Pros and cons of writing for radio?

March 12, 2019
Bob Eckhard

We begin today with the skinny on:

how the screenplay you wrote years ago might fare better by being adapted to radio.

Often, screenwriters imagine radio to be the poor relation of other mediums such as film, television or stage. Certainly, with the audience limited to just one their five senses when listening to a radio drama, we might be forgiven for thinking it a lesser experience. And yet with the advent of podcasts, audiobooks, radio dramas (and many other non-narrative shows), radio has experienced a renaissance in the last 10 years, both product and audience figures. Indeed, it is not unusual for a radio drama broadcast on BBC  during a midweek afternoon slot to attract an audience of up to a million listeners – exceeding that which a stage play will achieve during a run that lasts the course of a year (or longer).

The thing to remember when writing a radio play is the use of audio sounds to describe to the audience that which they cannot see BUT can imagine! For example, the noise of pistons pumping away in a railway engine that has lost the use of its brakes with the engineers discussing how best to fix it. Or the gentle lapping of waves on a tropical beach with cicadas in the distance as an adulterous couple discuss their future once they return home. Or maybe a market in a North African town where the sounds of street sellers, camels and excitable bartering, mark the backdrop for a couple who push through in search for their kidnapped daughter.

In short, radio offers the writer the chance to reinterpret their hugely expensive (to make) screenplay as an auditory piece. That is, a radio play that will tell the exact same story with the exception that it will be imagined in a multitide of ways with no two the same. Who knows: if a huge success on radio, it might even  be picked up for television or screen?

Pros and Cons of Writing and producing

Pros

  • More chance of your radio play being performed (then your screenplay or TV series being picked up by producers)
  • Opportunity for a credit in radio writing and (later) directing if that’s where it leads.
  • A chance to hear what you’ve written being realised across the airwaves or on a podcast or whatever.
  • The radio play may serve as a forerunner for a TV or screenwriting idea that might develop out of it.
  • Cheap to make because it uses sound and imagination to move from Empire State Building to Space Station in the next scene at limited cost.
  • Opportunity to record the programme and send it to agents and would-be producers.
  • Chance for longer radio series to follow if producers and directors like your writing and can work with you.
  • Something tangible on your creative CV as you move from writer into production.
  • Can be rehearsed as a table read beforehand to ascertain viability as a production.

Cons

  • Time and money spent in buying a book on writing for radio?
  • Learning the format by reading radio scripts
  • Listening to radio plays to gain experience across the format
  • Using professional actors to table read and perhaps make a podcast complete with sound
  • Writing short and full-length radio dramas/comedy to develop and refine your craft.

And finally

the most important thing to remember

Great radio scripts make for great stories to listen to. So, before embarking on production, make sure everyone that reads your script and loves it. (And not just your best friend!)

 

Pros and cons of writing and producing a stage play?

March 5, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Okay, we begin our short series today with:

The ‘skinny’ on how writing for the stage differs to writing for TV or screen

Unlike TV and film that incorporate a multitude of interior and exterior scenes, stage plays are usually confined to one or two fixed settings (garden, house, workplace). The best set will have entrances/exits to facilitate the writer (and ultimately the actors) as the story is crafted in such a way that characters have a reason to exit and enter in and out of the stage space. Things such as:

  • a hall anexe with doors leading away to other rooms
  • an office space with kitchenette and entrance to manager’s office
  • a corridor with watercooler and entrance to manager’s office
  • a sitting room with access out to the garden and through a doorway into the hall .

Confined by the parameter of the stage area, plays are reliant on dialogue to drive the action. Moreover, consideration must be given to the audience’s ability to understand what is happening on the stage when sat in the back row of the theatre. If they cannot see that the white object on the table is grandfather’s last will and testament, they will need someone to speak it out aloud to them.

The pros and cons of producing your stage play

Pros

  • More chance of your play being performed (then your screenplay or TV series being picked up by producers)
  • Opportunity for a credit in stage writing, directing and/or production .
  • A chance to see what you’ve written being realised on the stage.
  • The play may serve as a forerunner for a TV pilot idea that you’ll develop out of it.
  • Play extracts can be filmed and sent out to producers (but don’t send film clips with audience visible as problematic)
  • Opportunity to invite an agent or producer along to see it.
  • Chance for professional reviews if staged in the right theatre
  • Something tangible on your creative CV as you move from writer into production.
  • Can be rehearsed as a table read beforehand to ascertain viability as a production.

Cons

  • Time and money spent in attending playwriting courses or requesting feedback from dramaturg?
  • Learning the format by watching/attending plays and reading stage scripts
  • Making contacts with amatuer dramatic theatre groups with a view to production
  • Writing short and full-length plays to develop and refine your craft.
  • Raising investment to produce your play at a theatre with professional actors, etc.

And finally

The most important thing to remember

Great stage plays happen because of a great script. So, before embarking on production, make sure it’s great and that everyone who reads your script thinks so too. (And not just the acolytes!)

 

Creating and producing?

February 27, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Fifteen years ago, an interesting insight came to me while attending a less than inspiring seminar about the image of God at theological college.  Suddenly – as an aside – the lecturer stated that God might be better understood as Primary Creator. Or put another way, a Deity who from nothing, brings worlds and living things into existence. At once, I was ahead of him reasoning that if this was the case  – and that humans were made in the image of God – then we occupy the position of Secondary Creators who bring things into existence from that which has been made available to us.

Now, apologies for getting all theological but whether your believe in God or not – the important observation is that humans are designed to be creative. It’s the way we’re hardwired. Creating and developing things from scratch, be that art, music, films, stories, plays, garden layout, interior design, fashion, medical practice, architecture, rotas, parks (et al) all occur and are inspired from human ideas and thinking.

However, there’s a problem with this regarding the issue of life and existence which lies at the root of everything. We see this in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs where our immediate needs must and should take precedence before everything else. The homeless or starving person does not think about writing a screenplay or novel while their basic needs are not being met. This is not to suggest they are somehow not creative, it’s just that their artistic, creative muscle (or self actualisation as Maslow observes it below) cannot be realised while other needs associated with survival are going unfulfilled.

Okay, now because many creatives never see their ideas realised, it is my intention to outline in the next five posts some practical ways to move your writing from paper to stage, radio, film, etc Til then, keep creating.

 

 

Why are actors able to perform a character better than the one the author writes?

February 21, 2019
Bob Eckhard

 

Hi all

Sorry, no clever writer resource for you today but instead something equally valuable in helping your stories leap off the page, wrestle the poor reader to the floor and give you every chance of making an impression with your writing. Intrigued? Then read on…

Following on from a recent post on the value of audience let’s turn our attention to what writers can learn about their scripts when actors interpret them in ways that go beyond what they imagined. My first experience of this came at the London Screenwriter Festival when a number of my friends recounted how in submitting a section of a script to be workshopped by a director and actors, they had been blown away as the scenes were interpreted in ways they could not have hoped for or imagined. Without exception, all of them returned raving about the experience and what they had learnt from the actor’s performances who had brought something to the script that they- as writers -had not envisaged. A kind of ‘value added’ if you like – which in the hands of skillful actors had brought the script to life.

Now, interestingly, I’m pretty sure I know what this ‘value-added ‘ is. In fact, every writer worth their salt knows what it is but the problem is for us creatives in the midst of writing a multitude of storylines, we often fail to realise the essence of each character and the raison d’etre of that scene. This insight came to me during rehearsals of my recent play when I was privy to an interesting moment  before each scene in which the director queried and primed the actors with one or both of these questions…

What is your motivation?

What is your objective?

(To which the actors would state motivation and objective to help considate their understanding of that person/character they were about to present)

In fact, in these two questions lies the essence of every scene and story – what is the character’s emotion, their subtext, their desire, the lengths that they will go to hide, subvert, coerce, seduce, flatter, maintain silence, cojole, threaten etc. And then what is their intended goal in that scene – what do they want to win or avoid: girl, letter, diamonds, truth, lies,  accusation, love, conflict, homelessness, divorce, unity  and so on ad infinitum. In short, it is what every writer intends for their characters and think they have written or implied on the page. However, it is actors – tasked with the focus of just one character- who inhabit and enhance the person and their motivation, their desires and objectives.

Still want a resource to take away? Then, memorise/write down these two questions on a post it and place it somewhere you’ll see it before writing each scenes. Til next time…

Sidestep the gatekeepers and get produced.

February 14, 2019
Bob Eckhard

Hi peeps

Sorry – no writing resource today but instead, something far more valuable. Advice on how to get your work and talent in front of people for consideration. Interested? Read on.

As some of you may remember, I blogged a few months ago about my intention to make 2019 my year of production. Find it here.

The first of my projects – a comedy farce – finished last Saturday having receiving an extended two-week run at the Theatre. Now, great as it’s been to work with actors and see the project realised, a major insight came to me in the break between the two runs. Attending a networking event for writers, directors producers and other creatives (that I’d been along to in the past)  I was aware how this time people were now taking me seriously because I  had actually produced something – in this instance, live theatre but it could just as easily have been a short film or trailer or whatever.

My decision to bring along the extended run flyers to the event (see below) in the hope of garnering more ticket sales also proved instrumental in people engaging and treating me differently.

Why?

Answer- Because I was now someone who was making things happen.

What I didn’t anticipate that evening was meeting a respected filmmaker who was seeking a writer for a project. Reading the flyer, he requested the (play) script which I sent him and he has since come along to the farce and forwarded me his project/treatment which we’ll chat about when we meet.

Now, hopefully, none of you will think I’m blowing my own trumpet here because that is not my interntion. What I really want writers to understand is that the route to seeing your work move from a script to something on the screen requires more than just writing – don’t get me wrong, your writing should be great but it also requires your own procactive decision to bypass the gatekeepers and get your project made if that’s what it takes.

In closing, I write this a day after a friend of mine has just advertised her play happening at a theatre just off the West End in a few months time – my thoughts are it will advance her career.

Till next time

Blessings

Bob

Production – the value of audience

January 10, 2019
Bob Eckhard

 

Hello!

Hope you are keeping well and writing lots. Sorry for the absence on social media just recently but I’ve been producing a comedy farce this month written under a pseudonym – find it here 

Now, unlike the writing resources I normally post , today I would like to outline an interesting observation about the value of editing work under the spotlight of ‘live’ performance. That is…

What the audience voluntarily and involuntarily tells the writer about their script?

Having rehearsed the play for two weeks and last night being the first performance – I was on several occasions surprised when the audience didn’t laugh at a moment that the cast and myself thought funny. Conversely, we were equally surprised and mystified when a serious moment proved hilarious to them.

Don’t get me wrong – there was plenty of laughter. But it was the anticipated jokes that never materialised that was the baffling part which I think relates to the audience being interrupted from the journey they are on as something goes awry in the script or the acting – actually, isn’t this the whole point of well structured writing and concise editing of dialogue and prose?

In terms of the farce itself, what I’ve concluded are these possible explanations as to why it went awry at times…

  • the writer (me) hasn’t adequately crafted the scenario for the comedic moment to occur?
  • a case of poor timing by the actor/s on the delivery of the joke?
  • other things happening on stage that interrupts the audience’s train of thought so they miss the joke?
  • misremembered or poor dialogue in the set up which confuses the audience when the comedic line is delivered…
  • the joke was simplistic and not funny to this audience but might on another day be funny for another
  • (and so on)

Fortunately, the director and myself have a chance to address those things today but the writer who sends a spec script to a competition or producer might not. All of which leads me to me main point – that being

  1. the importance of a crafted script where every word justifies its place and none of them unintentionally mislead  or take people out of the story.
  2. the value of having scripts read/performed by actors to an audience – possibly friends sitting round actors at a table read – to see how well the comedy works, etc

(and the same will be true for other genres in regard to the beats where drama, horror, fear occur).

Til next time….

 

Eight sequences to writing the three act screenplay?

November 25, 2018
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Not sure if I’ve posted this template on here before but if you didn’t see it first time round, it’s your lucky day!

Now I can’t remember where I got the template from – possibly Pixar (?) What I do love about it is the sequences it provides for developing 3 act structure screenplays. It does this by  using eight sequences to top and tail what should be happening at the start and end of

Act 1,

Act 2a,

Act 2b and

Act 3.

Download the PDF  here.

Bob

 

Art of subtext – between and beyond the lines?

November 20, 2018
Bob Eckhard

Hi there,

Strange but true – scripts that keep us interested and wanting more are often those ones in which the character’s motivations and intentions are hidden from us or seep out during the course of a story…and this more often through subtext and misdirection!

Now, I picked up a handy subtext template a while back – I’m sorry as I can’t remember where I found it but it is a real gem offering lots of ways to revisit your pages and inject intrigue through silence, action and discussions that are seemingly leading elsewhere…or are they?

Find the PDF of it here. Happy writing/editing!

Bob

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing?

November 11, 2018
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A few years ago I came across an online resource with some handy tips as to things to watch out for when editing your scripts. Personally, I wouldn’t have called them ‘deadly’ sins because there are far worse things in a script like confused genre, a protagonist who isn’t active in the story, one dimensional characters and no theme. All of these have been the death knell of many a script.

That said, a poorly edited script can be problematic if grammar and typos cause the reader to think that your work is less than professional. Well worth a look at this resource if only to discover that one mistake you keep making (that others see) and you are blissfully unaware of.

Okay, connect with their online resource website here

…or my downloadable PDF of it by clicking here

Til next time,

Happy editing you eager beavers!

The reason why creatives need to be reflective practitioners…

November 6, 2018
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

This week’s post is adapted from a two part email by former MGM film executive Stephanie Palmer. Named as one of the “Top 35 Executives Under 35 by the Hollywood Reporter,” she is the author of the best-selling book Good in a Room and has helped many writers get agents and managers. Please find the ‘skinny’ of her message below or you can download my edited version of the emails here.

  1. Are you prepared to let your great idea go so that you can work on another script with more potential of getting made?
  2. Did you know that when a script is described as ‘revolutionary’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘completely original’ it is seldom taken up by Hollywood (or others) as there is no precedent that films like this have ever been successful?
  3. Are you aware that the more original your idea, the tougher it is to sell it to producers and executives?
  4. Does the story/script you’ve written move you emotionally? Is it authentic to who you truly are?
  5. Have you learnt by making your writing mistakes on earlier scripts you care less about so your killer script idea lives for another time?
  6. Are you prepared to develop and write a script that is simple and commercial to help you break into the industry?