occured to me that the idea I initially rejected out of hand – namely, making a feature film – wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Mainly because, I now have a cast of 5 actors who know the script and characters,  limited scene requirements – it’s quite dark dystopian – but also

  • I do happen to have friends with a large house and very large room who are planning on going away for a couple of weeks next autumn
  • The actors won’t need to be trehearsed in quite the same way
  • And most important of all, perhaps this is the easiset opportunity I will have of making a guerilla type feature film with minimum costs

All of which means my updated list of formats for  ‘The Lost World of Malcolm Ridge’ are”

  1. stage play? DONE!
  2. radio play? WORK IN PROGRESS
  3. feature?      PLANNING STAGE

Okay, the second part of writing for radio (taken at  a session of the London Screenwriter’s Festival last year) can be found by clicking here

and also this link (below) is helpful for consideration of the pros and cons with writing for radio,  including how to find that elusive producer

Now, off you g0 – no dilly-dallying,  get writing and get something made!!!

 

Write it once, find three different ways to produce it?

July 18, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Today we begin another mini-series  – this time connected with maximising writing and production.  Inspired by a phrase that Chris Jones used on a Talent Campus session on ‘Social Media’  where he instructed us that when writing a blog, to make sure it is posted across a range of outlets/pages. His exact words were:

‘write it once, post it three* times.’   (* though insert larger numbers here)

In other words, if you are going to spend time writing something, make sure it finds its way into as many hands as possible. Which brings me to my great insight of recent weeks. An insight that has changed the way that I think about projects and production. What do I mean?

Well, as I write this piece, I currently have a play on at a theatre in Chiswick. Now, although its run at the Tabard  will finish this Saturday, I have already begun to adapt the story into a radio script which I will then submit to a Radio producer with the intention of getting it on air. Interestingly, someone last night suggested that it might make an interesting futuristic film but I’m not convinced. However,  I do think it would possibly make an interesting short story or TV sitcom (if I was prepared to alter the genre). So write it once and The Lost World of Malcolm Ridge becomes :

  1. stage play?
  2. radio play?
  3. short story?
  4. possible sitcom?

All of which results in 4 possible ‘spin-off’ formats.

Okay, to get you thinking, please find the first of two Radio  handouts here. I’m sorry, but I can’t remember where this handout came from nor how it ended up in my files but please do advise if you know who the source author is and I will acknowledge and/or remove from files.

Til next time, happy formats!

At the heart of every good story is…

July 9, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Last week we considered the importance of structure in providing the framework on which each of our scenes hang. Something that is true for writing in any format as it is for writing animation.

That said, my experience is that often the most entertaining and readable notes on character and plot development come from those who write animation – Now, I’m not sure why? Whether it’s a case that the characters are better drawn or more easily recognised, I don’t know. What I do know is that its readable and the advice is good for all in regard to story, plot and creating fantastic characters.

Okay, this week’s resource is from writer and blogger Stephen Vladimir Bugaj who offers advice from his years working at Pixar.

Stephen lists some great sites on his website where you can also download  his ’22 Rule of Story’.’ Find it by clicking here:

Til next time –

Bob

 

Animation: Structure is everything!

July 2, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

This will be a short post today as I am in the middle of getting a stage play ready for performance a fortnight today. Interestingly, unlike my comedy farce from earlier in the year, this stage play – ‘The Lost World of Malcolm Ridge’ -has a non-linear structure. I won’t go in to detail other than to say that whatever you write – be that an animation, a TV series, a screenplay, a radio play, a novel,  stage play or whatever, make sure the structure works because this and plot are the  backbone on which everything else hangs.

Okay, onto all things animated.

Firstly, please find the third installment of my notes from Barbara Slade’s ‘Writing Animation’ seminar by clicking here.

Secondly, the other two installments from Barbara Slade’s animation class can be found here.

Til next time, keep it animated!

Bob

ps this week’s greyscale image is taken from the flyer we are using for the play.

 

The ‘how to’ on making a short film

June 25, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Suffice to say that it wasn’t my intention to set up a mini-series on production but having tackled how to produce a stage play last week, I thought I would balance it out with one on producing film.

Now, as the same Impact 50 competition that I’m part of is offering a 48 hour short filmmaking opportunity (see below) I thought I’d provide a link as to how myself and 11 other (actors and crew) went about making our film last month. Click below for my write up that was posted on the Impact 50 website and (above it) you’ll see the competition advert.

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

Til next time…

Producing your own play

June 18, 2019
Bob Eckhard

A few weeks ago, while on an online chatroom, I was asked about the logistics of putting on my play. Now, as my answer on Facebook was rather longer than the small text box would allow, I inadvertently ended up writing a blog – see below for the insight into how I produced my first play.

To start with, what was in my favour was I had a script that was good to go. I also felt confident it would be well received…so asking friends about local theatres, I settled on one in West London which was a review theatre with many shows/acts going on from there to the West End.

Initially, the plan was to put on the show for two weeks in the Summer but I ended up rescheduling it for Jan – long story. With £1200 deposit paid  for putting on the show for one week,  we planned and scheduled two weeks as this enabled us to have 10 shows with greater opportunity for ticket sales.

Next, I auditioned for cast. The theatre kindly offered me their stage space for free over the 2 days we auditioned. Previous to this, acting on advice, I found a director to assist me as I was chiefly production and doing both was not viable.

Asking actor friends, they advised me about others who might be interested in the play and a week later we auditioned and secured 70% of our cast in 2 days. The majority in place, I adapted a template of a theatre contract from a friend and sent it out to actors then hired some rooms for rehearsal – though word for the wise, renting can be expensive and table reads at the start might be cheaper in someone’s living room than a large space you are paying for. Prior to this I joined BECTU and through them purchased insurance cover for myself, actors and public liability

Five days of rehearsals began in earnest before Christmas then 5 more days after that in the New Year leading up into first day at theatre. Prior to this I asked some friends to design and construct a living room set in such a way that it could be transported and built on stage at the theatre. The sound and lighting person was sorted before Christmas and I went around charity shops and back to a previous Church to borrow vestments, coats, jackets and shirts which a seamstress friend adapted into clerical shirts. I’d love to say it ended there but producing a play is a full-on roller-coaster ride with one or more problems arising every day that always needed to be sorted .

As I was new to all of this, I was a bit slow at getting the publicity for it sorted and so we missed the opportunity for a review night with our large (A0 and A1) posters and flyers not arriving until 3 to 4 shows in. That said, the play was enough of a success for the theatre to offer us an extended run ‘due to popular demand’ – but also because another play cancelled –  which gave me the chance to make amends by ensuring cast list, posters, flyers (with new dates)  arrived in time for the first night.

In summary, putting on a play was and is a great experience and although it took a lot of hard work, it is very rewarding for everyone involved. Actors got work, credits and honorarium payments: I got stage writing and production credits as well as a huge amounbt of experience; directors and artists got credited; other actors got a chance to be a part of it as they replaced others who were not available for the extended run; and the theatre got a successful four week show; and a whole lot of people were entertained and went away happy.

Bob

ps To show I haven’t been deterred by the experience, I’m currently getting ready to audition and rehearse my next play ‘The Lost World of Malcolm Ridge’ which will run at the Tabard Theatre (Chiswick) from Monday 15th to Sunday 20th July. Hope to see some of you there!