In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Game of Thrones Season 4… Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
GAME OF THRONES SEASON 4
GAME OF THRONES is a series of chaos. As soon as order prevails somewhere important, then something shocking comes along to throw it all in the air again there. Weddings are meant to achieve the opposite – but here are often the opportunity for untold horrors. Now, I’m not saying that sadist King Joffrey doesn’t deserve to die foaming at the mouth from poisoning at his own wedding. But considering the fates he inflicted on everyone else, it’s almost too clean and quick a way to go. His beloved crossbow, though, does have a few more important lives to claim after he’s gone, not least in the final episode. I guess it’s what he would have wanted.
This act triggers a big reshuffling – switches of allegiances, escapes and false convictions, and a chance for the perverse justice system of Westeros to play out again. The trial by combat fought in episode 8 (‘The Mountain and the Viper’) is still stunning second time around, and results in arguably the show’s most astonishing death. The way the fight pulls our heartstrings and shocks us throughout, is masterful. We hadn’t even spent enough time with either character to get genuinely attached to them. But it leaves us reeling.
One thing that makes it even more effective is that the show warmed us up for this duel a few episodes before with a very comparable duel, where a champion of Meereen provokes Dany to provide one. That duel has a sudden, unexpected and impressive outcome, that’s also emotionally satisfying. And maybe subtly shapes our expectations of the one to follow, ready for them to be confounded a few times over.
Tyrion’s ordeals in this series are the biggest storyline, tying all the other strands in King’s Landing together. Here the series lays bare the gap between how people are perceived to be, and their true character. Even Tyrion’s own father and sister have always assumed he must be a hateful creature, because his birth – and supposed monstrosity, as a dwarf – robbed them of wife and mother. She was his mother too, but they don’t care about that. And this season they turn their vendetta into a search for ‘justice’, as they exercise all their legal (well, corrupt) powers to punish him for Joffrey’s murder, even though he didn’t do it. But the series plays its usual tricks on them in return too. The richest and most powerful man in Westeros finally dies on the privy – a satisfying irony – and although Cersei’s unrepentant scheming doesn’t truly backfire on her until the next season, her refusal to learn from her mistakes is the true cause of her later humiliation.
As usual, episode 9 packs the biggest punch. The Night’s Watch are attacked on all sides and the battle for Castle Black and the Wall is impressive, and culminates the love-hate romance between Jon Snow and his Wildling fling Ygritte.
A duel between Brienne and the Hound is emotionally involving (first time around) and pretty ugly. On second sight, there are too many serious head injuries for a fight of this intensity to be sustained. We’ve got too used to seeing people clubbed in the head with rocks on our screens, seemingly without having any negative impact on them.
My main complaint is how quickly, and fully, Jon recovers – in this same season – from having three arrows in his body, a stab in the leg, and having his head pounded into an anvil. Seriously? I know we like him, mostly, but it’s unlike GAME OF THRONES to indulge our heroes like this.
Playback rating: 4/5
Enjoyed reading this article on Game of Thrones Season 4? Take a look at Ian’s opinion on Season 3 by clicking here. Articles on future seasons are coming shortly!
PROMISE OF TOMORROW: After finding a website devoted to insulting him, a struggling, separated and obsessive Project Manager becomes determined to track down who created it.
A romantic-comedy with heaps of charm, PROMISE OF TOMORROW made us laugh more than any other script in this competition. In the tradition of great British rom-coms, it captured our attention with its quirky characters, heartwarming story, and fantastic audience appeal. This is a script that deserves to go far – a huge congratulations to its writer, the winner of our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest, Andrew Pennington!
As the Grand Prize Winner of our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest, Andrew has won $2500, guaranteed pitching to industry, and a year of free script development. If you want to follow in his footsteps, then enter our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest (click here!)
Here’s a summary of PROMISE OF TOMORROW:
PROMISE OF TOMORROW is a comedy feature following Owen, a slightly OCD Project Manager, who has always taken the easy roads in life.
Owen is horrified as he finds a website devoted purely to mocking him. It sends his obsessive and paranoid tendencies into overdrive, as he struggles to work out who could possibly have set up such a cruel prank. When his wife decides to leave, she becomes the clear number one suspect.
Seemingly more upset about the website than his impending divorce, Owen is guided by his family and friends to deal with his separation. His boss suggests using his considerable professional skills to aid the situation. Project manage his break-up!
Owen struggles through an investigation of clues as to the website author, whilst keeping emotional distance from his personal life. He finds that his coping mechanism can only work for so long before he’s forced to confront his difficult journey.
If you’re a producer interested in this project, email email@example.com today!
And here’s a quick bio of the writer of PROMISE OF TOMORROW, Andrew Pennington:
Andrew Pennington is a screenwriter who grew up in the North West of England and is currently based in Merseyside, with his wife and two children. He initially studied social sciences at Lougborough University and developed a career in research within academia and then the National Health Service.
An affinity for visual story-telling, initially starting with comic books as a boy, led to a love of film and T.V. Andrew went on to gain an MA in Screenwriting from Liverpool John Moores University. He writes a variety of film and T.V. screenplays, primarily in comedy and science fiction.
See if you can coax him into more social media than just retweets here: @atpennington
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Game of Thrones Season 3… Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
GAME OF THRONES SEASON 3
For all the nudity and violations it inflicts on them, the prevalence of strong women characters is a huge strength of GoT. The arrival of Lady Tyrrell, played by captivating old stager (and onetime beauty) Diana Rigg, adds lovely wit and wisdom to the series – not that it was missing before. It’s interesting to hear how Catelyn blames herself for her family’s afflictions, based on an act of faith she once committed.
There’s wonderful use here of the medieval politics of marriage, which clearly overwhelm any sentimental connection we’d like to think they have to love (it’s particularly amusing watching Tyrion squirm as he arrives to reveal the plan for Sansa and himself, in front of his beloved Shae). There are DVD extras about this, and about religion in GoT. which deserves an essay in itself. Evidently, magical and mystical and inexplicable forces are at work here. Maybe even gods, not that we ever see them substantiated or corroborated. But there’s a much deeper indeterminacy and even relativism at work – every culture has its own gods (or god – though evidently not the merciful one we might recognize) but, as in Shakespeare’s King Lear, none of these well-crafted belief systems seem to do their owners any good. The most pragmatic solution seems to be Tywin’s, for now – “he believes in them, he just doesn’t like them very much”. The main embodiment of both religion and magic in the series is ‘the Red Woman’, Mellisandra, who goes to shocking, devilish lengths to help Stannis and others fulfil her visions – but even her visions aren’t proven to any significant extent.
Jaime’s character arc in this series is an interesting one. His experiences with Brienne give him some compassion and honor at last – and the moment he goes back to his old tricks is the moment that costs him his hand. In his turn, he gives a turning point to Roose Bolton, a key Stark ally.
Many important or recurring characters are still being introduced during this series, and many other passages make a lot more sense second time around now we recognize the characters and where they’re headed. Lord Bolton’s brilliantly sadistic bastard Ramsay puts Theon through his – admittedly deserved – miseries. The Brotherhood Without Banners show us the White Walkers aren’t the only ones who can raise the dead. The fallen Maester who treats Jaime’s wound gets an interesting journey over the coming years. Thormund and Mance Rayder and giants show us there’s more to Wildlings than disorderly tribal wild life; where the series puts us on a side, it never fails to show us there are good people and good humor on the other side too. Jon Snow’s love story with Ygritte is a very enjoyable example.
As we’ve seen in Ned’s life journey, winning battles and wars here doesn’t save you from falling prey to bitter truths. Watching the unravelling of Robb’s war – after winning all his battles – teaches us bitter lessons about the brutal logic of George RR Martin’s world. (Personally, I’m expecting a bitter conclusion, to reaffirm the anti-sentimental message of his storytelling in this series. He’s a master at building up our unwitting expectations, then savagely destroying our naïve hopes and expectations.) We’re well distracted by his other storylines – his love story and his wife’s pregnancy – and miss the bigger picture that’s staring us in the face.
Ah, we reach the ever-fatal penultimate episode of the series. After the Red Wedding, first time round, I was shocked and bereft like most people. But after ten minutes’ silence, I concluded that it was entirely right. This time? Yep. When you know what’s coming, it’s all the more glaring how much our own sentimentalism blinds us to what is totally deserved. Bitterly, but totally.
The final episode of the season is almost anticlimactic after that. But Ygritte gets to put a few arrows into Jon for abandoning her. I’m sure a lot of women can relate.
Playback rating: 4/5
If you’ve liked reading Ian’s thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 3, you can read his opinion on Season 2 by clicking here or keep going and read his thoughts on Season 4 here!
Writing a script is only half the work – getting it produced is the other half! To get that done, you need to get your work into the hands of key filmmakers – and that’s where we can help. WriteMovies is currently seeking scripts for two directors: Sean Hughes and Habib Zargarpour!
Sean is a director known for THE BARROW GANG – click here to take a look at a rough cut from the film! – and is currently on the search for scripts in the thriller/heist genre, along the lines of films like HEAT, THE USUAL SUSPECTS and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
If you’ve written a screenplay like this, submit to our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest and if we think it’s suitable for Sean, we’ll pass it along to him for his consideration – no matter how your work places within the contest itself!
A special effects expert, Habib is a two-time BAFTA winner and double Oscar nominee for his work on THE PERFECT STORM and TWISTER, with other credits including STAR WARS EPISODE I, BLADERUNNER 2049, and THE JUNGLE BOOK. He’s now looking for science-fiction based projects to direct, and with the recent launch of the WriteMovies Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award, this is the perfect chance to get your scripts to him!
Habib works closely with our founder Alex Ross who will give all suitable scripts consideration for them to develop and pitch to studios together.
Alternatively, if you’re a writer with an agent and want your script passed to either Habib or Sean, you can contact our partners at TalentScout International Management directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Click here to visit the page for our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest and get your script into Sean’s hands, or click here to visit the page for our Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award and get it to Habib!
BAD LISTING: a horror/thriller where nothing is ever as it seems…
BAD LISTING is the kind of script where it’s impossible to say what will come next. This horror screenplay, where twists and turns leave you constantly guessing and where things are repeatedly turned on their heads, impressed us with its compact storytelling and execution. A very worthy second place goes to Brent Hartinger for this script!
Having taken 2nd place in our Winter 2019 Contest, Brent wins a year of script development from WriteMovies and guaranteed pitching to industry, which are both now underway! If you’d like to win these kind of prizes and find success with WriteMovies, make sure you submit to our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest, which has a Grand Prize of $2000 and more (click here!)
Here’s a summary of BAD LISTING:
When Cleo rents a “shared” AirBnB unit, she worries the other guest, Jack, has a dark secret. But from Jack’s POV, Cleo isn’t who she claims to be either. Or maybe the real problem with this short-term rental isn’t Jack or Cleo, but an even darker, more sinister presence watching them both. A small-cast, minimal-location script.
If you’re a producer interested in this project, email email@example.com today!
And here’s a quick bio of the writer of BAD LISTING, Brent Hartinger:
Brent has had nine screenplays optioned for film; four of those projects are currently in various stages of development, including PROJECT SWEET LIFE, a teen caper story, now in pre-production for a 2020 release.
Also a novelist, Brent has had three of his books optioned for film. His fourteen novels include THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE (Simon & Schuster), which was nominated for an Edgar Award; and GEOGRAPHY CLUB (HarperCollins), which was adapted as a feature film in 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series.
Brent has won many screenwriting awards, including first place at the Storypro Awards, the Fresh Voices Contest, Acclaim Scripts, the L.A. Comedy Festival, the Screenwriting in the Sun Award, and a Writers Network Fellowship. All his scripts on TheBlackList.com have been “featured scripts,” with scores of “8” or higher.
A former entertainment journalist, Brent co-founded of the website AfterElton.com, which was later sold to MTV/Viacom. Now Brent continuously travels the world as a digital nomad, writing his screenplays and novels along the way.
Find out more by visiting his website: www.brenthartinger.com
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Game of Thrones Season 2… Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
Not easy, introducing and reintroducing so many characters and backstories after nearly a year, with so little screen time for each of them. To make this work, the first episode of Season Two presents some unflinching violence and dark exchanges to make clear who’s in power and who’s powerless in every scene, and how they choose to use those positions – which is a great way to reveal true character, in life-or-death exchanges.
For example, in a fatal tournament for Joffrey’s amusement, we’re introduced to a minor character who is almost killed at the young king’s command. But after surviving thanks to Sansa’s intervention – even when both stand in a position of apparent powerless – he gets a small but vital role later in both Joffrey’s and Sansa’s fates.
These pieces of poetic justice underline how fine the line between success and death is in the series (“you win or you die”, of course!). Cersei holds court, proving her intention is to rule the kingdoms herself – but only to discover that Tyrion has superceded her, and she’s been out of her depth. She still gets her chance to belittle Littlefinger afterwards and teach him a lesson in power – very well-written and wryly dismissive of one of people’s favorite sentimental maxims, that knowledge is power. It’s a good crystallization of the underlying lessons of the series, and sets Littlefinger to change sides later. Meanwhile, the Lannisters start a campaign to slaughter all of Robert’s bastards – since they all have a better claim to the throne than the new king does!
Dany, her baby dragons, and her few dozen followers have their time in the wilderness. The Night’s Watch visit the creepy Craster’s Keep, and we’re introduced to Stannis in another creepy situation, which comes to a head with a fascinating failed poisoning attempt on his sorceress: it’s in situations like these that the series shows its distinctiveness. Robb shows he does have an exit stategy even while the war is going well for him. There are some absorbing exchanges and scenarios, but with an anticlimactic ending and no real fights or battles, it’s a bit of a flat episode by the series’ usual standards.
Playback rating: 3/5
With the series fully in its flow by now, it seems rude to interrupt it by writing about it. There’s lots to relish here second time around, from Brienne’s entrance, Tyrion’s astute politicking and spectacular fleeting military triumph, to the Hound’s crisis of confidence in the midst of the Battle of the Blackwater. It’s fun seeing Jaime still playing the villain; if anything he (or actor Nikolai Walder-Costau) is enjoying it too much, but it’s nice to have someone to hate. As usual, the ninth episode is the spectacularly good – or bad – one, as the Lannisters desperately try to save themselves from Stannis’ invasion.
The real joy of second-time-around is recognising all the minor characters as they appear and reappear. From Ros turning from Theon’s whore at Winterfell, to Ser Loris being the first to reveal himself as a rescuer of King’s Landing – and through it the Tyrell’s decisive change of sides. Recognising the surnames adds just as much value. This is definitely a must-watch-twice series.
One question though, other than Catelyn’s foolish release of Jaime. Why do Bran, Rickon and their guardians run from Winterfell at the end, when Stark allies are about to liberate the castle?
Playback rating: 4/5
Enjoyed Ian’s thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 2? Take a look back at his thoughts on Season 1 by clicking here, and keep an eye out as we continue this series of articles with future seasons…
So, you’re thinking of writing a TV pilot. That’s great news – this is a great time to be writing for TV!
After years of living in film’s shadow, the TV series has stepped up and become a major medium in its own right.
The days are gone when a television series would struggle to tell a big, coherent story from first episode to the last. The subscription model of networks like HBO rewards a viewer’s commitment to a show, and the rise of streaming services such as Netflix has made it easy for audiences to keep track of their favourite shows, never missing an episode – and as a result, television has become the place to tell more complex stories. Instead of cramming dozens of characters and subplots into a 2-hour movie, you can now spread them out over multiple episodes and seasons.
But when it comes to introducing viewers (and before them, readers) to such a complicated story in a pilot episode can be difficult. When you’ve got lots of things going on, it can be easy to lose track of who’s who and what’s going on in each storyline as we rejoin it. So here are our tips for writing a TV pilot to help you on the way:
- Create clear and distinctive personal identities for each of your regular characters. That way, it’s easy to recognize who they are and what they stand for in all situations and how they relate to the other characters around them.
- Not sure how to do this? Try to explain each of your characters in a simple two-word epithet to make sure that they’re strongly defined. If you can’t, their personality and role isn’t clear enough!
- It helps to gel a multi-strange pilot if all the plots, characters, and settings have visible and regularly affirmed connection to each other. This could be a person who all the others meet or see, a place they all share, a motif that keeps coming up in different contexts (e.g. a word like ‘change’).
- Another way to connect everything together is to have a focal event that everyone is directly affected by, or which every subplot is building up to. It’s best if this is something that all the characters are aware is coming up at around the 3/4 point of the episode.
Writing a TV pilot can be tough – you need a full season to tell a complex story, but you’ve also got to introduce that complex story in less than an hour in the first episode! But keep these tips in mind, and you should soon be heading in the right direction.
And if you want more inspiration, take a look at Ian Kennedy’s series of articles on GAME OF THRONES, for his thoughts on how the show juggles a huge cast of characters and locations with only very limited screen time each!