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Oscars 2019: What we learned

Oscars 2019: What we learned

Whatever you think about the Oscars, there’s always something to be learned from them. Last night was no exception: there was the usual number of sure-fire wins mixed with a few shocks that leave us scratching our heads. Here’s our take on what happened at the Oscars 2019…

  • The big news of the night was the surprise win of GREEN BOOK for Best Picture. This may not have been the most competitive year for this category, but stacked up against films like BLACKKKLANSMAN and ROMA, it’s still not what we expected. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times even went so far as to call it “the worse best Picture winner since Crash“. Ouch. But the main thing to take from this? ROMA might have been the favorite on the night (rather than THE FAVOURITE… okay, it’s a bit confusing) but the Academy isn’t ready to give highest honors to a Netflix film just yet. The big studios continue to guard their territory.
  • Spike Lee finally has an Oscar, winning Best Adapted Screenplay for BLACKKKLANSMAN. When it comes to films about race, the Oscars have generally favored less hard-edged material than Lee makes, so at first glance, this looks like it could indicate a shift for film’s biggest awards ceremony. However, that’s all kind of cancelled out because…
  • The winner for Best Original Screenplay also went to GREEN BOOK, which has come in for a lot of criticism for perpetuating the “white savior” trope and couldn’t be more of an opposite to BLACKKKLANSMAN if it tried. Take a look at that article from Chang and you’ll see why it’s so confusing that the two screenplay awards went to these two films. On the one hand, a film that takes an intense, no-holds barred look at racism – on the other, a film that deals with it through a feel-good story. One thing is clear – Hollywood still hasn’t figured out how it wants to deal with this kind of subject matter.
  • Away from the main controversies, superhero stories are starting to gain some traction at awards ceremonies to go with their popular appeal, with BLACK PANTHER picking up three awards and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE winning Best Animated Feature. This is where the real money is right now – and it looks like there’s even the possibility of picking up some nice shiny awards to go with it.
  • On a similar note, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY took home four awards. Even though the only big one here was for Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury, it’s a surprise to see a film that got mixed reviews from critics fare so well at the Oscars. Is the Academy really becoming more democratized to reflect popular opinion? We’ll have to wait and see how next year unfolds…

From a screenwriting perspective, the main thing here is the confusion of seeing two totally contrasting films take home the awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Here at WriteMovies, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this, with several of our past winners – such as BLACKOUT.COM by Ruben Bush III dealing with this kind of subject matter.

The Oscars 2019 may not have had the drama of the wrong winner being announced for Best Picture like a couple of years ago, but they’ve certainly given us a lot of food for thought…

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – Semi-Finalists!

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – Semi-Finalists!

It’s time for more Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results! There were a lot of great scripts in our Quarter-Finals and it was tough to make this next round of decisions, but after careful consideration our judges have decided on our Semi-Finalists!

There’s often a fine line when it comes to the different rounds of our screenwriting contest. Some scripts only just miss out, and it can be difficult to know why. A lot of the time, it comes down to the execution of basic elements – structure, characters, and dialogue.

Take a look also at this article that our Director, Ian Kennedy, wrote when we announced Quarter-Finalists: What your writing submissions are telling us, 2017-2019. If you’re making any of these mistakes, they could be holding you back!

But what else have we found with these latest Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results? Well, a few things that have often helped our Semi-Finalists stand out from the rest:

  • Unique Concepts. If there’s something in a script we haven’t seen before, it immediately makes us want to read on. See what Ian wrote in his article about the number of scripts with a vehicle smash at about page 10 – when we’ve read the same thing so many times, it quickly starts to become dull. On the other hand, when we encounter something new – that’s really exciting!
  • Specific in genre and the story they wanted to tell. With a number of scripts, we found it difficult to tell what genre the writer was aiming at and it was a while before the story began to take shape. These unfocused openings usually fail to hold our attention. Be specific about your story, and be clear with its genre!
  • Engaging characters. Ian wrote it in his article but it’s worth repeating again here: “Make us care and get fascinated with your main characters and their world”. When we care about the characters, the script takes on a whole new life. Don’t rely on clichés or stereotypes, but create rounded characters we can engage with as if they were real people. And not just the protagonist either, but the supporting characters and villains as well!

And with that, it’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Here are our next Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results: the Semi-Finalists!

Semi-Finalists 
BAD LUCK VS KARMA, Aaron DavisTÖDLICHE ERINNERUNG, Urs AebersoldSPACE RACERS, Jason Azcar
THE DAWN OF EVE, James BinghamLE SECRET DU KATANA NOIR, Christian BourgeoisLA VENGEANCE DU COBRA, Christian Bourgeois
THE WALL, Anthony BuonoUNE CHANCE POUR GUERIR, Christine de ChauvelinPSYCHOANALYTIC TALES, Christine de Chauvelin
STRUCK, Elaine F ChekichTHE HUNTED, Mark FloodWITHOUT BORDERS, Chris Gebhardt & Jenn Russi
LAST CHRISTMAS, Owen GowerBAD LISTING, Brent HartingerKOBOS, Adam Hersh
HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED, Manny Jimenez Sr.THE SAX, Pascal KulcsarAGENT 355, Laura Lambert
IN THE ABSENCE OF JUSTICE, Stephen F MaynardPROMISE OF TOMORROW, Andrew PenningtonTHIS IS NOT REVENGE, David Pierotti
BOY MOST WANTED, Tuck TuckerESTHER’S DEN, Persephone VandegriftTHE CRACK IN PEGGY SUE’S FLOOR, John Woodard

Keep an eye out for more Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results from us, as we move on now to judge our Finalists and winners – and decide who takes away the Grand Prize!

WriteMovies Academy – more acclaim from users for our Virtual Film School!

WriteMovies Academy – more acclaim from users for our Virtual Film School!

Having started the launch of our new virtual film school last year, the verdict is in from our most recent crop of learners – and they’ve had a lot of good things to say! Here’s what the latest WriteMovies Academy reviews are telling us…

Looking at Phase 1 – “Concept and Theme Development” – users have rated the quality of the WriteMovies Academy at an average of over 90%, with a rating of 94% for the presenter, 92% for the presentation content, and 90% for the activities done as part of the course.

But most important thing is the progress they’ve made: users reported a boost in confidence regarding the subject matter of almost 29%, and confidence in the improvement of their own projects of 23%!

We’re thrilled to see these results – WriteMovies is always dedicated to great storytelling and to opening the door for writers. Taking a closer look at the WriteMovies Academy reviews, here’s what a few of our users had to say…

  • Gave me ideas how to fix a few stumbling blocks”
  • “I started understanding the commerciality of script”
  • “I’ve enjoyed the session and have started formulating ideas”
  • “Liked the interactive activities”

You’ll soon all be able to share in our virtual film school. We’ll be providing previews and mini-videos from the Academy to give you a taste of what it’s like – so keep an eye out for further announcements about that!

And for now, click here to take a look at WriteMovies Academy. From developing your ideas to pitching to industry, we’ve got something for everyone, wherever you’re at in your writing journey!

Second Look – SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

Second Look – SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

An update to this. After the release of the novel and film below, the Yemen had sadly been consumed in civil war for some years when I wrote this; I decided not to make reference to it at the time, because it’s not relevant to the story and also because it’s all too often true that countries like the Yemen only get attention because of bad news stories, which is a trap that this story doesn’t fall into, and I wanted to reflect that. I decided to go with the writer’s intention, which was to highlight aspects of life in Yemen that rarely receive attention in the West. But in respect of the many victims of that conflict, I’ve now decided to put these comments in as well. Civil wars are always tragic and even more so when they’re being fought as proxy wars by other powerful countries. Our condolences go out to everyone who has been affected by this conflict, and I hope that the article below may help to re-present this troubled country in a better light once more. (more…)

Wall of Fame 2018 – Our Grand Prize Winners!

Wall of Fame 2018 – Our Grand Prize Winners!

Today we look back at the winners of our Grand Prize from 2018 and reveal our full Wall of Fame 2018! If you’d like to see your name on next year’s Wall of Fame, enter our Winter 2019 Contest for a chance to come out on top – as well as the chance to win our Grand prize of $2500 in cash!

wall of fame 2018

Here’s some more info on our Grand Prize winners from 2018. All of our winners received a year of free script development with us and we’re now working hard at polishing them to perfection!

  • SLAVE SHIP by Tyler True: “A devout African man chooses to work on a slave ship in order to ensure the safe passage of other Africans sold into slavery.”
  • DESERT RUN by Christopher Thomas: “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.”

Wish you’d been featured on our Wall of Fame 2018? If you think you’ve got a script that will take you to the top, be sure to enter our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest! Closing on January 13th 2019, this might be the last time we run a major competition of this kind… And with an increased cash prize of $2500, this is an opportunity not to be missed!

Writing character driven stories – a look at Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA

Writing character driven stories – a look at Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, ROMA, has been getting all kinds of acclaim, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and earning three Golden Globe nominations already. Guest author Cat Tebo takes a look at what we can learn from it about writing character driven stories…

Screenplay - not Roma

A lot of new writers fall into the trap of prioritizing plot above all else, losing the characters and, consequently, the “heart” of their story. Ideally, a script should be a marriage between plot and character. The best way to go about this is by developing characters whose objectives and agency are so strong that they inform the plot, rather than characters being used as mere devices for the storyteller to force into the mold of how they think their story is “supposed”to be.

Alfonso Cuarón’s recent film, ROMA, is a perfect example of how a character-driven film should function, with characters so compelling and nuanced that there isn’t room for heavy, convoluted plot-lines or unrealistic story details. Instead, the characters are the story.

A big part of what makes rich characterization so important to story is that the strength of a story lies in the strength of its characters. Characters give stories humanity and, in doing so, a heart. Furthermore, the desires and objectives that drive characters to act are the same ones that should drive the story forward. In ROMA, everything that happens is a result of characters exercising agency and taking action in order to get what they want: it’s one of the most basic fundamentals of storytelling. Plot movement is all about getting characters from point A to point B; if there is no character arc, there is no story.

Fleshing out your characters is often a challenging task. In creating ROMA, Alfonso Cuarón was drawing inspiration from his own childhood, and familiarity no doubt makes for a greater sense of character. Even when writers are creating characters completely from scratch, the influence of memories and experience still plays a part—there is no such thing as objective fiction, and even the most original-seeming thoughts are a consolidation of some kind of previous knowledge.

Still, there are some important character elements to consider when figuring out who your characters are. Ask yourself what their weaknesses are, what their strengths are, how they cope with obstacles, what they need versus what they want, who they appear to be versus who they really are—for every question you ask, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask the inverse of it as well. Doing this ensures that you’re considering your characters from every possible angle and are covering every aspect of them you can.

Concept is usually what sells your story in the beginning, but characters are what make it stick. Likewise,you might be able to grab an audience’s attention with an interesting premise, but you won’t be able to hold it without intriguing characters. 

Take a look at more writing insights from WriteMovies by clicking here!

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season One, Episode Three – Lord Snow

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season One, Episode Three – Lord Snow

In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is the episode “Lord Snow”. 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 Three: Lord Snow

First of all, I do some math during the DVD homepage, and create an amusing ratio that demonstrates the series’ very impressive body count. But eventually I accept there is also an episode or two ready to watch.

Ned and the royal party arrive at balmy King’s Landing, and a series of excellent dialogues introduce us to the many powerful men who Ned must now navigate between as Hand of the King, as well as other enjoyable backstory intrigues.

“Someday you’ll sit on the throne, and the truth will be how you make it,” Cersei counsels Joffrey, among other dangerously wise advice. “Everyone who isn’t us, is an enemy,” she says, condoning his view that the Starks are enemies – though he doesn’t realise just how narrow her definition of “us” is, given his real parentage. “War is easier than daughters,” Ned concludes, reflecting the private view of men the world over – you’ll find way more stories by men about war, than about daughters. Sadly.

It’s enjoyable watching Daenerys earn our respect from nothing all over again – and her brother our hatred – as she starts to behave like the Khaleesi (tribal queen) she has become. It’s fun seeing Tyrion still the carefree rich playboy, before a world of cares catch up with him. Quoting his brother Ned, to cut short a pleasantry from Tyrion, Benjen says “nothing before the word ‘but’ matters” – neat. Dany becomes pregnant – something I’d almost totally forgotten about. Her burgeoning relationship with the savage, brutal tribal ruler Khal Drogo is still one of the most distinctive love stories I’ve ever seen, and is executed (sorry, no pun intended) in a remarkably short amount of screen time over this series.

Ned sets Arya a ‘dancing master’ to teach her artful swordfighting, and these are still among the most enjoyable training scenes I’ve seen anywhere, with some rich payoffs later. No coincidence that her tutor is from Braavos, and her transformation comes to fruition there later. Seeing her move with a sword, Ned is taken aback. Maybe he’s surprised that in Season One, she’s not yet really annoying,

Playback rating: 4/5

If you liked Ian’s take on “Lord Snow”, take a look at his thoughts on Episode One: “Winter is Coming” by clicking here or Episode Two: “The Kingsroad” by clicking here!