Friday, 25 October 2013

Creative Storytelling - I May Be Wrong

I may be wrong.

I say these words to myself almost everyday and about many things, but there is a growing, nagging, festering unease that washes over me as I get older and experience more. It is an uneasiness towards the number of people who regurgitate ideas that are learnt and not their own.

Great if they've really thought about it and decided it lines up with how they think, but many parrot what is taught without ever truly testing those ideas or asking themselves if they stand by them. They are the established ways and they are taught in a structured environment or discovered through personal curiosity from great books, then those ideas are lauded and revered as the best on the subjects - so the information is locked in as proven beyond doubt because it is thought or reported by greater minds than theirs.

Ironically I'm going to go to one of my favourite authors now - Malcolm Gladwell - who, in his new book, David and Goliath, makes note of the fact progress from great people comes from those people being unreasonable - not unlike-able or disagreeable, but unwilling to accept the current paradigm and refusing to put an idea to bed because everyone has told them it will not work. They were unreasonable in their stubbornness to give up on an idea. Of course he doesn't spend anytime on the millions of people who did the same only to discover they were wrong and the masses were right - but MG writes about things that are illustrative examples that, I believe, are chiefly examined to make you think and decide on aspects of life for yourself. That's why I think so much of his writing.

To me, at the moment, I feel I am zeroing in on something to do with the teaching of screen writing. How many books, lectures and courses I have attended I can't even begin to number. But as I hear the same structural lessons over and over again in minutely different language, I am becoming more convinced that the learning centered around the structural elements of film are inadequate and largely being taught because those elements CAN be taught.

To be clear - I am not dissing this teaching or the learning or structure, I have said before, it is like someone who wants to write learning the alphabet. Nothing is more important than the foundation. But structure is only the foundation and I have spent years being annoyed and frustrated that the higher learning seems only ever to be a more intimate and detailed examination of that structure. A million films are broken down and laid across that structure and this so reminds me of the economics degree I dropped out of in third year when I realised they could only ever analyse efficiently in hindsight.

The structure of films is taught by deconstructing it in ever increasing detail. A thousand incredibly talented academics who are fluent beyond any need with that structure then levitate to positions where they either teach or adjudicate any and every script that comes across their desk.

Good for them. All they need is a story that really connects with them, that meets all the right structural points and they'll be off to production quicker than you can say Academy Award.

But what about the content. Not the form, the content. Who is teaching that? The element which is creative, the element which is subjective is far harder to teach and to learn. And like so many things that are hard it is ignored.

We get airy fairy dismissals - you either can write, or you can't. A fact clearly proven incorrect by their structural lessons. Anyone can write - just follow the form. But they mean write well. They mean write something that will capture people's attention. They mean you can either tell a good story or you can't. They may also mean you can either write dialogue, think up extraordinary twists and turns and surprise your audience or you can't. But these things are much less innate and can certainly be learnt by learning structure and then deconstructing thousands of great films. Whether you call it stealing or learning from, it is still able to be learnt or mimicked at very least by everyone.

I am talking about pure creativity. The thousands of minute moments in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series come from a creative mind and lift a story copied from many sources to be its own story and genuinely original.

And while that is something a person either has naturally or they don't, it can be learnt by many - not all - but by many. And even more who have a creative mind can have their processes improved. In a way there are structural models to follow to refine creativity. And this is the area that I see lacking. This is the area, where if more time were spent on it at the very beginning of the creative process, far less revision would be needed at the end.

Robert McKee advocates a professional writer plans and plans some more before writing a word. He states all the hard work is done at the beginning - but even he I feel starts too late, because again he is talking about the structuring of a story and only barely touches on the creativity - where he notes you can change the creative elements to make the story fit the stricture.

In the same way that great speech writers and advertising men look at and study how every word and combination of words will create and direct an audience's emotional reactions, the same is equally true in the creation of a story and yet this is an aspect that seems to be totally lacking in the current teaching. Or am I wrong again? Are there courses for writers that inform and analyse emotive outcome of story choices?

This may sound like I am trying to formularise and limit creativity, but I don't think so. I am simply arguing that a better knowledge of the elements going into a story - in terms of the most likely reactions those elements will receive - will allow writers to be better informed and make better creative decisions at the very beginning of their process, not in order to fit the structure - which will come later - but in order to avoid the wholesale changes to stories that are forced on writers at the end of the process and often involve massive re-writes on a simple reactive impulsive decisions by whoever has the power to say yay or nay. And those people are making those decisions on issues that should be known by the writer at the very start of the process.

Recently I was throwing around ideas for a new TV show that is looking promising and we discussed giving the male lead, who is about to get married, a child from a former relationship. The producer had asked us to consider a character that would appeal to a younger demographic - and this was one solution. The problem with a child from another relationship for a mid-life male character, who has had little or no contact with that child, is it becomes a negative. We wanted this male lead to be a hero - and yes a flawed hero is often great - but he is flawed enough, so we wanted to avoid more negatives. In this scenario there are only negative explanations as to how the situation came about.

  1. He had a relationship that failed
  2. He had a child outside of a relationship
  3. He didn't want to stay in touch with that child  

Remember we are talking about a reactive negative. How information makes those receiving it feel and in this case, while there are justifications for so many issues at play here - ask yourself - if you were online and trying to evaluate someone to date and they told you they had a child in their teens who they rarely if ever see - what would your reaction be?

Our solution was sperm donation as a Uni student - so now when the child arrives, aged eighteen on 'Dad's' doorstep, there is no negative response to be awarded to our character - except from those who feel jerking off into a beaker for $50 is the lowest form of the service industry.

I was lucky enough to do a fine arts course in theater before I began studying film. I remember many classes that were insane. Pictures and written material stuck to walls in studios, where we would run around until the music stopped, no really - I did that!. Then we'd stare at whatever material we had stopped closest to. Then we would run again as the music started and for ten or twenty minutes we'd do this. Then come and sit and write for two hours whatever was in our heads. We were encouraged not to think, just to write, in a genuinely Kerouwhacky experiment in free form consciousness. Did it help? It didn't hurt, but I also remember one frustratingly angry young man, a younger me, who exploded at the lecturer, who, after I read out my offering, critiqued it on formal grounds, pointing out where my structure had failed me. My fury was vented part because the exercise was about freeing from the structure, but also because back then I lacked the knowledge of structure that any screenwriter requires - so I had missed it more than I usually would. And every one knows as a young man, when challenged - you attack!

The real problem is that teaching creativity is very hard. To me Pride and Prejudice seems like a 19th century version of the Kardashians. Yes I can see the nuance and the subtleties of an examination of the absurdity of social protocols - I've watched the Kardashians (See what I did there?) but that doesn't mean I am enamoured with or choose these stories as my entertainment. I read them with a sense of dread - occasionally I am pleasantly surprised, but often I find it hard going. But I know it's one of the most popular books on the planet - so I can work out I am out of step in this genre. My creative interests are in other areas and that's a really important part of creativity - being aware that yours is not the only voice in the room worth listening to.

I wrote an earlier blog entry about the different story telling personalities I had come across in my work - and this again seems to be the essence of this creativity problem - you cannot teach a master bricklayer and a pianist the same way - even though, the administrators of this world may quite rightly label both as people who work with their hands. Individual creativity is so lauded because it comes in so many unique forms.

But the creative art of storytelling can be taught, or at very least improved. But it has to be done individually to be valued. And if it is done individually, then others can glean like meaning and example and apply that to their own work. I believe getting to hear the individual analysis and development notes towards the creative content of other's work allows you to learn and apply all sorts of moments to your own work. Certainly not all, but some and it allows a writer to get a flavour or a feel for what should be looked for, what should be manipulated and why in order to meet the formal structural foundations and how to choose, tweak and even create the story to be told.

I have said many times, it's all about risk reward - if changing an element in your creative list makes little difference to your story or the direction you want to take that story in, and it gains you a great deal, in most cases meeting the structural paradigms of storytelling - make the change. But if it loses you more than you gain - become unreasonable and stick your heels in.

I feel you can teach creativity as a language the same way you can teach structure. Not everyone will be helped or will gain what they want. Some people truly don't have story creativity in them. Perhaps they have computer programming creativity, perhaps accounting, perhaps scientific - just not story. They cannot, as hard as they try, think of a way to tell a story that interests anyone but themselves. And that's fine, by the way - as long as they're not trying to be storytellers.

I have come across a few, very few, who desperately wanted to be storytellers and simply didn't have it in them, but they are the exception, not the rule. The laws of cumulative advantage usually help the right people stick with it and the wrong people go in another creative direction. I do feel for those people with a yearning and no tools - the Salieri's of the world. To me, as I struggle to make a living as a writer, I know and understand that tragedy. As I named this entry - I am all too aware - I may just be wrong.

But if you are a story generator of any kind, you will have more than one story to tell. And rather than having a bevy of incredible structuralists, who can tell you instantly something doesn't work because it doesn't fit the structure of a well told story, we need to start looking to a group who can help before that stage - creative ideas people, who have the perceptive ability to spot a great story and help develop it so it can be brought to life and then worked on to meet the structure.

I guess that is the central idea of my entire thought process. It comes from my experiences as a writer struggling alone at a desk and trying to create something that will be both, my own story that I want told and a story that others find acceptable and entertaining. It comes from my years of teaching and my years of practical experience as a writer working on shows, running shows and freelancing as a scriptwriter. I feel there is a whole level missing in the teaching of storytelling that comes before the standard teaching currently available.

If storytelling were a plant to grow - then we have many fine topiarists waiting to take the wild bush and finesse it into something extraordinary, but we have very few horticulturalist teachers, ready to help find the seeds and then explain the outcomes that seed, in that soil, with those supplements and climate chosen will produce. At the moment - this judgement is heaped on the writer within the ethereal 'talent' gene. But why? In marketing, public relations and human resources it is taught with an ever increasing number of elaborate tools and studies. Why can't the writers get in on this too?

I feel we are being told to go away and grow the bush and bring it back once it's mature - we'll work on it then. I think it's time we started working on the other end of the creative storytelling journey - the one right at the very beginning when the idea is formed and before it is in any way crafted.

Of course for many young writers, the bush selected at the very beginning will be weed, and then all their passion, hard work and dreams will simply go up in smoke. Nothing wrong with that either!

As a footnote - I did some terrific workshops with Laurie Hutzler about evaluating stories and characters and this is exactly the sort of writer's tools I'm banging on about that needs to be known and understood by writers BEFORE they create the story to give and allow them to make the choices that will deliver the results they are after. It's a little bit like the chicken and the egg in that you need a screenplay to deconstruct in order to understand the work fully, but the work, once understood, about what makes up the personality of character, is exactly what writers need to be aware of when making their story choices. Get one wrong, so a character does something to facilitate the story and is untrue to their character and you will end up with those pesky notes from readers evaluating your work - the sort that strike a deep ache in your stomach because you know the comment is justified and will send you back to the plotting table.

If you haven't heard of Laurie and her work check it out here. Laurie Hutzler.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

One Good Day - Again

My Screenplay One Good Day has now made the semi finals of the Final Draft Screenplay competition. 

I really didn't think I would get there this year - after I'd just come off another screenplay that did well in the Writer's Guild Competition. 

I made the top ten finalist list with this same screenplay last year and worked really hard to redraft the piece, using feedback from a number of sites I find great for feedback. 

Talentville - you get out of this what you put in, but I can now call on many fellow members to get great, quick and relatively private feedback. 

And the Blacklist - you need to be ready to get kicked in the macadamias with this one - because it is not an amateur site - they treat you like a professional and tell it like it is, but their paid feedback is insightful, clear and very unencumbered by 'fluffy' speak that people who don't give truly professional analyse often pad out feedback with. And at $50 for a reader report and $25 for a monthly listing it's good value - plus - if it gets great raves you may just get signed and/or produced!

Screenplay Title: One Good Day.
Synopsis: A teenage boy must re-evaluate his life after moving into a gay household and meeting an inspirational girl who challenges him to live every moment as if it were his last.

Final Draft 2013 Semi final list.

Semifinalists Feature

  • 3D At The Palace (Family/Animated) by Kent Wilson
  • A Little Fire (Period/Historical/War) by Linda Fisher
  • A Love So Loud (Family/Animated) by Heather Ferrell
  • A Pill For Your Thoughts (Drama) by Tyler Davis
  • A Place In The Ground (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Don Riemer
  • A Restoration Comedy (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Linda Jenkins
  • A Woman In The Shadows (Drama) by Julia Fontana
  • A Yellowstone Christmas (Family/Animated) by Daniel Klein
  • Absolutely Fearless (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Brian Erwin
  • Across The Border (Drama) by Jesse Cobb
  • Adrenaline Heart (Action/Adventure) by Mark Ching
  • Adult Publishing For Teenaged Girls (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Stacy Coffey
  • Alter (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Max Folkman & Nick Folkman
  • Amazonia (Action/Adventure) by Danielle Weinberg
  • Among The Dead (Thriller/Horror) by Thomas Gaunt
  • Arktos (Action/Adventure) by Eric Day
  • As Above, So Below (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Tara Hall
  • Asterion (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Kieron Holland
  • Backspace (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Charles Huneke
  • Bad Dads (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Sammy James, Jr.
  • Bank Robbing For Dummies (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Robert Keith Watson
  • Below (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Brian Selfon
  • Benjamin The Great (Family/Animated) by Scott Ruane
  • Bickleton, Usa (Family/Animated) by Noelle Buffam
  • Black Maddy (Drama) by Aaron Abdelhak
  • Black Sun (Thriller/Horror) by Andrew Goth
  • Blood Oil (Action/Adventure) by Neringa Bryant & Maureen Sheehan
  • Bloodlines (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by David Merlino & Dustin Sweet
  • Bloody Mary (Thriller/Horror) by Emily Felt
  • Bronx, Inc. (Period/Historical/War) by Mario O. Moreno
  • Burn Down House (Drama) by Simon Davidson
  • Canola (Family/Animated) by Robert Bowden
  • Caravaggio's Shadow (Period/Historical/War) by Torkjell Stromme
  • Ceasefire (Drama) by David Kaneen
  • Child Of War (Period/Historical/War) by Namina Forna
  • Cntrl + Alt + Del (Action/Adventure) by Lee Metzger
  • Containment (Thriller/Horror) by Nicholas Carr
  • Country Of The Blind (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Gert Basson
  • Dangerously Subversive (Period/Historical/War) by Stephany Folsom
  • Dave Made A Maze (Action/Adventure) by Steven Sears & Bill Watterson
  • Deadmen (Action/Adventure) by Andrew Hunt
  • Declivity (Thriller/Horror) by Lillian Curvey
  • Defeat (Drama) by Megan Riakos
  • Derby (Family/Animated) by Jennifer Taylor-Whitehorn
  • Digital Override (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Colburn Tseng
  • Ding (Drama) by Michael Lehman
  • Dinner With The Alchemist (Thriller/Horror) by Jenna St. John
  • Diving Into The Wreck (Drama) by Srdjan Smajic
  • Do Unto Others... (Action/Adventure) by Dave Merlino & Dustin Sweet
  • Doing Time In America (Drama) by Cori Healy
  • Domestic (Thriller/Horror) by Avra Fox-Lerner
  • Don't Call Me Sunshine (Period/Historical/War) by John Tinkelenberg
  • Dormants (Thriller/Horror) by Mark Raab
  • Double Game (Action/Adventure) by Baqar Hasnain
  • Dream Chasers (Drama) by Tyrone Mitchell
  • Eiko (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Sammy James, Jr.
  • Elephant In The Room (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Tom Morris
  • Elf Storage (Family/Animated) by Jeff Burdick
  • Erebus (Thriller/Horror) by Giovanni Taveras
  • Escorted (Drama) by Julio Alonzo, Tony Patrick & Keiland Goffigon
  • Every Mother's Son (Drama) by Jeff Goldstone
  • Fiend (Thriller/Horror) by Jeff York
  • Finding Distance (Family/Animated) by Jodi Levitan
  • Fire And Stone (Period/Historical/War) by Sue Scott
  • First Light (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Douglas Stark
  • Four Days In Pelico (Drama) by Patrick Sullivan
  • Frances (Drama) by Shawna Chance
  • Frankenswine (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Charlie Schulman
  • Freefall (Drama) by Sarah Walker
  • Freud (Period/Historical/War) by Daniel Ragussis
  • Geert The Elf (Action/Adventure) by Stephen Stull
  • Get Carly (Action/Adventure) by Paul Littell
  • Getting A Head (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Anthony Rivers
  • Ghost Story (Drama) by Julio Olivera & Eddie Strait
  • Go Cold (Drama) by Kevin Stein
  • Golden Calf (Action/Adventure) by Zack Slouka
  • Gonars (Family/Animated) by Katrina Nicholson
  • Haber (Period/Historical/War) by Daniel Ragussis
  • Haley's Flight (Family/Animated) by Michael Carnick
  • Hide & Seek (Action/Adventure) by Michael Zolezzi
  • In Excess (Family/Animated) by John Kim
  • Incision (Action/Adventure) by Michael Donald
  • Jokers & Thieves (Drama) by Mark Rathaus
  • Junk Boy (Drama) by Daniel G. Doyle
  • Kanowna - Place Of No Sleep (Period/Historical/War) by Chris Richards-Scully
  • Kill Kringle (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Craig Ghiglione
  • Kill The Writer (Action/Adventure) by Michael Hahn & William Lafferty
  • Kingmaker (Period/Historical/War) by Bradley Rister & Alexa-Sascha Lewin
  • Kosmonaut (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Jordan Wynn
  • Ladies' Night (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Michelle Amor
  • Lancelot (Period/Historical/War) by Nicholas Horwood
  • Let It Bleed (Thriller/Horror) by Marshall Moore
  • Limbo (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Nicole Grenoble
  • Lions Of Babylon (Period/Historical/War) by Michael Daniels
  • Lola (Drama) by Pauline Findlay
  • Lousy Lay (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Robert Keith Watson
  • Machina (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Tom Radovich
  • Maeve (Action/Adventure) by Roderick Mclachlan
  • Magdalena (Drama) by Roberto Saieh
  • Map Of The Universe (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Joshua Rebell
  • Marlowe (Period/Historical/War) by Louise Ransil
  • Milk Run (Period/Historical/War) by Lee Nuttall
  • Mobtown (Drama) by James Gossard & Gabriel Fremuth
  • Monsters For Hire (Family/Animated) by Josh Golden
  • Muffled Screams (Thriller/Horror) by David Kaneen
  • My Friend, The Wire (Thriller/Horror) by Michael Harring
  • Nonda (Drama) by Theresa Tierney & Eileen Tierney
  • Off The Rails (Action/Adventure) by John Reardon
  • On The Edge (Action/Adventure) by Dan Kinmonth
  • One Flip To Mars (Family/Animated) by Joanne Theodore
  • One Good Day (Drama) by Scott Taylor
  • One Night Only (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Heather Wilson
  • Operation Chariot (Period/Historical/War) by Jon Paquette
  • Otto The Strange (Drama) by Tony Martin
  • Our Own Sweet Time (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Stan Munslow
  • Pacoima (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Kate Douglas
  • Penance (Action/Adventure) by David Linke & Kevin Linke
  • Pigeons (Family/Animated) by Jenny Kirlin & Kitt Lavoie
  • Pink Balls (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Joe Eatherton
  • Poker Night (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Tony Leech & Mark Mollenkamp
  • Post-Apocalyptica (Action/Adventure) by Matthew Purdy, Dan Slater & Adam Booth
  • Postpartum (Thriller/Horror) by Ben Feuer
  • Princess Alice (Period/Historical/War) by Scott Abbott
  • Pushing Dawn (Thriller/Horror) by Matthew Breault
  • Railroad Girl (Period/Historical/War) by Briana London & Lynn Mills
  • Rasputin (Period/Historical/War) by Andrew Lloyd
  • Ravaged Country (Period/Historical/War) by Brian Selfon
  • Red Line (Action/Adventure) by Chris Roosen
  • Roanoke: A Tale Of Colonial Horror (Thriller/Horror) by Arjen Devries, Christopher Walters & Winston Pear
  • Roll With It (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Alicia Bien
  • Salmon Belly (Thriller/Horror) by Nathaniel Shapiro
  • Santa's Shrink (Comedy/Rom-Com) by P.J. Lewis & Dave Coulier
  • Saying Hello To The Devil (Action/Adventure) by B.J. Williams
  • Scarlet Peak (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Eric Dietel & Taylor Gledhill
  • Scenes From A Marriage (Drama) by Michael Easton
  • Scream Queens (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Susie Singer Carter & Don Priess, Robert Beaucage
  • Shovel Buddies. (Drama) by Jason Hellerman
  • Sky God (Drama) by David Shipko
  • Southpaw (Period/Historical/War) by John Reardon & Jesse Moss
  • Station (Period/Historical/War) by Andrew Byrne
  • Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes (Drama) by Kevin Rexroat
  • Stranded (Drama) by Andrew Crabtree
  • Subterranean (Thriller/Horror) by E.B. Rhee & Evan Stroncone
  • Swipe (Drama) by Daniel Sussman
  • Ted And Helen (Drama) by Diana Ardzrooni & Alyssa Katz
  • That Time Of The Month (Thriller/Horror) by Joe Hauler
  • The Author And The Aeronaut (Period/Historical/War) by Kendell Klein
  • The Baghdad Bureau (Drama) by Margaret Ables
  • The Bitter Bush (Drama) by Deborah Vajda
  • The Black Cat (Family/Animated) by Paula Sewell
  • The Day I Met Charlie (Drama) by Tom Geraty
  • The End-Of-Summer Guest (Period/Historical/War) by John Orlock
  • The Exiled Heart (Period/Historical/War) by Mark Olmsted
  • The File (Drama) by Peter Loffredo
  • The First Loser (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Nihar Patel
  • The Fountain And The Sparrow (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Jacob Colman
  • The Franchise (Comedy/Rom-Com) by James Grayford
  • The Girl Who Would Not Die (Period/Historical/War) by Marianne Wilner
  • The Grid (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Robert Matthews & Mike Marriage
  • The Incredible Journeys Of Supernova Jones (Family/Animated) by Aaron Senser
  • The Illustrious Gentleman (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Peter Baloff
  • The Last Cigarette (Drama) by Aron Flasher
  • The Last Draw Of Ruben Del Toro (Action/Adventure) by David Ventura Garcia
  • The Last Match (Action/Adventure) by Mike Scannell
  • The Miracle Five (Period/Historical/War) by Thomas Lockridge, Jeff Day & Rick Baker
  • The Moor (Period/Historical/War) by Thomas Thonson
  • The Morning After (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Rebekah Reaves
  • The North Star (Drama) by Daniel Rizzotto & Erica Meredith
  • The Pinkerton Principle (Comedy/Rom-Com and Drama) by Ant Keogh
  • The Plumbers (Period/Historical/War) by Sean Olenick
  • The Ride Along (Action/Adventure) by Rich Elvers
  • The Rum Jungle (Action/Adventure) by David Stephens & Peter Petrucci
  • The Sky Is Blue Like An Orange (Period/Historical/War) by Caveh Zahedi & Arnold Barkus
  • The Weekend (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Angela Cravens Chander
  • The Weeping Virgins Of Ogallala (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Michael Barry
  • Three If By Air (Thriller/Horror and Drama) by Peter Field
  • Tuff Mutha (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Christopher Van Dijk
  • Tundra (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Burke Kearney
  • Used (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Brad Sharpe
  • Virtual Life (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by David Hitchcock
  • Virtual Witness (Thriller/Horror) by Diana Osberg
  • Visions (Thriller/Horror) by Steven Gottlieb & Howard Walper
  • Where Vengeance Waits (Thriller/Horror) by Robert Everson
  • Wilful Destruction (Comedy/Rom-Com) by Anthony Turnbull
  • Wreckage (Action/Adventure) by Arlene Leigh Cox & Joshua Cox
  • Zombie Apocalypse (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) by Amanda Creiglow
  • Zombie Nazis (Thriller/Horror) by Doug Still

Friday, 11 October 2013

Shortlisted for the Writer's Guild Screenplay Award!

AWG - The professional association for writers for performance
Winner of the INSITE AWARD 2013 to be announced Sunday 13th October at the Adelaide Film Festival

The Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG), together with the Adelaide Film Festival (AFF), are very excited to announce the shortlist for the 2013 INSITE Unproduced Screenplay Competition. INSITE is one of the premier screenwriting competitions for unproduced screenplays in Australia and showcases some of the outstanding work being written by AWG members.

Congratulations to:
  •  The Original B written by Mark Bryan
  •  Tigress written by Jane Hampson
  •  Lighting Up written by Tracy Richardson
  •  The Crooked Head written by Cathryn Strickland
  • Faking It written by Scott Taylor
  • Holy Stone written by John Thompson

After receiving over 260 entries written by Australian writers from around the globe, the competition for the Insite Award has confirmed its position as one of the most popular screenwriting competitions in Australia. The AWG would like to thank all the judges involved for their time, effort and continued support.
The winner will be announced by AWG President Jan Sardi, the internationally acclaimed and Academy Award nominated writer ofShine, The Notebook, Mao's Last Dancer, this SUNDAY - 13th October - at a special AFF Meet the Writers event at the Festival Club.
Chair of the AWG SA Committee, Andrew Bovell (Writer of Lantana, Head On, A Most Wanted Man) will host a panel discussion with writers of AFF films to share their stories including:  Sophie Hyde (Writer & Director of 52 Tuesdays), Matthew Cormack (Writer of 52 Tuesdays), Matthew Saville (Writer of Noise & Director of Bonny Doon), Nick Matthews (Writer & Director of One Eyed Girl), Craig Behenna (Screenwriter of One Eyed Girl) and Zak Hilditch (Writer & Director These Final Hours).

WHEN: Sunday 13th October 2013
WHERE: Festival Club  (aka Little Miss Mexico & Miami): Cnr Grenfell & Frome St, Adelaide 5000

TIME: 1:00pm

Please note this is a free public event and bookings are not necessary.

Here's a little more about my screenplay from an earlier Blog entry.
Faking It - By Scott Taylor


Faking it didn't win - it went to Tigress by Jane Hampson. Mine was a very commercial rom-com set in the outback, so I was very happy it was noticed like that by the Guild. It now goes into their Pathways program designed to get writers and producers together. 

Of course congratulations to the winner and I simply feel very happy and honoured to be short listed and also FUCK!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Everything's Coming up Comedy.

It's been an interesting week. A couple of years ago, 2008 to be exact, I tried to put my name forward to write some scripts for a TV sketch comedy show. It was to be a mish mash of comedy and comedy news, ala my beloved "Daily Show" - the one show in all the world I'd love to work for - possibly also Colbert! My submission to write for the show was ignored - disappeared into the wind. I wasn't given an interview, not even shortlisted and mainly because my writing resume didn't include any comedy.

We were asked to submit 10 news items from that week's news and also come up with a couple of sketches. I thought I came up with a few zingers - here's what I submitted...

Topical Jokes.

May 22nd 2008 - Kevin Rudd confirmed today the Australian forces in Afghanistan would not be pulling out. The head of the Australian defense forces said the decision would make little difference to troops as visiting model Tania Zaetta uses oral contraception.

A young humpback whale has been put down after being beached on Rottnest Island. The whale was euthanized by firearm at about 5pm and while whale enthusiasts were disheartened, producers of ‘The Biggest Loser’ watched events with interest.

Gold Logie winner and soap star Kate Ritchie has split from her skateboarding boyfriend, Corbin Harris. Corbin has reportedly been spending time with the new blonde chick at the surf club, and most expected the couple to reunite by the same time tomorrow night.

Tasmanian artist Adrian Avenell needs 438,000 cigarette butts for an anti-smoking display. Former Elders chief and smoking stalwart, John Elliot, was happy to give 2 days of his time towards supporting the arts.

The man who launched ‘N’Synch’ and ‘Back Street Boys’ was today jailed for 25 years. Facing charges of swindling investors out of more than 300 million dollars, his sentence was primarily for launching ‘N’Synch’ and ‘Back Street Boys’.

America’s democracy continues to be scrutinized like never before as Hilary Rodham  Clinton and Barack Obama face off in the Democratic primaries. With neither contender able to post a definitive lead, the party believes the contest should be decided by rock, paper, scissors. Best of three.

May 23rd - Thieves yesterday broke into the home of former Prime Minister John Howard and stole clothes and jewellery. The value of the items has yet to be established, but a Dimmey’s spokesman said the tracksuit alone could run as much as $9.99.

Veteran US senator Edward Kennedy left hospital yesterday after doctors announced he had a malignant brain tumour. US President George Bush was quick to wish the Kennedy Patriarch the best, while the rest of America wished the tumour was in George.

Courtney Issabella Bailey received a four-month suspended jail term today after pleading guilty to a relationship with a person under the age of 17. The relationship began when the boy asked Bailey for a picture of her breasts and was sent a picture of Pamela Anderson’s breasts instead. When asked if she felt the picture had lured the boy under false pretenses, Bailey questioned why this was an issue as Pamela had been doing the same thing for years.


NARRATOR: Poland, 1948. The 11 members of the Broschowski family sit down for dinner in their one room apartment.
There is a rabble of voices.
PIOTR:           Quiet! Everyone quiet. I thought we agreed during family dinners, whoever is holding the silver cup would get to speak.
They come to silence.
DOROTA:      Can I have the cup?
PIOTR:           Yes, Dorota.
DOROTA:      I think Wojtyek should do more of the housework.
BEATTA:       He spent all day looking for food.
DOROTA:      He didn't bring anything home.
PIOTR:           When he got to the front they’d sold out.
DOROTA:      That shouldn't be an excuse. It’s so unfair. (Beat) Can I be excused 
                       to go to the bathroom?
PIOTR:           Of course.
Dorota gets up and leaves.
FX: A door opens and closes. Bathroom acoustics.
Dorota talks to the ceiling. 
DOROTA:      Hello? Hello, can you hear me? I'd like to nominate Wojtyek. He 
                       never helps with anything and I heard him say he doesn't like 
NARRATOR: This has been another classic moment from the 60th anniversary of Big Brother.


INTERVIEWER:       I’m here with the Reverend Timothy Collins who claims the Bible has been widely misinterpreted. How so Reverend?
REVEREND:             God is gay.
REVEREND:             Yes.
INTERVIEWER:       What do you have to back this claim up?
REVEREND:             He’s single and elderly and there’s never been any mention of a wife or girlfriend.
INTERVIEWER:       Perhaps God doesn’t need a partner?
REVEREND:             Then why does he live with Peter?
INTERVIEWER:       Saint Peter?
REVEREND:             Who spends all his time in the front yard tending the pearly-gates. Pearly’s a little flamboyant, don’t you think? And before Peter was Gabriel, ‘whom God loved but cast from heaven after taking his wings’.
INTERVIEWER:       You’re referring to the uprising of angels?
REVEREND:             Everyone knows when gay men break up they argue over pets and clothes. ‘Wings’ are a metaphor for designer labels, Gucci or Prada – clearly high end. And we all know Noah got the pets.
INTERVIEWER:       There will be critics who’ll argue you’re completely insane.
REVEREND:             And I would say unto them, consider the world we were given. God gave us a canvas of green and blue. But three months later he changes this to reds and yellows and flaming oranges. Three months after this he strips it bare, giving us minimalist grays and white. And then, another three months go by and we return to greens and blue. That sounds like a gay man decorating to me.

To get deep for just a moment as I reflect on my week, in life, your ethos is one of the few things you get to decide entirely for yourself. That's an extraordinary thing to remember - given, for each of us, it's the biggest thing in our lives. How we tackle each day, adversity and how we pick ourselves up to go on. 

Long ago I decided, with all the opportunities that didn't seem to be going my way, and as a writer rejection is an everyday reality, spending my time being bitter and upset and making excuses about how and why I wasn't being given opportunities would be a waste of my time. Instead I decided to look closely at what had been rejected and try to improve and get better so the next time I might reverse the decision.

Sometimes it takes a long time and many, many pieces of a puzzle to come together to see a result for all that hard work. 

As a result of wanting to write comedy and not being taken seriously, I began a series of stand-up comedy workshops. That was in 2008. Slowly, fighting my nerves, I progressed to performing. I still don't do many gigs, but I've arrived at a place where I can relax and enjoy being up there and it's a great place for a writer to test out a lot of silly jokes and ideas to see how a live audience responds.

As a result I have met and shared billing with many well known Australian and International comedians. Included among these is Lawrence Mooney.

In 2010 I co-wrote and directed a successful Melbourne Comedy Festival show for David Tulk, a very well known Melbourne comic. That and my previous work history of setting up and running drama shows for Fremantlemedia led to me getting a job as Script Producer on a new comedy show. The show didn't last long. It was called "The Bounce" - starring Peter Hellier and it was produced out of Melbourne. It would have been my dream job had it lasted - a mixture of football, comedy and sketches. One of the comedy writers on that show was Lawrence Mooney. 

At some stage, since that show ended in 2010, I had an idea for what I thought would make a great comedy and Lawrence seemed to be the perfect person to play the lead. I'd seen his two previous comedy festival shows, done stand-up alongside him and come to know him fairly well. Then this year he was named as host of his own network comedy panel show and I suddenly understood why he'd been so busy of late and unable to catch up. But he was suddenly a known celebrity network wise and this made me more determined to talk to him about my idea.

I took a drastic step, in among Lawrence's new show, his new child, his relatively new marriage and moving to a new house I wrote the pilot of the show I had told him I had in mind. It's far easier to explain something that's on a page than an idea that is still only a concept. Lawrence read - he liked, so we chatted and found ourselves both excited by what we could do if we could get this idea to the screen.   

Yesterday I had a meeting with the head of a well established production company, Renegade, who make many great productions including Wilfred and Rockwiz here in Oz. They have offices in Melbourne - a bike ride from my house! The meeting went well and, the company CEO, Joe, was open, welcoming and enthusiastic. I left feeling positive - even though the best I can say is, he didn't say no.

But in this business, someone not saying no is a so much better than the alternative. As one of my old bosses at Fremantle said when we were analyzing the reasons a network head gave for turning one of our pitches down - "A no is a no." Never a clearer or colder word spoken and it almost never gets reversed.

But my journey to this meeting, where I didn't hear the word no, took six years and many different pieces coming together to simply get through that door. It's an example of how far you sometimes have to go to make an opportunity for yourself in this business. 

Of course, way back in 2008 when my comedy was rejected, I could have sat around and bitched about being completely ignored, but as my gay friends constantly remind me - "Bitches sit alone."    

To celebrate my meeting, a meeting that didn't end in a 'no', I went out and did some stand-up ... 

Exford Hotel - Comedy - October 3rd 2013.