Developing Creative Discipline – part 4

July 1, 2020
Bob Eckhard


Hi all,

Today we look at a creative discipline so far untouched- I refer of course to the ongoing professional development which we should really be about all the time (but seldom are unless it is timetabled into our schedule).

Now, while most writers understand professional development in terms of listening to lectures, attending screenwriting festivals, watching instructional videos online and getting help from script editing services, there is one aspect that is often set aside. I refer of course to reading that book which was an impulse buy at the screenwriting festival and has since rested on a shelf in a corner, gathering dust. (And can I add sometimes a book can be totally dire and the reluctance to read it is totally justified. But what to do if not? How do you develop a routine to read every day?)

Well, referring back to my magnetic board idea – find it by clicking here  – one of the things that has really helped me is being obligated to read some pages from a book each day in order to keep on track with my own objective to hit a certain score by the end of the week. Now, it’s possible you have a pristine book waiting to be read but if you don’t, I do think ‘The Story Book’ by David Baboulene’ is illuminating on so many levels.

I first met David when he was acting as a script advisor at The Enter the Pitch finalist training weekend  a few years ago. During the weekend, he did several sessions to help us with the story structure of our short films using an Aristolean approach of Hermatia, Perepatia and Agnasoris (sp?) which was really useful. However, I do recommend this book as I think he really does offer a really unique way to rethink structure and the rules surrounding the story itself.

Anyway, whatever dusty book is on the shelf or sitting on the lamp stand,  can I encourage you to find a way to develop a habit to read it daily so that you can learn and use its pearls of wisdom to develop further as a writer.

Til next time!

Developing Creative Discipline – part 3

June 24, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

I wonder what comes to mind when someone suggests that you should  ‘Think Outside of the Box?’

Personally, I have no problem with going off on a tangent as I’m a bit quirky like that – though I can be a  bit of a stickler in regard to other things. Actually, we’re all a mix of creative spontaneity and necessary discipline in our writing, day, week, job, whatever. (Or at least we should be!)

If you read last week’s post, you may remember how I devised a system for keeping me true to the tasks and targets I set myself for each day – a magnetic board in which I challenge myself every day to complete  the tasks on it – if you haven’t read it, you can find it by clicking here.

One thing that has come out of using this device is that I am far more organised – particularly with tasks that I often avoid- usually things like admin-related tasks, following up emails, updating my LinkedIn and website to record what I’m doing and working on in case anyone should visit. And can I say, if you haven’t got a website where people can find you and your work, you should make that a priority!

A useful idea that popped into my head (though I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this) is I have taken to highlighting new additions of work in a different colour on my ‘current page.’ See it by clicking here.

Having an up to date portfolio of produced projects, work in progress and competition placings in that order (big thanks to Alison Clapham for advising me on this) shows any visitor to your site or Linkedin page or whatever, that you are approaching the task of being a screenwriter professionally.

Okay, til next week!

 

NB The cost of a website domain and host shouldn’t be too prohibitive. That said, much better to learn how to  do it yourself rather than pay someone to build and update it regularly for you – which will definitely be more expensive!

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 2

June 17, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A few weeks ago I watched a Royal Television Society online interview with Sally Wainwright which was really interesting. Among the many questions about her thoughts on past and present projects, one question drew my interest of this prolific writer – namely her answers to How she writes? Where and when? Routines? etc?

In short – and here I am hoping I remember it right  – yes, she does have a routine place in which she works and (here’s the killer!) rises at 5am every day before anyone is up so that she can write solidly without being disturbed.

Now, at this point, I am imaging an audible gasp from the collective majority who will be baulking at the idea of rising so early to write continuously for 4+ hours – for as many will claim , it’s not for everyone!

However, as I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a christian illustration about a host of a dinner party who while explaining to his guests how he kept falling asleep when rising early for prayer was told:

‘It’s not a case that you can’t rise early so much as that you refuse to discipline yourself to going to bed earlier!’

I love this challenge as it puts the onus squarely back on us as to how serious we are about problem solving how and when we find time to write.

Of course, I’d love to be able to say here that after the session with Sally Wainwright I got up at 5am for the next two months but alas – it was not to be! HOWEVER, I have since started going to bed earlier and now I find myself rising earlier in the day to write  – usually between 6 and 7.

All of which means that change is possible and will happen when we take steps to create opportunities to write at a time of the day that suits our body clock. ( And here, I recognise that not everyone is a morning person  which requires a different a set of adjustments to clear the decks in the evening)

Wherever you are in your quest to become a better writer -know this:  if you’re serious about writing, you need to understand yourself and the way you work so that you can learn when it’s the best time to write but also how to maximise what you can get done in a day, All the best!

Til next week…

ps if you missed last week’s post, find out about my useful magnetic board for keeping you true to the things you do in a day by clicking here

 

 

Developing Creative Discipline

June 10, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A good number of years ago I heard a joke that went something like this:

‘Informed that the streets of London were paved with gold, a young man travelled there. Stepping off the bus at Victoria, he saw a five pound note on the pavement and picked it up.  Thinking about it, the young man smiled and released the note into the wind. As it floated down the street, a man asked him why he threw away the money away to which the young man replied; ‘I’m going to start on Monday!”

Now, I tell that joke because if you are having trouble with your writing during Lockdown, you’re not alone. It seems that one reason why people are struggling to write right now is that they may have too much time on their hands. A problem that results in them postponing the writing until another day when they think it will fare better for getting things written.

Reflecting on this, it seems that without the urgency of  limited time in which to finish or being accountable to someone by a certain date, it becomes all too easy for writers to set their writing project to one side until a day when the Muse won’t abandon us.

For some, the answer is to pair up  so that they can keep one another accountable as to their progress (or not). This system is premised on the idea that the advanced knowledge that there is a date and time when you will be held to account by the other person, makes you more inclined to complete the task before that meeting.

However, not everyone wants to be held accountable in this way which begs the question:  what can be done for writers  wanting to achieve their objectives under their own steam?

Well…in an attempt to keep on top of the goals I set myself (and just as regularly fail to keep) I have devised my own Accountability Challenge board – a plethora of things I do in the day that include:

writing 3 pages of first draft, exercise, practicing piano, reading pages from screenwriting books, updating cv, websites, writing blogs, watching instructional and Masterclass videos, re-editing a few pages of plays, relaxing, editing film and so on.

NOW- AND THIS BIT IS REALLY IMPORTANT – THIS BOARD IDEA  DIDN’T WORK FOR ME until I rethought the way I was using it!

Initially, I started by placing the magnet counters over the things I did in a day (as I did completed them)…but it soon faltered as there was no reason for me to complete all these things in a day – after all, who would challenge me?  That’s when I came up with  the idea of challenging myself – ‘Bob versus the board’. (The Epic!)

Okay- this is how it works: placing 18 magnetic counters on all the things I wanted to achieve within the day, as I completed each task, the magnet is removed from its [position where it is obscuring the task and placed opposite to the right of the red line. Then  another task is selected and so on and so on. The idea being to get all 18 magnets across the line each day, recording it in blue pen at the top of the board as part of the fraction – such as 10/18 one day having done 7/10 the day previous and so on.

Obviously, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you’re a competitive person looking for a challenging system to engage you in writing, reading and watching more, this might be a useful start for you.

Another benefit is that you can complete other (non-writing tasks) in the day such as exercise or admin which also count – though with each one done, you are moving towards engaging with writing. You can’t avoid it forever 🙂

Anyway, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it might well be useful to someone?

Til next time – whether you have magnets or not, write lots!

Bob

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