The Blog, News and Updates

Daily tips, strategies and insights from successful screenwriters and world class trainers.

The importance of thinking in Super Story by Keith Slote

May 24, 2020
 

Houston Howard sees the entertainment market now, not last week, not last year, not 1997 (the year he enjoys referring to) but NOW. Today. This very second. 

Co-founder of One 3 Creative, Houston specialises in creating stories, immersing audiences and building communities for entertainment projects, literally across the boards. He has written two books, Make your story really stinkin' big, and You're gonna need a bigger story, and hosts The Super Story podcast. 

What is Transmedia ?

I have to confess. I started watching this session expecting very little would be relevant to me (I'm exactly the person who needs to hear what Houston has to say). I thought he’d be referring to VR or brand merchandise and such. Houston quickly clarifies transmedia means none of this. 

What he wants us to think about is how our stories can play across broadcast media, books, games, virtually anything that can be used as a medium for storytelling. To hear him explain how even a...

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Alison Flierl isn't horsing around about comedy by Savannah Morgan

May 24, 2020
 

Having written for Bojack Horseman, School of Rock, and Conan, you may be surprised to learn that one of Alison Flierl's favourite shows remains her no-budget webseries called TV Guide Letter Theater - specifically the episode featuring a musical ode to NCIS. After watching an episode, I can see why: It's impossible not to laugh as the "TV Guide viewers" parade out, singing their reactions to the show, with gems like: "I didn't know there were so many navy crimes!" 

Interviewer Bob Schultz (still grinning gleefully as the clip ended), chimes in, "I feel like you guys were ahead of your time - making dry commentary on the commentary on the commentary." 

She laughs and agrees they were "very meta." Even then, Flierl's "voice" was strong. The entire first season was made for only $100 - and yet its fans went on to include two of the executive producers at Netflix (the studio behind Bojack). It brings home a point she made several times during the course of her session: 

...
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Why do you write and other questions from Robert McKee, by Cassi Camilleri

May 23, 2020
 

‘Why do I put myself through this hell? Why don’t I go get a job like normal people?’ Seconds into his Masterclass and these are the kind of questions Robert McKee is throwing at me. My internal knee jerk answer was; ‘It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done.’ Not great. 

Seconds later, marginally less crappy answers begin to bubble to the surface ‘I write to share my view of the world. I write to connect to people. I write to figure out a way forward.’ This last one proves pertinent. 

Human consciousness is a gift that separates us from most (controversially, all) other animals, McKee posits. But it is also the root of much suffering. It makes us aware of our impending demise. As a result, most of us live our lives carrying this leaden dread of the inevitable moment when we return to darkness. “Life has no intrinsic meaning,” he tells us, but there is hope - story.

Humans were made to tell stories,...

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Writing evocatively in enclosed spaces, by John Morris

May 23, 2020
 

In the brief clip shown of George Kay’s seminal show Criminal David Tennant’s character, Dr. Edgar Fallon, impassionately sits at the interrogation table, flanked by two detectives and his lawyer. The camera holds on him as he’s asked question after question and he merely responds with a curt, ‘no comment’. 

This brief piece of footage represents the ethos of the show. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t rely on cliche chase sequences or over-the-top interrogations: it’s a show firmly aimed towards its characters, unravelling their personalities as they try to achieve their myriad motivations.

In the hour-long session George breaks down how the idea for the show formed, and how he managed to explore so much despite Criminal being limited to only three locations. 

On its creation 

Criminal can trace its roots back to a monologue George wrote for Channel 4. He enjoyed the exercise of being creative within confines, so asked...

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Get it ON THE PAGE: with Pilar Alessandra by Cassi Camilleri

May 22, 2020
 

‘It’s all about those first ten pages. After that, they stop reading.’ How many times has that phrase struck fear in your heart? Well, beloved screenwriting educator Pilar Alessandra (the mind behind On The Page’) has news for you. 

It just isn’t true, she says. Then swiftly follows up with the BUT we’ve all been waiting for. ‘BUT they will be more intrigued and more willing to keep turning the page if you grab them right away,’ 

And with that we kicked off one of the most productive sessions of the London Screenwriters’ Festival, packed with immediately actionable takeaways. Here are some of my favourites. 

1. Stop overphysicalising your characters  

When introducing their characters, many writers default to describing their appearance. 

‘Linda (25), blonde and beautiful.’ ‘Eric (30), tall and handsome.’ 

There’s a whole lot of reasons why you shouldn’t...

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Meeting the Mentor (and four other archetypes) by James Alexander Allen

May 22, 2020
 

The brains behind the “Best of the Best" scriptwriting website ‘Go Into The Story,’ Scott Myers is a modern story guru. Over the course of two hours, he focuses on the protagonist and nemesis (nemesis being a much stronger word than antagonist!). Here are the main takeaways from this goldmine of a session:

Inside-out better than Outside-in

“Make your protagonist more sympathetic.” “Give them a flaw.” “What’s their wound?”

These are things screenwriters often hear from execs. And while there’s nothing wrong with it, adding sympathy and flaws can feel misapplied and forced if done purely from an outside perspective. Instead, Scott recommends digging into your protagonist’s psyche, and finding the story conflict from within. Resist surface level character development; dig deeper.

External vs Internal World

Stories operate on two levels, Scott says. He distinguishes between the protagonist’s external world,...

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Why you need humour in your horror by Sam Kurd

May 21, 2020
 

By Sam Kurd

There’s a reason Poltergeist is a stone cold classic horror film. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s heartfelt – it hits every beat expertly. A key player in making that happen was Michael Grais, who along with fellow scribe Mark Victor, delivered the script for producer Steven Spielberg. 

Michael shared his journey and insights with us in a Script to Screen session hosted by Bob Shultz, taking us through the ins and outs of bringing this spookfest to life.

The first thing we learned is that Michael and Mark very nearly didn’t write it at all. Their work had landed in Spielberg's hands and, impressed, he’d brought them in to discuss an entirely different project. He wanted them to write a remake of A Guy Named Joe (which Spielberg would eventually make, re-titled ‘Always’). 

At the end of the meeting he casually mentioned to them that he was working on a story where the ghosts come out of the TV, and the concept...

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Jeff Norton's how to build the perfect world for your story By Cassi Camilleri

May 21, 2020
 

For many, hearing the term ‘world building’ triggers association with fantasy, magic, Dungeons and Dragons. And while all those things do feature a lot in conversations about World Building, there is so much more to it. 

Award-winning author, writer-producer Jeff Norton jumped on Facebook LIVE with us at the London Screenwriters' Festival to dole out some inspo and advice, and shine light on the more unseen aspects of world building. 

Worlds don’t have to be sprawling 

Yes, you can create your own magical realms and build them from the ground up. But Jeff urges us not to ignore smaller worlds which already exist around us, often ignored by the mainstream. Subcultures operate as their own microcosm and make for rich, real worlds. 

Take Trainspotting and how it gave people a glimpse into the life of Heroin addict. Netflix’s Unorthodox takes an existing part of our community and hones in on that as it delves into the story of a young woman...

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Mine your childhood for nuggets of horror gold by Sam Kurd

May 20, 2020
 

By Sam Kurd

Screenwriter/Director Pat Higgins has made a career out of horror films; bloody tales of crazed killers and things that go bump in the night. His films tend to have a comedic edge (Strippers vs. Werewolves, anyone?), but he knows how to press the right buttons to send chills down the spine.

In this special session he shared some tips on how to give your horror writing that personal touch.

Consider the audience

Pat posed an interesting question: “Is Poltergeist a horror movie for children?” As a film it taps into childhood fears very well – consider the creepy clown doll in the children’s room, the tree branches that scrape against the window. How many of us woke up in the night and scared ourselves stupid imagining a pile of clothes on a chair was a creature ready to spring?

By way of contrast, Pat mentioned how The Exorcist might leave a younger viewer cold while scaring the pants off an older member of the audience who has a child of their own....

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How writers’ rooms can keep the juices flowing by Barbara Skubic

May 19, 2020
 

By Barbara Skubic

What do the shows Life on Mars, Hustle, Dickensian, and Besa have in common? Legendary television creator, writer and producer Tony Jordan, the boss of the Red Planet and a constellation of his own. During their discussion, Tony and Rachel Patterson talked about writing and writers’ rooms in these extraordinary times.

On hoops and ladders (or how to start)

Having started out as a writer on EastEnders, Tony found it difficult to progress from short serialised drama to the longer form no matter how much mileage and success he had. He believes this was because of the hierarchy among television writers at the time, which Rachel confirmed it still exists.

His solution? He branched out in his writing. Having to prove himself over and over again in different spheres helped him forge a diverse and unpredictable career. 

On the process

Tony doesn’t like treatments. To him, a treatment feels like explaining a gag before delivering the punch line....

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