Select Page
How we’re pitching our winners…

How we’re pitching our winners…

How we’re pitching our screenwriting contest winners to the industry…

Since our relaunch in February 2016, we’ve gained a wonderful, varied slate of award-winning scripts and writers, many of which have now completed their year of free script development as we prepare them and their writers for the pitching process. As our campaign to pitch them gathers momentum, I thought now would be a great time to show you what we’ve been doing for our winners and the great responses we’ve been getting. We can’t reveal the confidential details of course, but there’s plenty we can show you as this gains pace.

STEP ONE – NAIL THE SCRIPT.

Even our winners’ fine scripts usually have a few important question marks in them, from a producer’s point of view. (If you would lose your job and your reputation for greenlighting a project that bombs, you’d feel the same.) So we use all our expertise and industry experience to feed back studio-quality reports and guidance for our winners, for a year, for free. It often takes that long – sometimes even longer – to get the script so sharp and convincing that producers can’t use easy excuses not to greenlight.

The process can even go beyond the one-year mark. One of our early winners has been very ill for much of the time since his prize; another – who is aiming high – decided to give the script a big review when I fed back to him my concerns that the things I felt producers would be wary about when I gave him the prize, still hadn’t noticeably progressed in his script. The writer’s approach to feedback, and their general responsiveness and promptness of redrafts, makes more difference than the guaranteed year-long timeframe: some scripts and writers are ready far sooner, others never convince us they’d reply promptly enough to a concrete offer from a serious producer.

Remember, WriteMovies have been pitching scripts to the industry for twenty years, and launched two Oscar-nominated writers into the industry. Things are ready when they’re ready. We don’t take any cut of option fees whatsoever – so we’re prepared to put in as long as it takes to give our winners the best chance of breaking through. When we succeed in doing that, everyone wins.

 

STEP TWO – THE ONE-PAGE PITCH

We’ll show you more about these and why you might want to make one, in another article soon. But these are meant to be a short, snappy, visual teaser of what this script would FEEL and LOOK like to the viewer. In an industry where the real decisionmakers are often hard to get on the phone, it’s important to present your script in the most professional way possible – that clearly shows how this movie could be SOLD to top talent and audiences. Getting our one-page pitches right is an important way to show that we, and our writers, mean business.

In the Terms & Conditions of entering our main contests, you’ll see a promise of ‘intensive pitch coaching’. This is it. We coach our winners to prepare their logline and one-page pitch, guiding them through multiple drafts as we get this right with them. At the end of it, the writers are far better placed to present and pitch their scripts in future.

And you know what else? More than a few have found that the process of presenting their script in a one-page pitch, has made them sharpen and focus and intensify their script more effectively. Everyone wins.

Meanwhile, we often give our Elite Mentors the chance to feed back on the scripts on our slate – and the writers love getting feedback from top industry pros like them. Sometimes the Elite Mentors even get involved and help push the script forward towards production themselves, which is the best of all worlds.

STEP THREE – RESEARCHING WHO TO TARGET

From quite an early point, we’ve already warmed up the industry to the projects on our slate, because of the promotion we give our winners in the weeks after their win, and consequently when their logline is promoted extensively to the industry through InkTip. We also sometimes use our dedicated Industry Newsletters (which go out to hundreds of producers and agents) to promote scripts more widely too. But these methods are only a small part of the real pitching process. The world is busy and full of competition, and everyone you want to reach out to needs treating as an individual.

Lots of writers take a scattergun approach, approaching as many producers, directors or actors as possible. Lots of writers think the world OWES them for creating their scripts, and should now bow down before them. Good luck with that. If you don’t understand the real life of producers and talent, you’ll need a totally world-changing script in order to break through with that attitude. And, if you’re so oblivious to the individuality and business needs of the people you’re approaching, you almost certainly won’t have achieved a script that good anyway.

So, between us and the writer, we compile SHORT lists of producers or talent who we think could really go for this project (exploring all sides of my motto: Aim High, Use Allies, or DIY – Do It Yourself). We research them properly, their track record and preferences, and how best to reach them. We then make our approach on whatever platform, opportunity or situation is the one they’d be most likely to favour. With our track record and polished scripts and one-page pitches, we’ve got a good chance of getting in the door. If we’re then invited to send the whole script, awesome. From that point, it’s up to the writer and producer/talent: we keep the line open and follow up until there’s a result, for better or worse. And then seal the deal or get proper feedback that we can use to improve the script or our understanding of its prospects, and then move on to the next on our shortlist.

Wherever possible, of course, we pitch in person, or failing that on the phone. Most people prefer doing business with strangers by email, but building their trust and their image of us gets us in a lot of doors that writers alone couldn’t. Our in-person pitching in the last two years has got many of our scripts read by leading players and has earned us important new allies, some of whom put us in touch with other people who’ll read the script now it’s been recommended by someone they trust and rate.

Getting a ‘no thanks’ often isn’t a closed door, if we’ve handled the approach right. It’s just a no to this script at this point in time. But with the range of our slate – now and in the future – and all the other services we offer, we always look to keep the door open for mutual support in the future. We keep in regular touch with all producers or agents who are happy for us to, such as through our industry newsletters.

It’s often frustrating how little of all this activity we get to share with you publicly. For obvious reasons, producers and talent wouldn’t want us to share the detail of what we discuss with them. But believe me, if you become a winner in one of our main contests, we’ll be working furiously behind the scenes to take your script as far as it can go.

While many agents and writers would be annoyed to learn that the company we approach have already got something similar on their slate (maybe worried they’ve been plagiarized!), personally I welcome it. Why? Because it shows we really did get this to the people who’d be interested in it. And the praise we often get back from them is great momentum to take into our next approach.

Enter our latest contest now, or enter our next one early by purchasing a consultancy service, to get the benefit of our decades of industry experience into YOUR project.

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

INSIGHTS: How people will be different in the future – a writer’s guide…

INSIGHTS: How people will be different in the future – a writer’s guide…

In Ian’s previous articles, we’ve seen how technologies of the future (and present!) can quickly invalidate our future-writing efforts. But the easiest thing for writers to misjudge is how people themselves will be different, within the future worlds we create.

We may be very happy to accept any implausible or kitsch elements in your future-writing if they make for a more vivid and exciting world than our own – but if people (and the way they live) don’t seem to be changed, then you’re missing out on one of the massive appeals of writing the future: that it offers audiences a vision of how we could be different if we lived in such a different world, and how we could make different choices in life if they see life in that new light. The future is, ultimately, a place to play out our dreams of what life today really could, or should, look like, if only we had the chance. Future-writing creates a rare, neutral space in which to play out our conflicting visions, and fears, for the present and the future, all within the safety net of someone else’s story about a totally different world to our own.

If our technologies – or destructive tendencies – smash the way of life we know, then the post-apocalyptic visions of many popular future-stories (MAD MAX, THE BOOK OF ELI, etc etc) may prove a good guide – because people whose lives are a step backwards from ours, are likely to play out in ways that life and history can help us recognize today. So I’ll focus instead on how people are likely to change if that doesn’t happen, and if other historic trends continue instead. Here are some trends I’ve noticed which are extremely likely to continue to change our personalities and choices. If you’re looking for subjects to inspire your next script, the answer might be somewhere here!

  • Ever-presents of human nature, like family bonds and tribalism and attraction, will continue to forge our key relationships and allegiances and priorities – far more than rational reasoning would like to admit. We will never actually want to be “one unified world community” – whatever we might tell ourselves, we’ll choose to keep dividing ourselves into tribes and sub-tribes. I’ll write about these in more detail another time.
  • Almost every medical condition will become treatable, and most will be fully curable. People will develop ever-more-perfectionist expectations of themselves and others for their health, capacities and looks. Technologies will become better integrated within people’s bodies too, with far-reaching implications, first for treatments and then for enhancements. These trends will create losers as well as winners, mainly due to economic factors that give or limit people’s access to these treatments.
  • Almost every conceivable aspect of life and the world will become connected to, or monitored by, our grand digital networks. Going ‘off the grid’ will get harder and harder, with important consequences for thriller stories in particular – many scripts we receive feel quite dated to me already with this in mind. The ‘internet of things’ will pose significant risks for privacy and security, with our everyday lives utterly interconnected with single networks that put us all at risk of having our lives invaded.
  • The culture war of the 21st century will continue to be that between fundamentalism (of all kinds), against relativism and tolerance. Western countries may need to start reining in more of the free-for-alls that have risen since the 1960s – because if we can’t, fundamentalism may offer many people a much more reassuring vision than the issues that they perceive in the world around them. I notice that few sci-fi writers want to embrace religious believers into ‘their’ visions of the future. But those people will be there anyway – how will they feel about the world they’re living in? How many of those wonderful 1960s visions of the 21st century (THUNDERBIRDS, etc etc) predicted a global surge in religious fundamentalist terrorism? Perhaps, comparing modern trends to the worldview and expectations of religious fundamentalists, we should have seen it coming.
  • War will also be designed to keep actual human beings (from our own country, anyway) completely remote and safe from the intrinsic dangers of the battlefield. This is already basically the case for headline conflicts, we just haven’t invented a way to occupy hostile territories without ground troops yet. I reckon the next major war between global powers will be won or lost by technology (such as cyberattack) within hours without a single bullet being fired. All this has big implications for action stories – where we want to see our heroes put their own lives on the line for the story, without getting immediately cut down by some drone-robot fly.
  • Power and knowledge and the ‘moral high ground’ will continue to decentralize away from governments and religious institutions, through technology and the continued trend towards individualization of modern job roles. Improved technologies will also make it harder and harder for anyone to maintain lies and secrets (and foment conspiracies successfully). However, at the same time, we will all be relying on common technologies and platforms, such as the internet, ever more, and so the risks will grow that would-be tyrants and hostile powers will turn our powers and everyday devices upon us.
  • Supposedly ‘ignorant’ patterns of thought and behaviour (from racism to superstition to religious bigotry) will continue to decline, but will keep persistently recurring in new forms in every generation, and the continued migration and tourism of people to other countries will ensure that old issues like these will never become ‘a thing of the past’ anywhere.
  • Controversial cases that come to light in the news will continue to stiffen public opinion and the law against people who create injustices and avoidable suffering for other people (from our own culture or countries!). Proliferating devices like smartphones will continue to make it easier for victims and others to record and prove that these injustices are happening – albeit via networks and platforms that many governments and others may be demand to control.
  • People will continue to intensively map, scan and explore any areas of life or the universe that could be described as ‘the unknown’. Fewer people will believe in the possibilities that rely upon it (such as magic, monsters, aliens and direct ‘divine intervention’) – though interest in stories about them might conversely rise as a result of their ‘otherness’! But people will continue to interpret things in the ways that feel most natural to themselves, so don’t expect religion and superstition to die off anytime soon.
  • Automation and robotizing of all aspects of life will continue to render more and more job roles obsolete. The more this continues, growing numbers of people may lean towards anti-globalization movements, backward-looking politicians or authoritative voices. Meanwhile educated, versatile people may find themselves in a minority for remaining economically active and having a secure sense of their own identity and purpose in the world. Which impacts significantly upon my next point…
  • While globalization will continue to make countries ever more interdependent, but sociopaths will continue to find ways to take power (click HERE to understand what I mean by ‘sociopath’ – it’s perhaps a much more widespread personality type than you realize). Pacifism will remain naïve in the face of this, and the proliferation of technologies that can empower them in new and ever-more-pervasive ways. But in economic terms, centralized nation-states will be unable to keep up with those that don’t try to maintain full control of all aspects of the economy.
  • The environment everywhere will continue to be carved up and predominated by human activity at an escalating rate, until technological changes make it possible (and convenient) to live far more efficiently than people currently choose to. Changes of power and circumstance will keep upsetting whatever is agreed to protect the environment; people will have to innovate within their own spheres of influence instead, to make any difference, but this won’t change the overall direction of travel. Anything that environmentalists achieve can be easily reversed by breakdowns in international or local law and order, and crippling population pressures on resources, not to mention reverses of government policy.

Here are some things that could go either way, but won’t just stay the same.

  • Our attitudes towards the suffering of other people (especially those we don’t have any connections to) and animals or nature. – Humans would mostly like to be compassionate, but they would also like to be able to take things for granted so they can get on with life uninterrupted. Economics and politics play a massive role here – and people who are struggling to maintain their way of life have a much less compassionate attitude towards outsiders and those whose inferiority makes their own way of life possible.
  • The spread of decentralized media platforms such as the internet means new challenges for debate and decisionmaking. ‘Truth’ and ‘lies’/’fake news’ are heading for an interesting clash which may set in law what ‘truths’ or ‘accuracy’ can be stated or published, and what the punishments will be for those who go against that. This will be an interesting showdown between delusionals, tyrants, sociopaths and their allies (click HERE to see who I mean), and the institutions of the 20th century liberal West. It may have different results in different places, influencing the ideological wars of the century ahead.

Alright, so there’s my two cents. Hope it helps you future-proof your writing and keep clear of some of the mistakes that we see so often. Maybe you can even find the central question of your next script here! If so, let us know where you take it and how you get on…

Read more of Ian’s insights right here and check out the previous entries to this future proofing series…

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

INSIGHTS: Writing The Near Future (And The Futuristic Present Day)!

INSIGHTS: Writing The Near Future (And The Futuristic Present Day)!

In previous articles, we’ve seen how even visionary pictures of the distant future can look outdated within a generation. But writing the near future is actually far riskier, as this article will explore…

So, for every fine sci-fi story that gets caught on the wrong side of the future, there are much worse movies and series that can’t even present the present accurately. The original KNIGHT RIDER (1982-86) and its various spin-offs were predicated on intuitive artificial intelligence – yep, even in 1982. It was a very fun dream, in tune with the tech-bravado fantasies of the Reagan era, but it still ain’t happening anytime soon – in fact, the things the human mind does really well are exactly the kind of thing that computers have previously been very bad at (such as recognising faces), while computers are vastly better at the things that human brains are very bad at (like calculating the square root of 28402304.284904, for example).

So yes. Then there are the ‘too much, too soon’ visions of the future. CHILDREN OF MEN only came out in 2006, but claimed that human fertility would suddenly end in 2009. Not much use for the ‘long tail’ profitability of the movie. (The P.D. James novel it’s based on came out in 1992. Still, she lived past 2009 herself. The future is always closer than we think when we’re writing it. Party like it’s 1999, people.)

Famous examples like BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 have been discussed well elsewhere, so for our amusement let’s take later spinoff movie KNIGHT RIDER 2000 (released in 1991) as a prime example instead. On the face of it, setting a KR spinoff in the near future made sense, since artificial intelligence was still a pipe dream even in 1990. But in its efforts to seem futuristic, this film made a lot of other mistakes too. The world it tried to paint as the near future was way off. Let’s have a look at why. As you read, consider this. If you were writing a story set only ten years in the future, would you have fallen into any of these traps?

  • TECHNOLOGY HAS JUMPED TOO FAR. Human beings can now have computer chips embedded into their brains – even one from 1982, from our 80s supercar-with-personality KITT. Meanwhile, Seattle has been incarcerating felons by freezing them for the duration of their sentences, then just awakening them and releasing them. Not what I’d call rehabilitation. (We also have no good reason to believe that we actually will be able to restore anyone who’s been cryogenically frozen, but lots of future-writers are desperate to use this possibility as a premise for their stories.)
  • THE LAW DOESN’T KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY. Quite the opposite, most of the time. Even if human freezing had been ‘normal’ by the year 2000, there’s no way that the law would have jumped on the bandwagon in time, or that this policy would now be up for review like I is in the movie. In any case, this was a really stupid law, that made no sense; why release someone who hadn’t even had to experience their period of incarceration since their crime? It wouldn’t even give them time to consider reforming their character.
  • TECHNOLOGY HASN’T JUMPED FAR ENOUGH. There’s no sign whatsoever of the Internet and difference it made to the world by the year 2000. Everyone’s still driving around in cars from 1990 or before. We don’t even see the new KITT car doing any of the cool stunts we saw the old one doing; its virtual reality display looked pretty dated by 2000 too. Yep, it does at one point briefly swim, but the original KITT could literally drive on water (in the series 1 finale), so that was an imaginative step backwards too, and at one point the floating car needs to be caught by a passer-by to prevent it scraping on a wall. Daft.
  • The haircuts, the screens, and much of the other visualisation is off. The new KITT is also a step backwards in that it’s not nearly as attractive as the old one, just an amorphous curvy red blob, with square 80s foglamps. (That did at least anticipate the bulbous car shapes of the 90s well, but ‘New Edge’ styling had already left that behind by 2000.)
  • And then there’s the news story we overhear, that President Dole has declared peace with ‘England’. How many WTFs can I put into one sentence? The writer of this one should really have known how many leaps of imagination you can and can’t make, for one aside that has no significance whatsoever on plot. “If in doubt, leave it out.”

These might all sound like daft misjudments of what life in ten years would be like, but I can promise you I’ve seen others as bad in scripts we’ve received at WriteMovies in recent years.

So, there are plenty of dangers of writing near-future (or even “many of us will still be alive when this is supposed to happen” futures, which come around far sooner than we’d like to think).

We should also consider the ‘I’ll never let it happen’ futures. Think here of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and George Orwell’s 1984, which was written in 1948 and for decades was held up as a warning about totalitarianism and the media can combine to oppress us all. 1984’s state surveillance was personified in a Stalin-esque figure called Big Brother, and for decades after, civil liberatarians used references to 1984 and ‘Big Brother’ to prevent dangerous trends from taking hold of state surveillance. However, by 2000, the same term – and its surveillance theme – were reappropriated by the famous reality TV show. As a result perhaps, these reference points fell out of use, while state surveillance and the ever-deeper encroachment of governments into private life grew rapidly. For over 50 years, simply referring to 1984 and Big Brother had been enough to prevent a tide of civil liberties infringements. Then, by devaluing those reference points, TV’s Big Brother rolled the tide right back. Edward Snowden’s revelations were already around the corner by the time the show was in decline.

This level of influence is appealing for a writer with a social conscience. You set out a future so vivid and possible – based on known realities and possibilities from your own time – that the future you’ve set out is deliberately either created or prevented by everyone who has learned from your vision.

For example, a lot of people feel that Star Trek’s idealized future was a genuinely influential force for good in the real world of the 60s and far beyond, which has helped to bring its own vision of a racially and socially integrated and egalitarian future. Live long and prosper!

NEXT UP – HOW WILL PEOPLE BE DIFFERENT IN THE FUTURE?

 

INSIGHTS: Nothing dates faster than the future, part 2 – How to get the details right in your sci-fi script

INSIGHTS: Nothing dates faster than the future, part 2 – How to get the details right in your sci-fi script

ALIENS fired imaginations in 1986, and remains a touchstone for screenwriting. So why does it look a bit dated now, and what lessons does that reveal for writers today? Ian Kennedy looks at how to get the details right in your sci-fi script.

 

So really, as we saw in my last article, most sci-fi is just fantasy, in a different setting, where we pretend that technology and scientific possibilities (rather than magic) are the reasons why things work differently from how they do in our world. And that’s fine by me. I’m writing this article to help writers avoid future-writing which is already suspect, and very unlikely to look plausible in the real future. Let’s start with ALIENS – which was directed with great vision by James Cameron, after all, building on excellent work by Ridley Scott and the team of the first ALIEN film. These filmmakers stand the test of time, and their stories too. So where did its details go wrong for me now from a modern point of view?

  • The screens. There a lot of very analogue screens in ALIENS. It’s always tempting for filmmakers to load their future-visions with the best technology that the present has to offer. But there’s a lot that’s already very dated about these screens themselves. We see them close-up. A lot. They are split into very analogue patterns and none are remotely High Definition, never mind Retina quality. Pretty dated already. How many centuries in the future are we supposed to be? Nope. We’re three decades back in time here.
  • Then there’s the stuff that’s on the screens. Nearly all of it is flat. And monotone in colour. Some of the photos are even black and white. Very little is moving. And the video feeds show the kinds of interference and distortion and low quality that nobody has experienced since DVD replaced VHS. When digital signals cut off, you get nothing, not static. The blueprint-like maps that the Corps use in ALIENS are also flat and two-dimensional – which even in the movie turns out to be woefully inadequate, when the aliens are able to get above and below them to breach their security. So again, in ALIENS we’re 30 years ago, not even now.
  • There are the haircuts. Not much vision of the future going on there. I’m not in any way ruling out a lengthy revival in all-80s haircuts in future centuries. It could happen. But let’s be honest. It won’t. (In 1991, the original KNIGHT RIDER was forward-tracked for a TV movie set almost 20 years after the original series – KNIGHT RIDER 2000. But all the haircuts and moustaches don’t even belong in the 1990s, let alone the 2000s. We’ll amuse ourselves with some of its other errors later.)
  • The tech used by the (apparently elite) Corps of marines in ALIENS also looks pretty suspect. Sure, the human soldiers are teched up by helmet cameras and gyro-stabilised machine guns, and other stuff. The cameras and other kit in the film look pretty clunky now, and Ripley even uses duct tape to bind guns together at one point, but all this we can OK for the time being; manufacturing standards are gonna be different in hostile deep space territories, and 3D printing and nanotechnology aren’t fully proven alternatives just yet. Mainly I’m bothered that these marines are still using their own actual bodies – not even under protective clothing on their faces and arms – to do most of the work. I don’t know about you, but I think the public horror whenever US troops get killed abroad, and the growing significance of air strikes and drone warfare, in our own time, is all pointing in a different direction. There’s no way human beings will be directly fighting our own battles unshielded, even in the medium term, let alone the distant future. Ethically and legally, this creates plenty of issues, but compared to having actual people actually die (and their relatives sue the government), it’s clear that non-human combat is going to be the future of warfare. (If our next major war doesn’t bomb us all back to the Stone Age in the meantime.) ALIENS even has a ready-made answer to this, in the creepily competent androids it gives other roles to. An android medic? While the humans go to war and die horribly? Who signed off on that?

I could go on endlessly about other visions of the distant future and how kitsch they look in hindsight, but FUTURAMA has basically done all that for me. Clever and deliberately backdated in its detailing, this funny show imagines that the year 3000 might have more in common with the kitsch, dated sides of the 20th century, than anything else. It’s no sillier a vision of the future than the ones it endlessly satirizes, and at least it knows it.

NEXT UP – WRITING THE NEAR FUTURE (AND THE FUTURISTIC PRESENT DAY)! Check out part one here: https://writemovies.com/insights-nothing-dates-faster-future-wheres-going-next/

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

INSIGHTS: Nothing dates faster than the future. Writing Science Fiction…

INSIGHTS: Nothing dates faster than the future. Writing Science Fiction…

Most sci-fi is just fantasy in a different setting. But when writing science fiction all writers need to pay attention to what’s really changing and happening now, if they want their writing to catch our imaginations and stand the test of time.

Watching ALIENS again after twenty years (it’s actually over 30 years old, but I was 4 then), I’m seeing all kinds of things that now look quite dated – the opposite of futuristic. Despite the fact I’ve always thought this was one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen, and that it’s still a touchstone for screenwriting theories. The experience brought home something I’ve been saying for a while: that nothing dates faster than the future. As writers, the same things that make it such an attractive subject can also leave our works quickly stranded.

There are plenty of trends we need to recognize, if we want to write science fiction or show the present in a way that’s, well, future-proof. You’d be amazed how many ‘futuristic’ scripts we receive that feel outdated now, never mind soon. Even worse are the ones set so near in the future that by the time the film would make it to cinemas (a minimum of 18 months, realistically, for any mainstream production) they’d already be almost backdated. So much for making a long-term profit thanks to the ‘long tail’ life of DVD/Blu-Ray sales, TV screenings or streaming. And here’s what’s even worse – lots of the scripts we receive don’t even seem up-to-date now, never mind for a release date two years from now and a ‘long tail’.

What will the future look like, even ten years from now? We won’t know until it hits us. A lot of what happens now in the news feels like a surprise at the time – 9/11, Trump, Brexit etc – but wouldn’t be if we all had our ears to the ground more and faced up to reality a bit more honestly. These articles aim to help writers do that, to avoid getting left behind by reality, it’s only human nature to not want to face uncomfortable truths. Wherever possible I try to take a fully inclusive view and avoid bias, but hey, I’m only human – and not everybody will want to agree with the picture painted here, and that’s an important thing to reflect in your writing too.

Many future-proofing issues for writers aren’t so much about machines, technology and other advances – they’re about what people will be like in the times ahead. Writers should keep an ear out for changes and subtle long-term trends in all aspects of life – just to reflect the world as it already is, in fresh ways. That’s true even if you don’t have any need to envisage the future within your writing. After all, a huge part of making your writing sellable is about tapping into something that’s both fresh and convincing. All writers should listen out for changes that will influence our futures – because even historical or fantasy stories still have to anticipate what we’re about to become interested in, and our unconscious desires for the kinds of world we’d like our imaginations to occupy (to escape our dull realities).

A lot of the things that still bug me about future-writing are the same things that bugged me about sci-fi TV shows and films when I was a teenager, which inspired a lot of my own best writing. I studied science hard and tried to push whatever technology I included towards the absolute limits of what might eventually be possible within the laws of physics – but no further. In contrast, most future-writing doesn’t pay much attention to facts. It’s far more interested in creating a dream – or a nightmare. And that’s fine too, as long as it can convince us.

Science is much abused by the fiction that takes its name. I prefer the Italian word fantascienza – a dream or a fantasy of science. Because that’s what most sci-fi really gives us. When writing science fiction, the writers start with a dream of what a future (or alternate reality) could be like, and explore that vision rather than anything that corresponds to science or realism. Then they dress it up with silly science-lite technobabble to make it sound more plausible. While pretending that, for example, we can fly faster than light, and arrive at distant stars in a couple of minutes, rather than the many years it would do even then. (Our bored imaginations are yearning for space to become an intensive and exciting place, rather than the overwhelmingly vast, empty, and almost action-free reality revealed by astronomy.) Relativity has implied – for 100 years now! – that flying faster than light might mean travelling back in time anyway, even if it were possible to put more than 100% of the energy contained in our mass into propelling ourselves forward to make that possible. Ridiculous, and impossible, but STAR TREK and other franchises take this as their premise. Meanwhile, other SF has relied on parallel universes, or controllable ‘wormhole’ portals instead – both ideas that badly distort an obscure scientific speculation in order to imagine the kind of exciting universe we’d much prefer to the reality. But most sci-fi would be very dull and empty if we couldn’t let our imaginations fly away from reality. If we’re honest, that’s the main point of the genre. Scientific realism and caution is usually the opposite of what writers and audiences go to sci-fi for. We yearn for a flight of fancy, not a cautious science lecture. We want the ‘What if’, not the ‘but really’!

NEXT UP – ALIENS AND OTHER DATED VISIONS OF THE DISTANT FUTURE…

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

First Look: BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

First Look: BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

Our Ian Kennedy on why it’s a fitting follow-up, why you should watch it in IMAX 3D, why it’s like the original in some unintended ways too, and why some audience reaction will suffer as a result…

I’ve got a long history with BLADE RUNNER. I saw it as a teenager in the 90s, again at University where I also attended lectures about it and wrote an essay about it, and I was also tasked with writing Example Development Notes for it during my time training up to join WriteMovies (which I’ll publish for you to read here – a good example of how our Development Notes look to take even the best scripts to the next level! Here’s another example about BLADE RUNNER from a more recent trainee). So you can imagine how excited I was to interview BLADE RUNNER 2049’s VFX Consultant Post Production, Habib Zargarpour, in the run-up to the sequel’s release. While we wait on official approval to publish that, I’ve now had the chance to catch the movie itself, and I wasn’t disappointed – though I think some people will be.

Habib recommended I catch the film in IMAX 3D, for reasons he explains in the interview. And boy was he right. That technology has been truly nailed now, and paired to a uniquely visualized movie like this, it really looked and felt like all the actors and scenes were happening right before my eyes. The 3D is subtle and natural, not artificial and showy, and became an important part of the experience. It’s hard to exaggerate what a naturally immersive experience the IMAX 3D made it. The visuals were stunning throughout – a great job from everyone involved, of which there were hundreds across the globe!

The original explores what it is to be human, and raises the unnerving prospect that replicants may actually be more human than us in some ways. BLADE RUNNER 2049 takes that further – almost the whole story is told from replicants’ points of view, and it takes their world to important new places and times, showing us why perhaps it’s their side we should have been on all along – something the original only hints at. The most interesting character in the new film, though, is actually Joi, the AI who acts as wife to Ryan Gosling’s low-key ‘Blade Runner’ cop – bewitchingly fascinating and uncanny throughout, and easy to fall in love with.

I noticed an interesting parallel to the original – just like for BLADE RUNNER, the trailers sold it as more of an action movie, where the movie actually gave us much more of a slow-burn mood movie (more subtle thoughtful than action-packed, like director Denis Villeneuve also gave us in ARRIVAL – read my Insights into that film here) – and that gap in expectations may result in exactly the kind of mixed audience reactions the original got at first! So far the critics’ reactions I’ve seen are good, and I think it’ll definitely find its place, but in the main, this is definitely NOT an action movie, and long passages focus much more on the vacant emotional life of Ryan Gosling’s inexpressive cop than on plot development – in fact the eerie sound design is often used to make up for the lack of plot development. Some audiences – probably ones who hadn’t seen the original – may even find the storytelling slow and unengaging, especially in the first half. In other hands this story would have made a much sharper two-hour movie, not the 2hrs43mins we’ve been given here, but for me it’s great to see genuinely thought-provoking and subtle films getting their chance at last – I wrote a series of Insights articles about that earlier this year comparing ARRIVAL, MOONLIGHT and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.

So, this is a great movie, but maybe not in all the ways you’d expect. But with its haunting themes and stunning visuals, you might enjoy it even more second time around. Can’t wait to tell you the inside story from Habib!

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.