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You’ve completed your first draft, now what?

29 May

Ping, ping, LinkedIn notified there was a new topic for discussion.

I don’t really check many of those emails, but for some reason, this one I did. And now, after reading a blog post it advertised and quickly skimming through the content of the whole website, I’m extremely pleased I paid attention to the ping, ping sound. It help me discover a very interesting blog about screenwriting run by Tony Fanton.

Click on the link below, and check it for yourself:

You’ve completed your first draft, now what?.

Below is some info about Tony, I copied from his LinkedIn profile. Tony, if you are reading this, I hope you don’t mind 😉

Tony Folden has a fond appreciate for the finer television programs of the 80s, including such shows as Three’s Comapny, WKRP in Cincinnati, and M*A*S*H. These were the shows from which Tony received his inspiration. He’s also a huge fan of Tarantino, Wheddon, and Sorkin. By reading the scripts of these amazing writers, Tony learned the aluable art of dialogue. He considers himself to be what he refers to as a Dialogue Architect, building vibrant scenes suing scintillating verbal exchanges.

Tony grew up in a community so small it couldn’t even be called a town. He learned the value of a vivid imagination within those small surroundings, creating imaginary friends to keep him entertained. He later used that same imagination, and those friends, to create wonderful imaginary worlds to captivate others.

Tony began writing at an early age, but didn’t follow that passion until later in life. In his late 30s, he entered into the field of acting where he discovered the art of screenwriting. He then returned to school to obtain his degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University.

Tony aspires to write for television, but he has not reserved himself to only TV. He plans to expand his talents to the Internet. Whether for a major network or an Internet platform such as Hulu, Tony wants to share his unique style of comedy and old-school sitcom flair with the world.

First After Effects animation made with Shroom Studios

29 Apr

I’ve always wanted a branded intro to my films. But wanting an animation and doing an animation are two different things. However, with a little bit of luck and networking I finally found a way to achieve that. Cue Music. Enter Christos and Alex Hatjoullis from Shroom Studio in London Fields, Hackney, London.

Now a question: Have you ever considered how long does it take to make a 1 second of animation?

I clearly had no idea. But in the case of the clip below (in loop) it took about 4.5 hours!!! 4.5 hours for one tiny second of a character jumping ! And that was ONLY because I had very detailed instructions and guidance from Alex Hatjoullis, who is a professional animator. I would have probably spent weeks, if not months, trying to work out how to do it myself.

Mally-27th-April--Anima-Jumping-loop-HS

All we started with, was this drawing of a character (below) Alex made after I told him about my idea for an animated sequence. How cute is she, right? A week and a one long After Effects lesson later, she is now bouncing from a trampoline and in the next few weeks she is due to do some other acrobatics too :).

Mallywini by Shroom Studio

Alex paid attention to the final detail. Just notice how her skirt lifts up and goes down and how her body stretches just that tiny bit at the top of the jump. No wonder. After all, I was working with true professionals.

Alex and his brother Christos, who I am lucky to have as my mentor at ZeroOne Creative Hub, have nearly 15 years of experience in branding and animation. They formed Shroom Studios in 2001 and since then worked on an overwhelming amount of projects, from independent art films to documentaries, commercials and political or social campaigns. They had worked commissioned by BBC and Channel 4 and their unique style of presenting content and animation style have been recreated by other animation companies.

Click on the logo to go to their website. There you will find examples of their work together with a blog, where Christos shares some of his and his brother’s favourite animations from all over the world. Shroom Studio

I got to respect and like both brothers very much.  They are both humble and generous in sharing their knowledge and helping others. They are also extremely involved within their community and value their small-business clients just as much, if not tiny bit more, as the bigger companies. They are also incredibly creative and together have an overwhelming amount of hobbies. Christos, I believe, is topping up the scale with his photography of dead insects, music composition, contemporary dance practice and even trampolining, which came very useful in designing our character’s movements. Moreover, they are both appreciative of their family and incredibly proud of their dad’s art work, who despite his advanced age still makes extremely detailed artwork on linoleum. Take a look on the photo where Alex is holding his collection of moths. Prints of their Dad’s artwork can be seen in the background. And check out Christos’ photograph of dead insects. He collects them, keeps them for years and photographs the decomposition process. Death and decay turned into beauty. A true artist.

Christos Hatjoullis from Shroom Studio and his photographs of dead insects

Christos Hatjoullis from Shroom Studio and his photographs of dead insects

I thoroughly enjoyed learning After Effects with Alex. So much so in fact, that I was still buzzing the whole of next day.

What’s more, in the breaks, Alex kept feeding my already overexcited head with inspirations for my other animation sequences. The one I had in mind for the PolinArts, the documentary about Polish Artists in London… Yes, yes, this project is still in progress. I’m clearly not a rabbit when it comes to finishing my projects. I am a turtle; but I will get to the end of the race… Eventually.

“The Closure”: Adapting Theatre to Film and Writing for Low Budget

19 Feb

Even though I have been recently very busy with the documentary, I have not forgotten about all those fiction projects that have been dusting in the drawers. So with the days getting that bit longer and some sun coming my way, I started itching to do some story led film.

Making a low- or more precisely no-budget movie is an art on its own. The path to success is laid with a number of obstructions, mostly due to the lack of money.

One of the project I was considering was a short theatre play I directed over a year ago and had been planning to adapt for a screen ever since. The writer, Doc Watson, made an awesome job by setting the action in one room, a large, empty basement. A genius concept for a theatre play. No furniture, limited props, open space. Brilliant. Yet, for a short film you need to have an actual large and empty basement, which is not so common, especially in London, where every square meter is utilised for accomodation. Not to mention that getting it for free is nearly impossible.  This was mainly why I hadn’t had a chance of making the film so far. However, this time I was very lucky as I found out that one of my recently made friends had an access to a large basement and an empty house for sale. Perfect! That was exactly what I needed.

Without much thinking, my talented cinematographer and a friend Martyna and I set up a very short deadline and sent out casting calls. One would ask why I needed to cast again, having worked on the play before. Well, I was very pleased with my actors who took part in the theatre production,but the idea I had for film called for different physical appearance of both actors. This just shows how what a difficult and ungrateful profession acting can be.

As our posts are being verified and approved by casting websites and we can start receiving applications from actors (fingers crossed!), I have time to adapt the script to a screenplay.
A theatre play usually requires more dialog than a screenplay. In film characters’ thoughts or emotions can be communicated through specific images that are impossible to create on a stage. Visualising the possible shots can be dangerously exciting and it’s easy to go wild. Unfortunately, writing for low budget requires following certain rules.

Kim Simone and Mark Postgate in 'Closure' by Doc Watson, directed by me

Kim Simone and Mark Postgate in ‘Closure’ by Doc Watson, directed by me

Yet, right at the beginning of the work, I nearly made a classic mistake by plotting the action in too many locations. Luckily, I stopped myself as soon as I wrote the first scene. Careful, not too waste my time again, I looked up at some online articles about the topic of writing for low-budget. I linked them up for you at the bottom of this post.

Here is our casting post for The Closure:
‘The Closure’ is a story of a man hunted by his relative’s crime. It asks a question about the dark side of a human mind and how much of it we share with our family.
 
Mr Willis, Male, 35-55
At first, Mr Willis comes across as confident, powerful man. Yet as the story develops he reveals a troubled psyche and ill fascination with his relative’s past actions that mades him question his own sanity. This is a great and challenging role for a male actor. It requires a wide range of emotions presented in a short time. An actor playing this role needs to be able to ooze the cold and threatening confidence of Hannibal Lecter, dangerous innocence of Norman Bates and break down to child-like sobs at the end. A striking physics would be an advantage.

Anna Smith, Female, 20-35 

Anna is a young and a bit too eager to succeed estate agent. Tempted by a potential quick sale and large bonus, she falls into the trap of a kidnaper. This role requires an actress with a mixture of subtle comic skills and an ability to present believable and complex emotional responses to the threat her character is under.

This production company has signed up to the <a href=’http://www.protectingactors.org/terms.php’>Protecting Actors Casting Agreement</a>, helping to ensure all actors involved receive a copy of the final footage in a timely fashion.

Protecting Actors : SHIELD:5295
<a href=’http://www.protectingactors.org/production.php?uid=5295′><img src=’http://www.protectingactors.org/img/badge.jpg&#8217; width=”200″ height=”76″></a>

Here are few ARTICLES about WRITING FOR LOW- BUDGET FILMS:

Writing scripts for a low budget features: Reservoir Dogs as a Model by Script Teach

8 Secrets to Writing a Low Budget Screenplay by ZedFest

And about ADAPTING FOR FILM:

Adapting from Theatre to Film by Mikuro.Mak-Sima

20 Greatest Stage to Screen Adaptations by GeekWeek

Mallywini Films School: Scriptwriting and London Screenwriters’ Festival 2012

6 Apr

As I am preparing the script for the short film challenge I set myself- I’d like to write a bit about scriptwriting.

Call me slow, but I have only recently realised how much effort goes into a good script and that screen/scriptwriting requires a continuously developed and mastered craft. The only thing that can excuse my ignorance, was the fact that even though I made number of short films based on my own ideas (put down in a form of a script of course), I have never called myself a script/screen-writer. My writing was done at a spur of a moment, out of a sudden inspiration or out of a need to come up with a story. The work was never really developed, advanced or polished. I simply didn’t know how to do it nor I really felt the need for it. Each script was the best I was able to do at that time. What the scripts lacked, I developed while directing and then made the best of everything in editing.

London Screenwriters Festival 2012

This changed after I went to London Screenwriters’ Festival (LSF) last year where I took part in number of sessions on screenwriting. I saw hundreds of writers at different stages of their career and their understanding of writing. I learned a lot and the best thing was that at the end I felt like I was part of something, something big, something exciting. It was a good feeling. Most importantly, the sessions gave me the tools for analysing scripts and developing them.

Here are two speakers I remembered most and short summaries of what I learned from them ( if the pictures look familiar, they probably are – they were stolen from the LSF official website but all in the good cause- I hope that Chris Jones won’t chase me down for that):

Kate Leys at LSF 2012

KATE LEYS (www.kateleys.co.uk), a feature script editor, was the first speaker I listened to. I was lucky to snick into her session despite the fact that the room was full and a couple before me was turned away.

Kate was a very humble and entertaining speaker. I have like 9 pages of notes from her session, but here are the most important ideas:

1. What makes a good protagonist is the struggle she/he deals with BEFORE the story begins.

2. Act 1 takes place when that struggle reaches its peak and the character needs to do something about it.  Act 2, in Kate’s own words, “delivers crap to the center character”

3. Another quote about writing dialogue: “Sometimes it’s the right line, just the wrong person saying it”

4. “It’s not what characters do, that makes a good story, it’s what they WANT.(…) Think what’s missing in their live, what’s on stake?

5. Key questions to ask yourself:

Whose story is it? ________What does this person want? _______Why can’t they have it?_________ What do they need to realise it? _________ What stopping them from learning it?

Pilar Alessandra at LSF 2012

PILAR ALESSANDRA (www.onthepage.tv) was another memorable speaker. But Pilar is more than a speaker, she is a teacher. A very good one. Being a teacher myself, I can tell a great teacher when I see one.

Her session was about dialogue and how to make it more dynamic. Here are few tips from Pilar:

1. Each character has a different agenda/objective. Each line of the dialogue should come out of the need of this character.

2. Each character has different strategy in achieving what she/he needs. The dialogue should consider such strategies, e.g. flattering, avoiding the subject, complaining, wise cracking, silence (!)

3. Then there are techniques or as Pilar calls it “Actions”. This include moaning, whimpering, shouting etc.

4. Finally, as very useful note for beginning screenwriters about Exposition:

“Your character already knows things, no way to communicate them out loud.”

Needless to say, I am planning to attend the 2013 edition of LSF. If you are going to be there too, please say ‘hello’, a canteen full of 300 networking writers can be an intimidating place to enter at first, as I experienced at first hand.

LSF 2012

The last session of the festival. I’m at the front to the left.

Schedule for the next two weeks = short film challenge

2 Apr

Easter break means few things for me- firstly, it’s a time without paid work; which sucks… However, it also means that I have time to get on with what I really love- filmmaking. So, I crack on.

PolinArts is of course at the top of the list, clearly because I hope to get it finish for the set deadline, which is at the end of the month! Help! The looooong list of smaller tasks includes:

  • organise and conduct interviews with the rest of the PolinArtists and the others from the list
  • prepare animations
  • find suitable music/composer (ideally)
  • organise interviews in Poland (but stay in UK- magic!)
  • set up Twitter for the project (scary!)
  • find a designer for opening credits (brief is already written) and for a logo/promotional materials
  • film b-rolls from London
  • log footage
  • make transcript from interviews
  • edit…

Not much, eh!?

Apart from the above, there is one or two more projects I’d like to do. I’d like to make a short film. Correction- I NEED to make a short film. It’s been too long… I have a script from a young screenwriter that’s been waiting ages for it to be turned into a decent film. The script unfortunately needs some work, but once it’s finished it shouldn’t take more than two days to film it. But organising the production will take probably most of the remaining timMallywini 2 weeks challengee.

Yet, I’d still like more. Sometime ago, I have offered to make a music video for a band I know. We discussed it last month, but there was never enough time to do it. The Easter holiday seem perfect for it…

So, a challenge begins.  Having a tendency of being over ambitious, can I actually do everything I set up for myself? Let’s hope so…

Documentary making- my reflections so far

26 Mar

207x160_entrevista_FilosofiaCriancas_PPPolinArts and the Outsiders, or more precisely the shorter version of it, which will most probably be called PolinArts and Prometheus(es), is progressing nicely. I have almost 3 hours of footage and there will be more. In the meantime,  I thought I’d share what I’ve learned whilst working on it. You might find it useful, if, like me, you’re no stranger to filmmaking, but it’s the first time you do a documentary.

Equipment: Before shooting I did a lot of research. I checked the price and specifications of professional cameras, DSLR’s, semi professionals and consumer types. I looked at mics, light steady cams and all other types of camera accessories. I watched closely other documentaries, read blogs about the subject and looked at books. Eventually, I decided that – what matters is the content! Not the equipment (well, apart from having a decent microphone). This is why I stacked to the little HDV camera I had and focused on getting the right interviews and putting together a decent story. Having a light weight camera is very useful when doing handheld shots and, as I am filming it myself, with an automatic focus and fixed lens I don’t need to spent too much time on deciding how to shoot but focus instead on what to shoot.

Interviews: I must admit I felt very unprepared the first time I had to ask my character/subject questions. Will I ask the right questions for the information I want to get? How far can I push? Do I want stay nice and therefore friends with my subjects or do I not care? etc But before the panic could creep in and paralyse me completely, I thought: “Hold on! Everyone started somewhere! The TV presenters, investigative journalists had to also learn they craft and I’m sure that they made mistakes at some point.  So, if I have to make mistakes, I better make them now than wait till I’m perfectly ready, which may never happen”. Since then I conducted several interviews with number of people. You can’t always prepare as you don’t always know who you’re going to meet. But if you have the main idea of what your documentary is about- you’ll be fine. I will not know how well I did until I see the whole footage in the edit but until then, I carry on… improvising whenever necessary 🙂

There was another thing that I learned from conducting interviews, which I found extremely liberating. Unlike in fiction, when the writer have to come up with the lines for every character, in documentary interviewed characters take that responsibility away from the writer. If you find people that have the views you want to present, they will say them, often much better that you could ever think of.  All you have to do is to make sure that you don’t just have only ‘taking heads’ in your documentary. That’s the biggest challenge of a director! And that’s where the fun is!