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Ian’s L.A. Diary, Wednesday March 4th – Warner Bros. and groundbreaking VFX!

Ian’s L.A. Diary, Wednesday March 4th – Warner Bros. and groundbreaking VFX!

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.

Warner Bros sign

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!

The Nightmare Before Christmas – Halloween or Christmas Film?

The Nightmare Before Christmas – Halloween or Christmas Film?

Every year without fail, there’s a question that I can’t seem to answer. To this day, it remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in the world of cinema: is THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS a Halloween film or a Christmas film?

To some, it’s obvious. “It’s both, isn’t it?” they say. This stop-motion animated classic (usually associated with Tim Burton, although actually directed by Henry Selick) tells the story of Jack Skellington, Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who grows bored of his usual holiday and decides to take over Christmas instead – so of course it’s both.

I’ll admit that this answer may be right, but it doesn’t help because it doesn’t tell me when I should be watching the film. Do I watch it at Halloween or Christmas, or at some strange midpoint on November 27th? Which set of celebrations should it be a part of?

This year felt like the year to try to resolve the issue. With WriteMovies running our first ever Horror Award and announcing the winner on Halloween, we’ve read lots of scripts and watched lots of films that made us think about the Pumpkin King’s holiday, whether they be scary and violent or more light-hearted like THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

And after some thought, I think I’ve finally figured it out. I think I’ve finally found an answer to the question…

Because I genuinely believe now that it’s a Christmas film.

Even writing that out now, it still looks strange to see. After all, this is the film that still, 25 years since it’s release, is most emblematic of Tim Burton’s visual style – a style that has been embraced by goths, outcasts, and lovers of the weird and spooky ever since.

It’s a film which has a skeleton as its main character, which opens on shots of ghosts and pumpkins, and which sees Santa Claus (or “Sandy Claws”, as the residents of Halloween Town call him) kidnapped by a misbehaving gang of trick-or-treaters. To call it a Christmas film therefore sounds strange even to my own ears.

But I’ve decided that it is – because thematically, it shares much more with Christmas films than anything else. Fundamentally, it’s the message a film conveys that determines where it belongs. Christmas films generally have a focus on family and community, and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is just the same.

After all his (mis)adventures, at the end of the film Jack comes to realize the folly of his mistakes. By turning his back on his friends and the town that loves him, disaster has followed. It’s only by returning to where he belongs, embracing his community, and accepting the love of the ragdoll Sally that he finds happiness again.

Nobody would ever accuse THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS of being a horror film, but I believe this shows that it’s not even a Halloween film either. It belongs firmly to the realm of Christmas, and that’s why I’ll be watching it as part of my holiday celebrations this year.

Of course, give it another twelve months… and I’ll probably change my mind again.

From all of us here at WriteMovies, a very Merry Christmas. Oh, and I supposed a Happy (belated) Halloween, too!

Introducing the WriteMovies Horror Award 2019 Winner!

Horror Award 2019: Why you should be writing horror…

There’s just one week to go until our inaugural Horror Award closes for submissions – meaning your chance to become the first ever winner of this new award is nearly over! But what are the advantages of writing in this genre?

There’s a good reason why we picked horror as the second genre to celebrate in our new series of awards. It’s a fantastic proving ground for new filmmakers to achieve success – and that includes writers! Here are some of the reasons why you should be writing horror…

  • It’s almost always in high demand, giving you a better chance of getting into production than some other genres! Here at WriteMovies, we get plenty of interest in horror scripts from producers and companies. And that’s because…
  • It’s often cheap to produce. A lot of classic horror tropes use a small number of locations and a small cast, and the use of suspense also cuts costs compared to all-out action! But even if your horror script doesn’t look so cheap, that might not be a problem–
  • Because there’s a strong core audience for horror. Some people just can’t get enough of it, meaning that horror films have a good chance of recouping their budget and then providing profits!

So make sure you submit your script to our Horror Award by this Sunday, September 29th! The winner will receive two sets of Development Notes, guaranteed pitching to industry, and further advice on script development…

Plus all submissions get free entry to the Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest, and the chance to win the Grand Prize of $2000!