Monthly Archives: April 2014

Easter synopses

A FRIENDLY WARNING

There’s going to be some waffle.

Then there’s going to be some stuff about synopses which is quite interesting.

You may wish to skip to about halfway down.

Or you may not.

I don’t know, I’m not you.

You may have already known that.

Unless you are me.

Which would be weird and possibly a bit awkward come bed time.

Hello! I’m back! Did you miss me? Did you even notice I”d gone?

I didn’t notice I’d gone. I didn’t intend to go anywhere, I just accidentally took the Easter holidays off from all writing of all kinds everywhere. Apparently this is the kind of thing which happens when you have a small child.

Did you have a good Easter? I did. I did things like this:

Okay, so I know technically the Easter holidays finished a week ago, but I accidentally took an extra week off to play with my toys. Essentially I was turning this:

2014-04-26 20.57.52

2014-04-26 20.58.10

Into this:

 

2014-04-26 20.37.402014-04-26 20.38.08Clearly that didn’t take me an entire week to do, but I was … um … doing stuff. Yes. Stuff. That’s what I was doing.

Anyway, I’m back to the mill now. Or desk. More of a desk, I suppose.

(That’s the end of the waffle, by the way)

The thing I’ve been working on recently is not a thing. It’s lots of things. Specifically, lots of synopses for potential film projects to work on with an actor friend of mine, Jay Sutherland*. Here he is, pissed up and in charge of a firearm:

Jay’s great. You should hire him.

So before Easter I was slowly working my way through a pile of ideas, scribbling down one pagers so we can select one to work on and … there’s no easy way of saying this, they were all shit.

All of them.

Not the ideas, the synopses.

Possibly the ideas too, but that kind of self-abuse isn’t helpful right now.

The first draft of all the synopses were shit because I do the same thing every time: describe bits of plot, action and events instead of describing the character.

KISS

It’s one of those really simple, blatantly obvious things which I forget every fucking time. Just answer the three basic questions:

  • Who’s it about?
  • What do they want?
  • What’s stopping them getting it?

Okay, so there’s more to it than that. The first two questions work best when they’re connected by irony and the last one works best when there’s some kind of thematic connection; but in essence, thinking about these three questions makes my synopses far, far better.

I also find it useful to think like a DVD cover – describe the above three questions in relation to the first act, hint at what sorts of things will go on in the second act and that’ll do pig. That’ll do.

thatll-do-pig-thatll-do

Some people think you should include the ending in a synopsis. I’m not really one of them. Except when I am. Generally I think it helps to pique a producer’s interest if you don’t include the ending – make them want to question you about it.

Other people think you need to include the ending because producers are too busy to go around asking questions and won’t be interested unless they get all the information upfront.

I guess either or both could be true. I tend to go with the former, I may be wrong.

Everything-You-Know-Is-Wrong-250x364

But there  you go, that’s what  I’m doing – synopsisising like a bastard while interesting things are swirling around in the background.

Not literally. It’s not like I’m surrounded by a maelstrom of flying teapots and china knick-knacks.

Unless they stop when I turn round.

Which they might be. Who knows?

Oh fuck, I’m waffling again. Probably time for a tea break.

3464852_f520

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* Technically he’s my brother’s best-friend’s brother. But let’s not split hairs. I like him, therefore (in my world) he’s a friend of mine. You’re a friend of mine too, for much the same reason.

† Ha ha! Tricked you! It was all waffle! There was meant to be more substance to this, including examples of the synopses I’m currently working on … but I chickened out because I don’t want people ridiculing me and calling me names.

‡ More people. I don’t want more people ridiculing me and calling me names.

 

 

Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings | 2 Comments

Red Planet blues

Red Planet

By now, everyone will have heard about their Red Planet Prize entry.

Well, not everyone. I’m pretty certain not everyone entered. 7 billion entries would be quite tricky to get through and the ones from babies would be terrible.

So no, not everyone; but everyone who entered. Oh for fuck’s sake. I’ll start again.

By now, everyone who entered will have heard about their Red Planet Prize entry. Some of you will be doing the Snoopy dance …

Snoopy Dance

The rest of you won’t.

Charlie Brown

 

But here’s the thing … it doesn’t matter which group you’re in. Not really.

I’ve blogged about this before: Ivory Tower (that post is far better than this one. I’d go and read that one, if I were you) and six years later the same’s pretty much true – competitions are great, but they’re just diversions from your career.

Okay, so *possibly* winning something prestigious will catapult you to the top of the pile. Doors will open. Contracts will rain down upon you and all will be well in the world.

Possibly.

But probably not.

Probably, even if you win a competition, you’ll find yourself lauded and fêted for a bit … probably for as long as it takes for someone to ask “what else have you got?”

I’ve been there. Years ago I won a thing which got me some coverage, which got a very prestigious Hollywood manager sniffing around … which led to absolutely nothing, because my answer to “What else have you got?” was … nothing good.

Things

Because here’s  the thing (really? Here‘s the thing? I thought the thing was a few lines back?) being a scriptwriter isn’t about a script.

Competitions are, true.

Competitions are all about that one specific script you entered. They aren’t judging you, your ability, your dedication or your craft … they’re judging a script.

Just one.

Not even one, not really. In this case they’re making a judgement based on one sixth of a script.

Their reasons for rejecting that sixth of a script (not you, the script – no one’s rejecting you) are probably bang on the money.

Okay, so there may be mitigating factors. Chances are, no matter how ‘out there’ you feel your premise is, they had several very similar ones in. Perhaps yours was identical in all but character names to five other scripts? Perhaps yours got rejected because they had to choose one and that person on that day preferred the name Algernon to the name Reginald?

Want that one

It doesn’t matter.

Just as your career isn’t hung on one script*, it isn’t hung on one competition either. Winning a competition gives you a brief moment of access and attention – you still have to have the skill and determination to use that moment. You need exactly the same skill and determination (and stick-at-it-ness – I’m sure I know a word for that, but can’t think of one at the moment) to succeed whether you win a competition or not.

Winning isn’t everything, playing the long game is.

Because here’s the thing (another the thing! Fuck me, how many of these singular things are there?) people who win or place in competitions (and I’m not talking specifically about the Red Planet Prize here) don’t always have a career afterwards.

I can think of at least one guy who’s won loads of competitions and it doesn’t seem to have helped at all.

I’ve met another who was a runner up in the Red Planet Prize (and I am talking specifically about the Red Planet Prize here) who had twelve months of access to Red Planet Productions … and didn’t take advantage of it at all.

Why? Because he (or she! Could have been a she! It wasn’t, but it could have been) never really came up with an idea he thought they’d be interested in.

double_facepalm

In twelve months.

For fuck’s sake!

Many writers I know are no longer writers. They’ve given up because it’s a hard frustrating battle of constant rejection. Always. All the time. Everyone gets rejected. Everyone. All the time. It’s the whole point of the game:

“Do you like this?”

“No.”

“What about this?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“No.”

To paraphrase John  Sheridan, all you need to have a successful career is to ask the question one more time than they can say no.

The one! Or one of them.

And possibly some talent. And maybe a computer of some kind. And probably enough social skills not to fling your own shit at people who are trying to pay you.

The Red Planet Prize is an awesome competition and a great opportunity for those who get through to the final dozen or so; but it’s just one thing in a whole forest of things; because here’s the real thing – there’s more than one thing.

fail-if-stop-writing

 

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* Because one script isn’t a career, it’s a script. Statistically, probably a bad one. We all write them. Some of us are unlucky enough to have them made into films.

JFTR

 

Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | 6 Comments

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