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…
The desert takes care of its own… A hard-bitten oil explorer and a desperate group of orphans led by two unorthodox nuns are forced into a hellish desert confrontation to escape the Nazis and help ensure an Allied victory.
From the fierce competition of our most recent contest, one script emerged victorious. We are proud to introduce the WriteMovies Spring 2018 Contest Winner: DESERT RUN by Christopher Thomas!
A wartime action-adventure script set in Egypt, 1942, DESERT RUN is a thrilling script that rejuvenates the classic era of adventure. Full of excitement and romance, it kept us on the edge of our seats from the first page to the last, and deservedly took the top spot in our contest. Chris wins a cash prize of $2000, a year of script development worth up to $3200, and more!
Here’s a summary of the WriteMovies Spring 2018 Contest winner…
Michael Quinn, a man haunted by memories of a war-scarred childhood, grows into the roughshod desert explorer who discovers the enormous oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. By 1942, his company is the most important source of oil in the world – a world that craves his product – a world at war.
As Quinn tries to keep the oilfields out of Hitler’s hands, he discovers that the lives of a young nun and her crew of streetwise orphans are pawns in a deadly deal. And as the Nazis brutalize North Africa, Quinn and the boys devise their escape.
With Nazis at their back and the Sahara desert before them, a monster sandstorm offers them refuge. It’s said that the desert takes care of its own but the price is high, and when the survivors are finally confronted with a real hell-on-earth, they find their bonds irrevocably forged and their mettle tested.
And a short bio of Chris…
As a little girl growing up in Saudi Arabia, I was aware that I was surrounded by stories of epic proportions. History was happening everywhere and it gave me a particularly urgent perspective on humans, their conditions and their resilience that continues to feed my screenwriting. When I’m not mired in some dark and dire world I’ve created, I’m a creative writing instructor and a writer/designer of educational material based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m also the Director and Lead Instructor for the Boulder Writing Studio’s Summer Creative Writing Camp series in Boulder, Colorado and serve on the Board of Directors. Prior to that I spent over 20 years as a senior level creative in the fields of animation, broadcast advertising, media design and film/video production. I have an MA in Educational Design E-learning from the University of Colorado Denver.
Want to follow Chris and become a Grand Prize Winner? Our Winter 2019 contest is now open – final deadline January 2019! Enter today and take your first steps towards writing success with WriteMovies!
We’ve got another great script to present to you! Our Spring 2018 contest 2nd place script is KLONDIKE MIKE by Thomas Zmiarovich!
This hilarious family comedy has an unusual Alaskan setting, lovable characters, and brilliant set pieces that will have you roaring with laughter. A big congratulations to Tom for his win; he receives Development Notes, previews of our Virtual Film School, exclusive prizes from InkTip, and more! Read on to find out more about this script…
Here’s the logline for KLONDIKE MIKE:
A family start a new life in Alaska where they encounter extreme wildlife and an eccentric local prospector with a talent for finding gold…
And the writer’s summary of his script:
In this adventurous family comedy, Sam McCord inherits a gold claim and decides to put his dead-end job with a corporate mega-store chain on hold and move his dysfunctional family to Alaska for the summer in hopes to strike it rich and solve all his problems.
Virtually dragging his wife, 16-year-old son and 9-year old genius daughter to the wilds of Alaska, he soon realizes that he knows nothing about working a gold claim. At a local saloon, Sam meets Klondike Mike, a rustic, flamboyant, vagabond lady’s man prospector, who convinces Sam he’d make the perfect straw boss to run the claim. With no other options, Sam hires him, and under Klondike’s direction the claim is soon running like clockwork. So, what could go wrong?
For Sam, everything – from pesky Yellow Jacket attacks, feisty raccoon encounters, cell phone-outhouse mishaps, Magic Mushroom trips with a cookie eating Grizzly bear, and the underhanded dealings with the Bible thumping claim jumpers trying to steal Sam’s claim back. Not to mention, Sam’s worries that his children admire Klondike more than him.
Thomas Zmiarovich Bio:
Born in Seattle, in the shadow of the aerospace giant, Boeing, my love for movies began as far back as I can remember. From the age of 10, much of my paper route money found its way to the cheap, week-day, matinees in summer at the Columbia City theater, a mile walk from my home on Beacon Hill. Sci-fi, comedy, action, you name it, I could have lived there if I could.
As an adult, I never lost that love of the big screen. Even as I raised a family and worked as a Tool Design Engineer, for Boeing. I always dreamed that I had something to contribute to the craft I loved so much.
Through the years, I wrote my stories and scripts, developing and learning the craft of writing and story-telling from names like Stanley Kramer, Abby Mann, Michael Hauge, Richard Walter, and others. I’ve had scripts finish in the quarter and semi-finals at Nichol, Austin, and others; am a finalist with Script Pipeline and the Washington State Screenplay Competition; and have had numerous Top Ten finishers.
My love of story telling will never allow me to stop trying to get those stories to the big screen for all to see.
After a lull over the summer, script sales start to pick up again with plenty of interesting news as reported in Script Pipeline’s August 2018 Script Sales. Find out what’s hot at the moment, and where the opportunities are for screenwriters at the moment…
- As diversity continues to be an important issue in the industry, projects with Asian-American and Polynesian leads are proving to be popular. Leading the way is Dwayne Johnson, set to star in a biopic of the Hawaiian King Kamehameha directed by Robert Zemeckis.
- Having earned a worldwide gross more than six times its $30 million production budget, Crazy Rich Asians has earned itself a sequel, with both the writers and director set to return.
- Will Wile E. Coyote finally get the Road Runner? Coyote Vs. Acme is set to be produced by Chris McKay, director of The Lego Batman Movie; here’s hoping it has the same wacky sense of humor!
- Plus a directorial opportunity for Natalie Portman and a Supergirl film for DC – and more!
Check out the other script sale news for August from Script Pipeline here.
It’s time to introduce the cream of the crop from our Spring 2018 Contest! Landing in third place is an exceptional screenplay, a topical mystery-thriller set in Greece: FIRE ON THE ISLAND by Timothy Jay Smith!
Congratulations to Timothy, who also won our award for Best Indie Script and is a former Grand Prize Winner from 2010! His prizes include a year of script and pitching development worth $3200, previews of our Virtual Film School, exclusive prizes from InkTip, and more!
Here’s the logline for FIRE ON THE ISLAND:
When an arsonist threatens an important Coast Guard station on a Greek island, the FBI agent stationed in Athens arrives to investigate, finds himself immersed in a community rife with conflict, and falls in love with his chief suspect.
And Timothy’s summary of his script:
An arsonist threatens to burn down a Greek island village by blowing up a fuel tank in its harbor. Alarmed by the possible disruption of the local Coast Guard’s vital operations in rescuing refugees, Nick Damigos, the FBI Agent posted to Athens, arrives to investigate.
The arsonist has struck eleven times in as many months, each fire coming closer to tiny Vourvoulos, and each followed by a mysterious poison pen letter. The last one makes it clear: the arsonist plans to strike within days. With no clues, Nick searches for a motive that would drive someone to such a destructive act. He discovers a village embroiled in conflicts, some dating back generations, and uncovers earlier crimes—all casting a wide net of suspicion.
Gradually the mystery is revealed through the interwoven stories of a struggling restaurant owner and her feminist teenage daughter, a seductive widow and lovelorn waiter, a scurrilous priest and patrician mayor, and a host of colorful characters who paint a portrait—both humorous and soulful—of Greece where the past mingles with the present. While sorting it out, Nick’s life is threatened, and he falls in love with a young waiter who becomes his chief suspect.
Plus a biography of Timothy himself:
Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that’s seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.
Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel, and his screenplay adaptation of it was named Best Indie Script by WriteMovies. Another novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, will be published in spring 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012.
Tim was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.
Timothy’s latest book, The Fourth Courier is now available for pre-order on Amazon – click here!
Our unique Virtual Film School is all set to launch on September 15th, and we’re happy to announce here that our Phase 1 content is revealed!
This is the phase in which you discover the originality and depth that will make you stand out as you develop the main concept and themes for your script.
Just like creating anything of worth, a strong foundation is what will make your screenplay stand out from the rest of the crowd. If you really want to find your voice as a writer and come up with an amazing premise, then this is the right Phase of WriteMovies Academy for you.
Our industry experts, Mini-Masterclasses, and other tools and resources will help you develop your own style and give you new insights into your ideas.
Learn to identify yourself and your goals, find out what producers really want from writers, and figure out the target demographics of your project – who your script is actually for. We’ll keep adding more in-depth tools, advice, Mini-Masterclasses, and more, so keep watching this space!
So what are you waiting for? Click here to check out the full content of Phase 1 and how to sign up today!
Some of the feedback for Phase 1 we’ve had from users so far:
- “Nice bite sized, easily DIGESTIBLE, Nicely PACED”
- “I have some good tools for solving some sticking points in a couple of my exciting projects”
- “A very informative session”
Or take a look at the main page for WriteMovies Academy – with Phases ranging from Project Selection to Production, The Wrap, and the Long Game, there’s something to be gained no matter what stage of your writing journey you’re at!