Category Archives: learning

Why I failed. 10 points…

I’ve given up on my screenplay. I hate giving up on anything. During my final screenwriting course session I reflected on why I failed.

1. I can always use the old excuse of life getting in the way. It has been especially busy for the last few weeks at work and participating in the Poetry By Heart competition, but you can always do things if you want to. However, teaching, more than any other job I’ve done, seems to drain you mentally and so I have time, just no brain space.

2. I didn’t love the story I chose. I wasn’t sold on it entirely and couldn’t figure out some of the characters.

3. I have been working on receiving criticism for the last few years. I used to be really bad at it, , but I know it’s a really important thing to get better at. However, I found the way the tutors gave me notes, was contradictory and unhelpful. I have realised that I need a lot of reassurance in my life.

4. I’m really not a writer. At all. I did finish The Hall last year when some friends and I did a writing competition, but it nearly killed me.

However, I have realised a lot of positives from the whole experience:

5. From doing the course, we have found out about a film production course at The Phoenix in May and June, which we may do and I think will be more my thing. I’ve also realised what a great place it is for getting involved, which will be really great when Joey lives here.

6. I have read some really nice books from the reading list. William Goldman and Stephen King have been great inspiration.

7. I’ve found a career I definitely don’t want to do.

8. I have realised that I was teaching screenwriting in a fairly conventional way. Although, maybe with more resources and variety. Two hours in a room with just one voice is tricky…

9. I’ve learnt all about formatting, which is very useful and really enjoyable.

10. It has been really nice doing something creative with Mark and seeing how much he enjoyed the process. I also really like his idea and hope he keeps working on ‘The Gloaming’.

I’ve also realised that I set myself big challenges and maybe I shouldn’t kill myself when I fail. It’s good enough just to try things.

Screenwriting 5

The assignment this week was to help us start using dialogue. We had to put our main character in a greasy spoon cafe. Unfortunately, all of the screenplay formatting I had done on my google drive has gone, but hopefully you get the gist…

OUTSIDE ‘DAVE’S CAFE’ NEXT TO A BUSY ROAD. IT’S NINE ON A COLD, GREY BRITISH MORNING.
Lara is about to enter the cafe, but hesitates fractionally before doing so.

INSIDE THE CAFE, WHICH HAS THE RADIO ON. IT IS A UTILITARIAN PLACE WITH LAMINATED TABLE TOPS AND INDUSTIAL SIZED BOTTLES OF KETCHUP.
Lara looks around, a little unsure. She is well aware of how much she sticks out and therefore studies the menu board intensely.

DAVE – CAFE OWNER
What can I get you darling?

Lara bridles a little at the familiarity, but also faintly warms to the affectionate name, like a stranger in a foreign land

LARA
Oh, um… Please could I have a cup of tea?

DAVE
I think we can manage that. I’ll bring it over.

He turns to get her order.

LARA
Oh, sorry, do you have Earl Grey?
(As soon as she has said this, she knows she shouldn’t have. It’s a stupid affectation and makes her even less comfortable in the environment)

DAVE
No love, sorry. Just the standard builders’ tea.

LARA
Oh, ok. Ummm…. That’ll be fine.
(It’s not fine, but she knows she already looks like a fool and would trust the coffee even less)

DAVE
Anything else?

LARA
A couple of pieces of toast please.
(If she is going to have to sit here with the thick tea, she may as well have something else to not consume with it.)

DAVE
£2.20 please love. I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.

She hands over a £20 note.

DAVE
(With a sigh) anything smaller?

Lara starts furiously hunting for change by upturning the entire contents of her bag. She is getting redder in the face and more flustered. Dave, knowing this will be a fruitless search, simultaneously starts sorting out change from the till and as she looks up and shakes her head, he hands her £17.80 in coins. Lara shamefacedly takes this in her hand while trying to clutch all her dislodged possession under her arm and finds a table as far away from everyone else as possible. She sits down and tries to reassemble everything and restore some of her dignity.

What a sweetie!

Thank you Dirk Malcolm and the Dirk Malcolm Alternative Blog (http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/13428146/) for your very kind comments. I hope everyone votes on the next challenge and keeps up with Dirk’s progress.

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Screenwriting course – Assignment 3

A full page on The Search

Character outline:
Lara is a 28 year old primary school teacher who is married to Rob, an ex-soldier and current UN peacekeeper, who is in Afghanistan. She appears neat, dedicated and a perfect wife. She is having an affair with a colleague, James as she is desperate for attention and enjoys the romantic cliches. She spends a lot of time on her own in the evenings in her tidy, sparse home often not reaching out to friends and family as she feels they don’t want to be concerned.

Images I Like:
Cross-cutting of sex with explosion as the opening image. Close-ups on both so they seem abstract and confusing.
A long shot that zooms in to a close up on an empty house with a separation letter from Lara while the phone rings and rings. We focus on a photo of him proposing with a heart shape of candles with ‘will you marry me?’ in stones.
Gets in to the car passionately kissing James as her mobile goes. She ignores it, until she can’t any longer. The sound and visuals become blurred and we see her pained reaction.
Shot looking from her pov at the airport waiting to see what he looks like, be shielded (by people and screens) for a long time until a reveal of his damaged face and that he is in a wheelchair. He doesn’t need all of this for long, but it’s the initial trauma. The camera spins to see her muted reaction, although she looks happy and ecstatic to see him, her eyes reveal her turmoil.
A montage of dealing with the physical rehabilitation and how she throws herself in to it because she feels so guilty.
Slow reveal of the mental damage that has been done – nightmares, flashbacks and anger outbursts interspersed amongst the montage. Scenes in which he doesn’t understand how he is hurting her feelings, that he is cutting her off or almost getting violent. We continually see her reaction in close-ups and how she is struggling to cope. The relationship keeps deteriorating and she meets up with James one night after saying she was going to a ‘wounded wives’ support group. They have an angry and sad sexual encounter in a car. We see a close-up of her face that shows a mixture of disgust, lust, desire and pain.
While she is away, we use a tracking shot in the house to find Rob having discovered her leaving note. She had tucked this in to a book when she brought him back from the airport.
She comes back to a seemingly empty house and in a panic looks all around to find him. He is out in the garden, which is covered in candles and he recreates the engagement picture, but with ‘I’m sorry.’
She realises that her husband is in there somewhere and they look at each other properly for the first time.

Themes:
Communication and lack of
Rehabilitation – emotionally, physically and of relationships.
Guilt
War
Love

Screenwriting – character outline for Lara

Character outline:
Lara
28
Primary school teacher, wife of a soldier (UN peacekeeper)
Having an affair with a colleague who showers her with romantic cliches and physical attention.
Questions:
Does the character have a nickname?
Only with her boyfriend James – Lulu
What is your characters hair color? Eye color?
Brown, deep and dark.
What kind of distinguishing facial features does your character have?
A biggish nose, which she is embarrassed about and tries to cover up with a fringe and short bob. Her brown hair is beautifully shiny and straight. Big and deep eyes.
Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did she get them?
A birthmark on her foot and scars under her chin from a bike accident when she was seven.
Who are your characters’ friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does she wish she were closest to?
Lara has a sister that she doesn’t live near, but rings fairly regularly. She has both parents still, but they have an active social life and she speaks or now more frequently texts them once or twice a week. Her mum keeps up with her personal life via Facebook. She has a few friends from work who she has ignored recently, because she doesn’t want to talk about her affair with Phil. She has a couple of girlfriends from university who have babies and she has fallen out of touch with them. Rob is away for stretches of time and she is often by herself in the evenings. This regularly involves film watching, her cat and a glass of wine.
Where was your character born? Where has she lived since then? Where does she call home?
Lara was born in York and lived near the Yorkshire Coast until she went to university. She now lives near Bristol to be near army bases.
Where does your character go when she’s angry?
To bed, balled up in the duvet.
What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?
Loneliness. She would never tell this to anyone, it just seeps out in her desperation for attention from James. However, with her husband Rob, she never lets on.
Does she have a secret?
Yes, the affair and the fact that she doesn’t actually like him more than her husband, she just likes the attention.
What makes your character laugh out loud?
Cat GIFs, old sitcoms, chatting in bed.
When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?
Yes, twice and no, she has never encountered that. It has made her feel fragile as if she is continually waiting for it.
What is in your character’s refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?
Wine and neat food ready to make specific meals (some tuna steak, leeks, cream, filled pasta, a deluxe pizza). The detritus of this is in her bin. Her bedroom floor and nightstand are neat and tidy and have photos and a book, candle and radio on. Her clothes are tucked away neatly every night. She worries that people would judge, even though it is rarely entered.
Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Does she wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is she in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is she wearing a pair of blue and gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?
She wears neat tights for work and slippers and big socks and slippers when at home.
Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?
There is very little to throw out as she lives sparsely as Rob doesn’t like mess. She continually chucks out clothes and buys new as a treat. She likes dressing well and neatly and prides herself in her appearance.
It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If she’s eating breakfast, what exactly does she eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sun, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?
She’s making herself a brunch meal after a slight lie-in until nine. She’s about to meet a friend to go afternoon shopping with and have coffee. She read in bed for an hour.
What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Ruining her new, beautiful red wool coat by sitting down in oil. The tears and telling off.
Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?
She wears dark denim jeans, high heels and a silky top with a cropped jacket. She’s going out for a meal with two girlfriends from work at the local wine bar. She’ll eat fish, drink some champagne and they’all gossip about work colleagues.

Screenwriting course – assignments 1 and 2

These are the first two assignments for my screenwriting course. Any feedback is much appreciated.


Assignment 1

The Apartment (1960)
C. C. Baxter, a lowly worker from the masses is squirming his way in to the bosses’ favour by lending them his apartment for their dirty affairs. Miss Kubelik, the cute, damaged elevator girl, is the brightest part of his day. Unfortunately, she knows his home intimately. After cruel misunderstandings and lots of gin rummy, she finally sees the light.


My story:

The effects of war on a relationship. Josie has been married for 6 months to Rob, a UN peacekeeper, when he is blown up by a roadside IED. They go on a journey of recovery, which tests them entirely. Initially, this is physical rehabilitation, but the emotional and mental trauma is a more difficult challenge and they have to find and learn about each other again.


Assignment 2

A character that resonated with me:
I watched Amadeus at about 4 1/2 when I was meant to be tucked up in bed. I was completely engrossed in it and it led to me thinking I was Mozart for a while and wanting to be addressed as him. However, the character that intrigued me was Saliari. His bitterness and honesty were revelatory and his realisation of his own mediocrity was so brutal and adult.


A 1/2 page of my story:

As we see our protagonist Laura have a seemingly loving and sensual encounter, we cross-cut to a soldier being blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. Laura has decided that her six year marriage to an absent soldier is no longer making her happy after an intense liaison with a man from work. She leaves the marital home after writing a note and taking a final glance at the romantic image of how he proposed (candles, stones on a beach spelling out the question). The phone starts ringing as she shuts the door. As she kisses her new partner as he starts to drive her away, her mobile rings. Her husband has been seriously wounded.
At the airport his facial disfigurement is hidden until he gets very close. He is a shell of a man. They start the physical rehabilitation and she throws herself in to it to hide her guilt. However, the mental wounds are harder to heal and he is having continual flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts of anger. She is feeling increasingly isolated and pressured and is thinking of leaving. He finds the letter she wrote (in her panic she had just tucked it in to a book) and is devastated. He recreates the engagement scene in the garden, but with ‘I’m sorry’ and she realises that her husband is in there somewhere and starts a reconciliation.

My next ten.

Right, I’m making a pledge to get back on my BFI list and I will do one this half-term.  I can’t promise that once I get back in to the madness of the term I will be able to keep it up, but I’ll do my best.

Partie De Campagne (1936) – Jean Renoir

The Wild Bunch (1969) – Sam Peckinpah

A Brighter Summer Day (1991) – Edward Yang

Greed (1925) – Erich Von Stroheim

The Colour of Pomegranates (1968) – Sergie Parajanov

Casablanca (1942) – Michael Curtiz

Fanny and Alexander (1984) – Ingmar Bergman

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) – Victor Erice

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – David Lean

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – Orson Welles

Why my dad is ace (again)

We did a Secret Santa at home and I got dad.

He made me a Steadicam, or more accurately a HarryCAM.

Amazing.

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I haven’t been completely useless though… My adventures on a screenwriting course.

Despite my lack of Top 100 film watching and assigned creativity, it’s not been all bad.  Nearly two weeks ago, Mark and I started a screenwriting course at The Phoenix (we seem to be going there a lot lately…).

It’s an eight week programme and by the end we should have written a screenplay and investigated structure, dialogue, character building and industry techniques.  We have also been given a reading list and we’ve got two William Goldman and one Stephen King books on writing to read.

The first homework was to write your favourite movie’s plot in four lines and then your idea in four lines.  This week’s assignment is to flesh that initial four lines out in to half a page and decide on a character that made an impact on you as a child.

My idea is based on the Simon Armitage poem The Manhunt (http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/simon-armitage-on-his-poem-the-manhunt/13455.html) although I may change the war by moving it to Afghanistan and also add the element of the wife having strayed before he came back wounded and the amplified guilt she would feel.  I like the idea of writing about war from a female perspective although I think I will have to do a lot of research first!

It's a start...

It’s a start…

I’m a bad person…

I can offer lots of excuses – I have had a really demanding job responsible for 17 people, I’ve bought my first house, moved in and helped with some decorating, my boyfriend has been made redundant…  However, basically I’m a terrible person and an awful blogger.

Anyway, Mark took me for a special Valentine’s Social Cinema screening at the Phoenix last night.  They were playing my favourite film of all time (if such a thing is possible), The Apartment, with a quiz, special food and a fun atmosphere.  After coming second in the quiz (free Phoenix tickets and a meal!), Mark reminded me that I hadn’t blogged for a while and as it is half-term and I only have a little bit of work to do, I’m going to get on it and start focusing on my love for film.Image

PS – The Phoenix is amazing, Leicester is very lucky to have it and I must make sure I use it more often.