The coronavirus crisis is making life hard for everyone right now – today, all Californians were ordered today to stay home. Here at WriteMovies, though, it’s business as usual thanks to an established business model we developed several years ago, enabling us to continue our work around the world from our own homes where necessary! We’ve got big plans coming up to help support our followers and clients during this pandemic, too – we’ll be telling you more about that next week…
But before that, we promised to share a week of Ian’s L.A. Diary from the beginning of March – and here’s Part 3! We GUARANTEE to get our winners’ scripts in front of top producers with the power to say yes and make things happen, and this sneak peek gives you an idea how. Here’s what Ian got up to on Wednesday March 4th…
So today I had two long crosstown trips to make. First was to Warner Brothers, where I had to check and collect the movie assets they had distributed for a decade from the film WriteMovies produced in 2006 – THE LIST. It’ll be really exciting to open new doors for one of our greatest success stories – a charming New York rom-com written by our winner Marcus Folmar and starring Wayne Brady, Sydney Tamia Poitier and Jane Lynch among others – but at this moment the focus was purely on the nuts and bolts: cross-checking the inventory, ensuring all the assets are present and indexed and in good condition, packed and ready for shipping.
Visiting the media archive at Warner Bros!
I took my time to check that all of the details were right, because you can’t expect to be able to go back after the fact, to argue that something should have been there but wasn’t. I videoed the contents of the pack and inventory too, in case we ever need that for reference. Some things you only ever get one chance to do right, and this was one. Thanks to WB staff for their help throughout the process! As you can imagine, their media archive is a vast and (as far as I could tell at this point!) meticulously indexed warehouse facility, and was a fascinating place to visit and spend time.
So, one big box heavier, I set off from Burbank to Marina Del Rey, an hour away, to meet double Oscar-nominated and double BAFTA-winning VFX expert Habib Zargarpour (THE JUNGLE BOOK, BLADE RUNNER 2049, and much much more including Tom Hanks’ imminent GREYHOUND). Habib is now Head of Film Development at Digital Monarch Media, a division of Unity Technologies, and welcomed me to meet his groundbreaking team managing film for a company within Unity Technologies. I spent time getting to know the team, and catching up about the latest filming for THE SQUADRON (directed by Habib and produced by our founder Alex Ross).
Ian (right) getting to grips with amazing real-time VFX capture equipment, with Habib Zargarpour (left) and his colleagues at Head of Film Development at Digital Monarch Media, a division of Unity Technologies.
Then they took me along as a visitor to a demo they were doing for a fascinating film school, who it was great to meet and get to know as well. Then we all came back to the company office where Habib and his team showed how their latest equipment enables directors to generate – and customize – their VFX in real time. This technique proved extremely effective when they produced the VFX for THE JUNGLE BOOK live-action/CGI remake and we look forward to sharing much more about their unique work and tools with you in future. In the meantime, massive thanks to Habib for his team’s hospitality and help with our media assets from Warner Bros!
Next, another lengthy cross-town trip later, I liaised with further candidates for the new role we’re looking to add to our team, and caught up on emails – with so many exciting meetings happening, it’s vital to follow up what’s been agreed and discussed thoroughly. Emails are important to confirm them and start to make things happen and take industry interest in us to the next level every time: vital details are easily missed or forgotten in the rush of other work if not, and could come back to bite you if you can’t show a trail of substantive evidencing for them. And meanwhile, not forget to check in for the next meetings and confirm any extra details.
The logistics of a week like this in LA are vital to its success, and agreeing the wrong number of meetings or times that don’t work with each other can undo all your good work getting this far.
NEXT TIME, IN THURSDAY’S L.A. DIARY… BAFTA LA, and Hollywood traditions with an iconic film role producer!
Want to see more of Ian’s diary? Check out how he prepared for pitching on Monday HERE and how his meeting went with Shaun Redick (GET OUT, BLACKKKLANSMAN) and Yvette Yates of Impossible Dream Entertainment HERE!
To give a picture of how we engage with industry and pitch our winners’ scripts, our Director Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his L.A. diary with us. He’s got meetings with major producers, organisations and other industry professionals to share with us, plus images from the scene.
With Kathryn Nawrocki at the historic Culver Hotel
A lovely warmer to our week began over the weekend with a meal at the historic Culver Hotel (lots of fun industry connections, especially from THE WIZARD OF OZ, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne) with Kathryn Nawrocki, a former WriteMovies winner who has been a great support for us over the years. As well as setting us up for a meeting with producers of acclaimed recent hits, she gave some really thoughtful contributions to our slate of scripts and how we’re currently presenting them. Huge thanks to her for her kindness, connections and positivity!
The start of the week is a great chance to check in on upcoming meetings, firm up the details and logistics, and rearrange any that need it – people are busy here so confirmed meetings often still get reshuffled! Amazing how much time that can take up when you’ve got a lot of other appointments and locations to juggle with, but it’s the info you need first so you can know your schedule and what else is going to be possible. Learning to keep communications brief and clear is key, and it’s what everyone expects from you as well.
Next up, a check on where we’re at with our planning and preparations. First bit of that is reaffirming our goals for the week, our priorities and focus. It’s way too easy to be a head-down worker, get straight into the little jobs that are ongoing or waiting in your inbox, and lose the bigger picture. For me, this week is about affirming an ongoing presence here in L.A. that is highly visible to the industry and to achieve the kind of conversations that will lead to our scripts getting optioned and produced. To make that happen, it goes without saying we should go into all meetings prepared and crystal clear about the people we’re meeting and their work, us and our relevant scripts, and what we’re looking to achieve.
It’s easy to only look at things in terms of yourself and what you’re trying to achieve – but nearly always, it’s only by helping someone else achieve what they’re trying to, that you’ll achieve a deal that works. So you have to get a feel for the slate, priorities and values of the people you’re talking to, and use your human intelligence and networks to get the info you need. Of course, we’ve been pooling our team knowledge and colleagues and networks to do just that for a long time before any of this week’s meetings were confirmed.
So while I’m doing the above I’m liaising with our team to firm up the sharpest, clearest pitches possible as we confirm the most suitable of our scripts for the upcoming meetings. Every new thought or bit of research can change our approach to this and the reference points that will be the best to use, so this kind of thing I like to manage as an ongoing conversation, keeping a short summary of the things I need to memorize in an accessible location as I do.
Many Hollywood hotels have varied spaces that can be great for meetings, like The Standard’s pool area here. The lobby and restaurant there both have good spaces to bring people as well – we were one of several industry meetings taking place casually in those spaces today.
We’ve been given huge amounts of great tips and insights over the years so it’s important to process that into easy-to-access summaries and checklists too. So easy to miss the one crucial thing that could make or break an opportunity. For example: “So what’s your ‘big trailer moment’ in this story?”
Meanwhile, a top priority early this week is interviewing candidates to be a new voice on the ground in LA for us. Today that process started very promisingly. Quietly optimistic that we can get someone with the right skills and credentials in place by the end of this week – watch this space!
IN TUESDAY’S L.A. DIARY…
Find out how Ian gets on in his next meeting with acclaimed producers, and further interviews to join the WriteMovies team!
Since it’s their results week too as we publish this, here’s a pic of Ian Kennedy, our Director of Worldwide Development, at BAFTA for a recent meeting with our founder Alex Ross!
Announcing results is the tough bit… especially at the Quarter-Final stage, where we have the most decisions to make, and the most people’s to disappoint about their writing submissions. At WriteMovies we make it our job to constantly open a door for writers and push their work to the next level, and take the ones that are ready into the international industry – but everyone is starting from a different place and whatever level a writer reaches they always have further steps to take to succeed and sustain themselves in the industry. To help you understand our logic and tips for how to make your work stand out to us, our Director Ian likes to write articles about “What Your Writing Has Been Telling Us” over this time. (more…)
With our 20th anniversary year just a month away, this is a busy, exciting time for us, and things are about to get even bigger… just look at the amount of things going on at WriteMovies and TSIM (TalentScout International Management) RIGHT NOW and find out what’s coming next! (more…)
In Part One of our exclusive article in conversation with Steven Knight, the writer-director spoke about how he began his career and about the rise of TV drama. Now, in Part Two, we find out about some of his influences and future plans…
Steven explained that PEAKY BLINDERS is based on stories of his parents and uncles, many of which he heard while around his blacksmith father while he was young. Once the BBC took an interest, things moved quickly. With series 1 complete, Steven was looking at potentially making 4 or 5 series of PEAKY BLINDERS.
PEAKY BLINDERS uses some CGI, but mostly uses derelict locations that aren’t about to be knocked down (one key location is the street where Ringo Starr was born!). There was resistance to setting PEAKY BLINDERS in Birmingham (UK) because of the unglamorous accent, but Knight insisted on retaining that authenticity – he believed that we should be telling our own stories of places like Birmingham.
The basic premise of LOCKE (starring Tom Hardy) was a journey from Birmingham to London, where someone starts out with everything and ends up with nothing – exploring how that could happen. If the cost is low enough, you can get creative freedom to run a project your way. LOCKE knocked CAPTAIN AMERICA off number 1 in terms of revenue per screen! It was on vastly less screens of course, but that was still very promising. Knight was determined that the character in that film should be the most ordinary person possible.
He explained that you have to write a three page outline for studios, however unlikely the script was to end up that way. Knight prefers not knowing where a story is gonna go. He writes, then goes back to the start every day and works through from there.
Knight has accidentally become the poster-boy for Birmingham’s drives to move to the next level in its drive to become a major player in global culture. He intends to build a major sound stage in Birmingham as London’s major studios are fully booked, with a ‘halo effect’ of businesses based around it, and from this to also create a scene where live theatre can lead to movies being made.
Ian Kennedy’s conversation with Steven Knight turned out lots of interesting information about the inner working of the industry. If you haven’t read it yet, why not take a look at Part One by clicking here?
Our Ian Kennedy was lucky enough to share a table for an evening with Steven Knight, the writer of SERENITY, PEAKY BLINDERS, TABOO, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, LOCKE, and much more…
Steven Knight says that we’re entering a golden age of TV and film. He explained that the US system is great for writers – it’s unionized and you can make a proper living just from writing. He actually felt that there seems to be a good mystery to you if you DON’T live in LA, as long as you’re prepared to fly out every 6 weeks and do late-night conference calls.
But he explained that the Hollywood system is slow! It takes many years of gestation most of the time. If you persuade a star to be in your project, the studios know they’ll make back a certain many million dollars from it – his film HUMMINGBIRD (with Jason Statham) was in profit before it even got to the cinema. He felt that distributors often underestimate their audience and focus on young males.
Screens are better nowadays so TV drama has risen a lot. Actors like TV and it’s a writer’s medium – writers have control there, unlike other formats. Too many people are involved in making films, telling you something’s not good enough in order to justify their presence and pay. But getting actors to commit beyond series 1 of your TV series is hard because they may get film offers.
Show runners write episode 1 in the US and their team of writers – who’ve developed it with them – do other episodes. Writers rise up through the ranks in the US. British TV writing is more eccentric and individualistic – the US system is more corporate. Theatre writers are good for TV due to their ability with dialogue and are often overlooked.
Steven Knight explained that he had begun his career in the UK by writing plenty for radio, and for comedians including particularly Jasper Carrott, and writing 31 episodes of Carrott’s sitcom with Robert Powell, THE DETECTIVES. Steven was one of the 3 founders of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE. He also wrote novels for Penguin, and presented DIRTY PRETTY THINGS to the BBC which led to that commission.
Then came AMAZING GRACE, for the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade, and EASTERN PROMISES which led from DIRTY PRETTY THINGS. The award nominations that came as a result of these put him into the US system, which he found to be great for writers. He got to direct HUMMINGBIRD which he had also written, and after that wanted to get total control of a project – and he feels that LOCKE vindicated him becoming a director.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our conversation with Steven Knight, in which he discusses the influences behind PEAKY BLINDERS, his writing process, and his plans for the future…
Part Two of Alex and Habib’s Hollywood pitching whirlwind tour from early May 2018… Want us to promote your script in our next our next Hollywood pitching whirlwind tour, or other pitching? We are seriously looking for 2-3 scripts for 2x Academy Nominated and 2x BAFTA winning, Habib Zargarpour to direct. If you have what we need please participate in: https://writemovies.com/spring-2018-screenwriting-contest/ now! (more…)