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Why write or make a short film? – A guide by Ian Kennedy

Why write or make a short film? – A guide by Ian Kennedy

Feature films tend to get most of the glory among filmmakers, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore short film as a medium! In a new series of Insights articles, Ian Kennedy looks at the benefits of writing in this format.

There’s a reason there’s not just one but two categories for shorts at the Oscars: one for live-action and another for animated. They can be a great way of telling stories that a lot of filmmakers overlook – and that includes writers!

So why write a script for a short film? Why get one made? Well, there are actually quite a few good reasons…

 

  • You’ve got an idea for story that doesn’t suit feature length – sometimes, even the best concept can’t be spun out into a longer screenplay! That doesn’t have to a negative, though. Use the opportunity to tell the story in short form instead.
  • To improve your skills by writing under constraint. All writing is done under constraint of some kind – of format, style, etc. – but the additional restrictions of length and budget with short film can be a great chance to prove yourself. Learning to write under constraint can actually be a great way to improve your writing!
  • As proof of concept for a feature film. Making feature films is an expensive business, so why not show how well your idea works by making a short based on the same idea?
  • To get a production credit. Getting a script produced can take hard work, but if you’ve already got a track record in short films, it can look great on your writing CV and give producer’s faith in your abilities.
  • As a personal project – just because you love your idea or are passionate about filmmaking! Be careful, though; if you’re making a short film for personal reasons, make sure that everyone on the production knows what your motives are.

Making a short film brings all sorts of challenges of its own. You’ll still need a unique concept, a well-structured story, and characters that audiences can fall in love with – but you’ve got to get it all into a much smaller space! That’s why it can be such a great test of your skills as a storyteller.

Whatever your reasons for making a short film, make sure you know exactly what they are before you begin, whether you want to use it to take the next step in your career or just because you’ve got a story you’re desperate to tell!

Take a look at our other Writing Insights articles here for great hints and tips on crafting your scripts!

 

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season One, Episode Two – The Kingsroad

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season One, Episode Two – The Kingsroad

In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. 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.

Episode Two: The Kingsroad

“It’s all very interesting, there’s lots of intrigue, but nothing’s really happened yet.” That’s what I said to my parents about GoT season one, several episodes in. So after the opening introductions, will things will start to drag for me second time around as I watch The Kingsroad?

Just two scenes in, I’ve already got a lot less to say. Dany’s ordeal in a savage land and marriage continues, and Jorah establishes himself as a support for her, a Westeros knight once exiled by Ned Stark for handing poachers over to slavers. Tyrion’s fateful feud with Joffrey is established in a suitably hung-over, throwaway incident. Cersei reveals she lost her first-born child, which I’d totally forgotten about, and this does put a different spin on her surviving children who stand as heirs to the throne – because only this one was black-haired, like all previous Baratheons. Jon presents Arya with a blade which she names ‘Needle’, which I’d thought was Robb’s doing. All vaguely interesting to fans, I guess, and still perfectly well-written.

“I have no choice,” Ned says. “That’s what men always say when honor calls,” complains his wife Catelyn – how true of the world she’s lived in till now, but a dangerously naïve view to take to the human snake-pit that is King’s Landing. Dialogue in the series rarely fails to be insightful as well as character-building.

I could recount further details, it’s all well done, but I’d just be retelling.

Afterwards, for the first time I explore the DVD extras I’ve been ignoring all these years. As much as anything, I’m relieved to see how to spell the names properly – no, I haven’t read the books. Amid the character notes, I learn that Eddard (Ned) ‘was not always meant to be Lord of Winterfell, but when his father and elder brother were brutally executed by Mad King Aerys, he was thrust into a leadership role and did his duty’. Well, as they say, what goes around… and yes, this bit of backstory is yet another neat bit of forward planning in the series, from long before the start. You really do feel like everything is part of a plan, which yields some wonderfully satisfying storytelling throughout.

A bit lower down the list of Stark characters, I learn about the long-dead Rickard Stark – which, if I’d bothered to read first time around, would have helped seed a much later revelation which felt a bit disconnected on its own. Among the other deceased Stark backstories (deceased Starks are something to get used to, I guess) there’s more interesting stuff about Catelyn and Littlefinger, a reminder that Theon is really a Stark prisoner due to his father’s failed rebellion years ago, the origins of the Baratheons as a bastard offshoot of the Targaryens 300 years ago (this series loves bastards) and Littlefinger’s nickname.

The seeds of future carnage really have been sown since long before the start of this series – salute to the author, George RR Martin. There’s useful backstory on Jorah and others here (including several who don’t even feature in season one), and Westorosi locations information, but finally on the ‘Characters’ extras, I can’t resist quoting the wonderful description of Bronn as ‘A sellsword of considerable prowess, flexible morality, and reasonable rates’.

So maybe I should have been a bigger geek for this show all along – knowing all this stuff actually would have made the stories even more involving. Of course, geeks are an important part of the audience of a fantasy show like this, but its ability to reach far beyond that is what has marked GoT out. Thankfully you don’t need to know any of the backstory to enjoy what’s in front of you and feel deeply involved. Good work. But it’s midnight and midweek now as I delve ever deeper, so a guy’s gotta quit sometime…

Playback rating 4/5

If you liked reading Ian’s take on The Kingsroad, have a look at his thoughts on Episode One: Winter is Coming by clicking here!

“Inconceivable!” – A tribute to William Goldman

“Inconceivable!” – A tribute to William Goldman

Last week, the world of screenwriting lost a legend. William Goldman, who won two Oscars for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, died on 16 November at the age of 87. Now, WriteMovies takes a look at his legacy and what we can learn from it…

If there’s one thing that it’s easy to agree on, it’s that William Goldman was a phenomenal writer. His incredible wit made his films infinitely quotable, and no more so than THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which was based upon his own book of the same name. In fact, his talent with words was so great that one of the most memorable lines in the film is a single word: “Inconceivable!” (Although, immediately followed by the remark: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

But wit alone isn’t enough to make a great story. Throughout his career, William Goldman showed a profound understanding of what stories are really about; THE PRINCESS BRIDE gives us everything we could possibly want from an adventure film, with romance, action, dashing heroes, evil villains, and daring feats of bravery. Yet it also defies our expectations enough to give us something new. It feels simultaneously like something very familiar and like something we’ve never seen before.

This is a kind of balance that it’s hard to pull off, but you can see it again in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. When the script was first written, only one studio showed any interest, and even then they wanted it changed so that the main characters wouldn’t flee to South America. After all, the heroes in Westerns at the time didn’t flee – no matter what the real Butch and Sundance did! In the end, it survived in the script, as did plenty of other genre-defying elements, most notably the famous bicycle-riding scene set to the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head“.

William Goldman wasn’t just great with words, he was great with stories too. He understood structure, character, pacing, tone, and all the other things that keep an audience captivated – and then he strung them all together with wit and charm. In his own words:

“Screenplays are structure, and that’s all they are. The quality of writing—which is crucial in almost every other form of literature—is not what makes a screenplay work. Structure isn’t anything else but telling the story, starting as late as possible, starting each scene as late as possible. You don’t want to begin with “Once upon a time,” because the audience gets antsy.”

The stories that William Goldman gave us will probably last as long as film itself. His book “Adventures in the Screen Trade” is a fantastic way to learn from the master himself – and after all, what could be a better tribute to him than giving it a read?

The world of film lost another great last week with the death of comic book legend Stan Lee. You can read our tribute to him by clicking here.

 

Pitch meetings, success stories, and more VFX-driven scripts wanted for a 2x Oscar nominated director!

Pitch meetings, success stories, and more VFX-driven scripts wanted for a 2x Oscar nominated director!

We’ve been hard at work lately having pitching scripts to industry, having pitch meetings with producers and distributors about our many projects! Alex and Ian had a productive meeting at BAFTA recently, discussing the slate and future opportunities. So, what have we been up to? Let’s take a look…

  • Ian Kennedy at Bafta

    Ian Kennedy, our Director of Worldwide Development, at BAFTA

    Following on from Alex and Habib’s successful tour of Hollywood, we’re still looking for more great VFX-driven scripts for Habib to direct. We’re in discussion with many studios to confirm the next wave of projects and welcome more submissions through our Winter 2019 Contest.

  • The movie we made in 2007, THE LIST, is now back in our hands after ten years in a distribution deal with Warner Bros. This charming romantic comedy stars Wayne Brady (WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?) and Sidney Tamiia Poitier (DEATH PROOF), and includes a breakout role for Jane Lynch as a TV dating guru which helped lead to her iconic role in GLEE. We’ve had several meetings and enquiries with distributors and sales companies keen to take this project further.
  • THE LIST is a great example of our work as a full circle: script agency and production house. With our contests and consultancy services including elite mentoring, we offer entry to the market from just $39 and can carry your project all the way through production, distribution, and “the long tail”. Enter now with your VFX driven or any other genre of script to take it to the next level and break through to success.

We’ve also recently had pitch meetings with many companies including Film4 and several of our winners’ projects have been going from strength to strength!

We guarantee pitching to industry for the top three scripts from our competition – so enter our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest today from just $44, and you can follow in the footsteps of our past winners and get your script out there!

Halle Berry takes on the world of MMA in her directorial debut and the stars start to align for Rian Johnson’s “KNIVES OUT”

Halle Berry takes on the world of MMA in her directorial debut and the stars start to align for Rian Johnson’s “KNIVES OUT”

Script Sales from September 2018

Script Pipeline have been reporting on script sales from September 2018 – and although sales might be light this month, there are some interesting projects to take note of.

  • Halle Berry will be taking on her directorial debut with BRUISED, in which she will also star. We’ve had countless boxing movies over the years, but apart from WARRIOR, Mixed Martial Arts hasn’t yet had its day at the movies. Perhaps now is the time for it to step into the ring?
  • THE WILD BUNCH is getting a remake, and it looks like Mel Gibson will be the man behind it. This will be his first feature since 2016’s HACKSAW RIDGE – and shows the continuing trend of remakes and reboots in Hollywood right now.
  • Whatever you thought of Rian Johnson’s efforts with STAR WARS, he’s soldiering on with his next picture. KNIVES OUT is a modern murder-mystery with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and, as most recently reported by Variety, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Don’t forget, knowing what’s selling right now is important for any writer who wants the best chance of getting their work produced – so read the full report on script sales from September 2018 by clicking here.

And don’t waste the chance to get our professional feedback on your work either using our script report services. They’re discounted throughout our Winter 2019 Contest, and you get free entry to the competition when you commission one, too!