Over the last year I’ve been intermittently fiddling with a short film script which hasn’t really come together. It’s been one of those ideas that seems great, but after much debate with the director/co-writer and many drafts we’ve come to the conclusion that it just doesn’t work.
Which is a shame, but never mind. These things happen.
If you, on the other hand, have a short you’re happy with and looking to get made then maybe you should check out the ShoreScripts short film fund?
In their own words:
We will be commissioning at least one short film with a budget between $9000-$15,000.
The winning film(s) will be submitted to world-renowned film festivals, as well as being shown to our Oscar winning Judges, Production Companies, Agents and Managers.
The filmmaking team will have the full support of Shore’s staff all the way through the production process, including equipment and post-production service deals.
The fund is open to writers from all countries. Scripts must be in English. If a writer wishes to direct his/her own script, then we are open to this discussion.
These are the two previous winners:
Lift – Directed by Claire Fowler. Starring Leslie Bibb (Iron Man) The Orgy – Directed by Sam Baron. Starring Alexandra Roach (Black Mirror)
And if you think it’s worth a go, then you can enter here.
Danny Stack is a UK scriptwriter who mainly focuses on children’s scripts. He’s written for things like Octonauts and Thunderbirds as well as co-creating the UK Scriptwriters podcast and co-directing the feature film Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?
He’s also the reason #PhonePhill exists at all, seeing as it was his impromptu phone call which got me wondering who else I might like to talk to. Hell, he’s the reason this blog exists in the first place.†
Danny is a grafter, finding new and innovative ways to promote himself and to help all of us. Always moving forward, always breaking new ground and exploring new avenues, both on his own and with his partner in crime Tim Clague.
A while back Danny positioned himself as a children’s scriptwriter as opposed to an all-rounder, and found he’s been steadily employed ever since.
Last year I wrote a kids’ feature film which got partially shot before falling apart (which seems to happen to me a lot) and has left me with a completed script (which is mine, I own the rights) and about half an hour of footage (which belongs to the director). There’s something in the idea I really like and the footage shot seems to lend itself more towards a kids’ TV series than a film … so that’s what I wanted to chat to Danny about.
What should I do with it?
As ever, Danny was friendly and helpful and insightful and used a term to describe the kind of writers we both are which was hilarious, apt and completely and utterly unrepeatable in public.
Danny’s advice and extremely useful and had me thinking about the project in new ways – this is exactly what I wanted from him. Not help, not a leg up or for him to do the work for me, just a brief chat about the kinds of things I could do and the kinds of places/people who might be interested.
For me there are two universal lessons to be learned here:
Make friends with other writers. Seek them out, be nice to them, help them when you can. Sideways networking is important – expect nothing from them and only keep in touch if you genuinely like them – but build that support network. It’s invaluable.
Pick a genre and stick to it. I think most writers naturally want to write a little bit of everything. We all enjoy a wide range of entertainment and like to think we can be good at all of it … but typecasting helps. Be the goto person for that thing and reap the benefits of being known as ‘good at …’ We can always write our way out of the pigeonhole if we get bored.
If you haven’t listened to the UK Scriptwriters’ podcast then you can do so here.
And if you want more advice and insight than any one man should be able to deliver in a lifetime whilst holding down a career, then you can check out his website/blog.
If, on the other hand, you just fancy a chat with me, then drop me an email at the address in the sidebar and we’ll arrange a time to call/skype/bang on the pipes in adjoining cells.
* Are there any other kind?
† I’ve told the tale many times, but basically back in 2006 I was wondering why I kept hearing his name when I hadn’t seen anything he’d written, discovered he had a blog, what a blog was and thought I’d give it a go.
It turns out I’ve been making a rod for my own back by actually being good at something which isn’t supposed to be true.
Everyone in the film industry knows that one page of script = one minute of screen time. It’s a fact. It’s how scripts work. Everyone knows it.
Except we scriptwriters who know that’s a load of bullshit.
One minute sometimes = one page … but more often than not, it doesn’t.
A page of one liners will (probably) be less than a minute. A page of monologue might take nearer five minutes to deliver. A page of action … eh, who knows?
So a producer’s insistence on keeping the script to a certain page-count always seems baffling. Why does the script have to be 90 pages as opposed to 95 if those extra five pages will only take an extra two minutes on screen? The audience won’t care†. Surely a budget is worked out on the length a scene takes to film, not how long it takes to watch‡? Surely the budget depends on the type of scene as opposed to its length§?
What’s particularly bemusing is how a 118 page script is too long, but the exact same script, with fewer line breaks and full stops, which comes in at 110 pages is perfectly acceptable.
It’s the same script! Commas don’t show up on screen! Removing them from the script to alter the page count shouldn’t affect the budget!
For years now I’ve assumed this page-count nonsense is just about perception. If the script seems shorter, the producer seems happier so my last pass will always be a series of tweaks to preemptively shorten the script before handing it in.
But here’s the problem: my pre-tweaked drafts (apparently) always follow the one page = one minute rule.
My 95 page script is 95 minutes of screen time. Tweaking it to 90 pages may mollify the producer and the financiers in the short term*, but as soon as the script gets into pre-production and someone puts a stopwatch to it … the truth will out.
I’ve hidden 20 pages of a script before by judicious use of ellipses and parentheticals … only to have kittens when, deep into pre-production, someone figures out the 110 page script is actually 130 minutes long. Being asked to lose a huge chunk of the story when actors have already been cast and I can’t just hack out a complete sub-plot is a spine-chilling experience … but one I’ve brought upon myself by being all smug and sly in the first place.
Knowing how to make one page = one minute may seem like a useful tool, but it’s not useful if I then screw all that up by shuffling punctuation around.
So my New Year’s Resolution is to flip my way of working. Instead of making life easier for myself at the early draft stage and harder at the production-draft end of things, I’m going to be tougher on myself from the outset and actually cut pages instead of commas.
I’ve no idea if this is going to work, but it feels like a path worth taking.
I’ll let you know how I get on.
† I suspect some do.
‡ There’s a correlation.
§ Yes … and no.
* I’m not 100% clear on how this works. I know length can determine budget because of the number of days needed, but I suspect there’s also a need to hit certain lengths for certain genres in order to please the distributors. If anyone wants to ring me up for a chat and explain it, I’m all ears.