What To Do Once The Screenplay Is Written

Originally published by Raindance.

I’m currently going through the experience of writing a screenplay myself, and aside from the required self-motivation, self-discipline and self-criticism, it can hard to know where to go with it once you’ve actually written the damn thing. The completion of the said screenplay may initially feel like the hardest past – there have certainly been days when I wished it would just write itself – but now it seems as if getting it out to the world, and to the right people in it, might actually prove more tricky. So here are some tips I’ve learnt and stumbled across along the way, accompanied by pictures of cute cats to make it all seem that bit easier…

1. Pat Yourself On The Back.June-06-2012-19-16-42-fghgfh

Have a nap. Brew yourself a cup of tea. Put your feet up. Now is the time to bask in your productive glory. You’ve persevered through procrastination and writer’s block to complete something that resembles a film. Arguably, the hardest graft is yet to come, but the first and most necessary hurdle is behind you.

2. Polish That Baby Up.

3823309753_dd9381b662_bYou want your script to shine amongst the pile of others that sit atop every producer’s desk? Polish it until you can see your reflection. Keep tweaking, retouching and refining. One read through and rewrite isn’t enough. Every time you come back to it, you’re bound to have a fresh perspective and with each revisit you’ll cut out the flab, train your ear for authentic dialogue and perfect the pacing. Eventually you’ll have a script that is tight, trim and lean. Basically, everything you’re not post-Christmas.

3. Phone A Friend.

411659669_446efd2781If you don’t trust your perspective that much, pass the script onto to a friend. Or even better a foe. You want someone that won’t be afraid to give you constructive criticism. Sure, it’s nice to hear from your closest friend that this is the best script they’ve ever read. But unless your friend is Martin Scorsese, it might not be wholly accurate. If you know any fellow writers, exchanging scripts is a good way to break free from tunnel vision. Additionally, spotting errors and issues in someone else’s script can be a helpful in training your eye to do the same for yours. Then, take on board that feedback. And go back to step no.2. This is lather, rinse, and repeat kind of process.

CAT_03_RK1145_07_P4. Host A Party. 

And by party, I mean read-through. Collect a group of Oscar-winning wannabes or theatrical types together and exploit their talents for your own benefit. Having a group of actors lend emotional weight, nuance and intonation to your script could be vital to seeing if it works off the page. If it doesn’t sound right coming out of their mouths, the likelihood is you haven’t written convincing dialogue. Your characters will come alive in front of your eyes and this could be a great opportunity to see if they’re all individual, distinct and really necessary. Then, based on their performances and feedback – you know the drill – go back to Step 2.

5. Be Patient.

Passion can be poison to one’s career. Don’t be hasty when the script is written. It can be exciting to feel that your script is moving along nicely, but sending it off prematurely could be the death-knell to its progress. The conditions for sending a script to the BBC Writers Room explicitly states “We do not accept resubmissions of work that has already been assessed, even following a rewrite – so make sure it is as good as you can make it before sending it in”.

Equally, producers or agents are unlikely to sift through something they’ve already cast an eye over and didn’t think was especially good. It’s a cutthroat industry and you have one chance to impress. Make it the best it possibly can be before investing in all those stamps and getting outbox happy.

tumblr_inline_mm8xgx2OiA1qz4rgp6. Pitch Perfect:

By now you should have a script that is looking pretty ship shape. If you still want a professional opinion, there are script-reading services that can give you the objectivity and authority you may have hitherto been lacking. Either way, now’s the time to start summarising your film and getting ready to sell it.

Pitching comes down to the 5 ‘C’s:


The art of pitching lies in clarity. Ideally, you should be able to condense the plot of your film into one or two sentences. This is one formula floating about on the internet that can help sift out any ambiguity as to what your story is about.: “My story is a (genre) called (title) about (hero) who wants (goal) despite (obstacle).” Trim out any ‘likes’, ‘ums’ and ‘wells’ and avoid generalisations or comparisons. This film should not remind the producers of a really successfully studio film that has just been done, it should be original, specific and…


Make whomever you’re telling, and selling it too, want to pick up the script and read the 100-or so pages.


And to make it compelling, you need a hook. The stakes should be high. You’re asking people to join your character on a journey and there should be an obstacle in the way – either internal or external – that makes this journey captivating.


We need to care enough about this person to spend two hours of our life listening to their story. And for producers it could mean a great deal more time spent bring that story to life. The character is the medium through which we engage in the conflict. Who are they? What do they do? And why should we care?


Coming full circle back to clarity, select the 3 or 4 most important plot points and expand upon them in chronological order. Don’t jump through your screenplay haphazardly or include too many twists, it will only become confusing and by extension, off-putting. The story, and your pitch, needs to flow.


7. Blacklist It.

Up until quite recently, I thought the blacklist was the worse possible place for a script to reside. Like a purgatorial no-mans-land, where rejected scripts went to die. Turns out, for budding screenwriters, it’s the place to be. It advocates entrepreneurial spirit and a DIY attitude. You upload your script and it goes into a pool of unproduced screenplays that are then ranked by Hollywood executives. Three out of the last five Best Picture winners were Black List scripts, as were seven of the past twelve screenwriting Oscar winners. This is a great way to increase the visibility of your screenplay and garner attention. And who knows, it could eventually make its way onto cinema screens.

CatBoxing8. Compete.

Another way to increase your chances of success is by entering competitions. Do your research to eliminate those that aren’t worth the time or the entry fee.  The BlueCat Screenplay Competition is one of the more high profile and well regarded contests out there, what’s more, included in the entry fee is a guaranteed analysis of your script by an industry professional. BlueCat Finalist Aaron Guzikowski’s wrote Prisoners, which went on to be made by Warner Bros. There are also emerging writers forums such as Rocliffe, which again provides a great platform to for your work to be read.

Even if nothing concrete comes of it, getting through a round or two could be a confidence boost and your name might start to appear in the right places.

9. The Social Network

144168-cats-internet_zpsaf395a59Making connections, building an audience and gaining followers is one way to get your film up on its feet. It’s especially vital if you’re looking into crowdfunding as an option to finance your film. Networking is basically pitching with alcohol involved, and could join the dots between having a screenplay in your desk drawer to having it on a important executives desk. Through social media you can also find a community of writers in a similar position to you, who might have advice, success stories and resources invaluable to your screenplay.

Having an online presence is also vital in these digital times to put yourself on the map. Whether its an IdeasTap portfolio, a Twitter account with links to writing, or a profile that shows up on Google, if you can found online, it’ll increase your credibility when the bigwigs start researching you.

Happy-cat10. Stay Positive.

Regardless of whether these steps result in a film, the fact that you’ve written a screenplay at all deserves a sense of achievement. It’s all a learning curve, and unless you’re very special and very lucky, it’s unlikely the first script your write will get made. But the more you put yourself out there and hone your talent, the more likely you’ll be to hit the jackpot one day.

The Democratisation Of Filmmaking: Is It Enough To Have A High Quality Camera?

Originally published by Raindance.

Once the preserve of bearded, baseball cap-wearing men over 40, the notion of what a film director looks like has broadened to accommodate women, amateurs, students and ingénues.

Ultimately, the landscape of filmmaking has shifted to encompass, and arguably champion, the everyman. The average Joe can now pick up a digital single-lens reflex camera and tell their story at a fraction of the price, resources and manpower hitherto required.

 “The digitalization and democratization of the filmmaking process has the ability to bring the power to the people and cultivate new and fresh voices in film that deserve to be heard”. (For full article, go here).

hitrecord (1)The DSLR revolution gave a mass audience a camera capable of producing cinematic images for an affordable price. This process of democratization has made production companies like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘HitRecord’ possible. Marketing themselves as an open, collaborative company, Levitt himself purports that “anybody with the internet [or a camera] can contribute” to their projects.

So is that enough? Will the red carpet roll out in front of you as soon as you purchase that digital camera?

Unlikely, but with the quality and accessibility to DSLR cameras constantly improving, and their cost constantly lowering, anyone with the innovation, vision and determination to get their film made can do just that.

Popular-DSLRsDSLR’s boast adaptability, mobility, image stabilisation, and for those of us lacking the strength to schlep around hefty equipment, ease of use! What’s more, because the prices of such cameras aren’t heart attack inducing, eye-wateringly high, if the camera gets ruined while shooting a scene or you want the dynamic feel of several cameras, it won’t dent your budget irreparably.

Interchangeable lenses are also a major bonus for the independent filmmaker, enabling us to achieve that high-quality aesthetic for a fraction of the cost. When shooting video with a DSLR you can mount lenses ranging from ultra wide 14mm to 800mm, as well as specialist lenses like macro, fish eye, and tilt shift. The creative possibilities afforded by this combination of a larger sensor and a wide range of lenses are near endless, generating a cinematic look once reserved solely for the major studios.

Equally, depth of field is an invaluable tool in storytelling; allowing you to focus on or emphasise certain aspects, moments or motifs in your narrative and which give your film a more professional edge. The low-light capability and shallow depth-of-field offered by most DSLR’s allows for softer focus as well as the ability to clearly see objects or people in the background, foreground and anywhere in between.

However, there are some drawbacks to be navigated if you are to invest in a DSLR. While the shallow depth of field offered by cameras like the 5D is impressive, keeping a subject in focus is a considerable challenge. Autofocus is absent from most HD-capable cameras, and a steady hand is needed to control things manually. What’s worse, for professional or independent filmmakers, rendering the output in real-time on an external monitor can be difficult, if not non-existent on most models, making it hard for operators and technicians to evaluate focus, lighting and other factors.

nikon_d810Poor audio quality has been another criticism frequently levelled at DSLR’s and is a feature most new models are seeking to eradicate. The Nikon D810 DSLR possesses a number of enhanced video features, designed specifically to improve the aesthetic of your film. One such improvement is the inclusion of two microphones, allowing it to record in stereo rather than mono, and those capturing audio with an external mic will be able to split the recording into a separate wide range and voice range.

Furthermore, the D810 is able to film in an auto ISO mode that still allows for manual control over aperture and shutter speed, letting those two factors stay locked down while the camera adjusts to changes in lighting. The internet is the filmmaker’s oyster and such rapid development of DSLR technology has made it easier than ever to exhibit your growing portfolio.

And that’s not to confine DSLR filmmaking to the amateur’s playing field either. ‘Like Crazy’, the recent indie offering from director Drake Doremus, was shot on a Canon 7D and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and achieve an acquisition deal from Paramount for $4 million. Doremus praised the snatched feel in the lensing that the 7D provided, lending the film its guerilla filmmaking aesthetic. Other films to have employed the DSLR include Lena Dunham’s ‘Tiny Furniture and the DP for ‘Black Swan’ Matthew Libatique also got on board with digital filmmaking for a few scenes. Not a bad reason to follow suit.

Whilst the marketing and distribution of your film still requires a certain amount of financial backing and know-how to get your product to the consumers, certainly making a masterpiece is more doable than ever.

Nevertheless, cheaper, fancier equipment does not a Christopher Nolan make. The DSLR revolution has enabled filmmakers to proliferate, but to really succeed you still need the directorial vision and capability to realise your narrative in a dynamic, visual and unique way. That being said, there are a plethora of reasons the DSLR has become such a mainstream form of video capture and DSLR image quality will out perform any other camera in that price range.

But when it comes down to it, what should capture the imagination of your audience is the story you’re telling, rather than the means by which you’re telling it.

9 Films From a Feminine Perspective

Originally published by Raindance 

It would be degrading and reductive to outline what might consist of a ‘feminine aesthetic’. It would suggest that cinema about, or written/directed by women is operating solely in contrast or in counter to, the dominant masculine style, rather than merely – and necessarily – portraying the diversity and difference of our experiences.

These films selected below, though by no means an extensive list, go to demonstrate the generic and stylistic variety that female-centric cinema is capable of. It goes to show that women are by no means limited by their gender and that women do not constitute a certain or specific type of stylistic output. In my opinion, these films serve to highlight our complexities, difficulties and capabilities. That heroes can be female and that they can take many forms…

4375.originalMeek’s Cutoff (DIR. Kelly Reichardt, 2010)

Director Kelly Reichardt is well-known for her reworking of genre to encompass a female perspective. In Meek’s Cutoff she takes on the Western and subverts it’s inherent theme of rugged masculinity, by placing Michelle Williams’ Emily at the forefront of a group of pioneers advancing westwards into unchartered territory. The camera emphasises the female experience and in doing so carves a space into the American landscape for a gender otherwise marginalised.

05_Flatbed_1 - JANUARYWinter’s Bone (DIR. Debra Granik, 2010)

Shot on location in the Ozark mountains of Missouri, Debra Granik’s films follows Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout role) in her perilous attempt to track down her absent, meth-addicted father, with the aim of protecting her home and family. Taking charge of her economically-deprived destiny, Ree’s search for answers resembles that of a lone cowboy, crossing boundaries both literal and metaphorical to find meaning in the world. Labelled as ‘rural noir’, Granik’s film disrupts genre conventions in its placement of a female protagonist in a hostile, violent and depraved world.

thelma-and-louiseThelma and Louise (DIR. Ridley Scott, 1991)

A seminal feminist film, Thelma and Louise are two best-friends who take to the road in a symbolic and literal two-fingers up to gender conventions and authority. Part road-movie, part crime-caper, these two women embark on a journey of liberation as they become both increasingly violent, and assertive. Driving along an open road in their T-Bird convertible and getting the last word over the cops on their tails, Thelma and Louise rebelled against genre, and societal expectations.

Jennifer-lawrence-stars-as-katniss-everdeen-in-the-hunger-gamesThe Hunger Games (DIR. Gary Ross, 2012)

A female Rambo of sorts, our leather-clad, bow and arrow-wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen has become a symbol of endurance, indestructibility and strength. Following in the footsteps of Ellen Ripley, Lara Croft or even Joan of Arc, Katniss subverts the notion that the action genre is an arena reserved solely for her male counterparts. Some film critics have even compared her to the archetype of the Western hero as embodied by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood – a marginalised loner, existing on the fringes of society. Most importantly, Katniss seems to transcend gender boundaries, acting as both surrogate mother to her younger sister Prim and assuming responsibility as bread-winner for her family. Ultimately, she upends the rules; both of the Hunger Games and the action genre.

GRAVITYGravity (DIR. Alfonso Cuaron, 2013)

The final frontier, and indeed, the moon, were advertised as places ‘where no man had gone before’, let alone women. In 2013, Gravity turned the tables – and pretty much everything else – upside down, not least in it’s depiction of a female astronaut. Dr. Ryan Stone (a name which begs the question whether she was initially written as male), must scrape together all her resources to survive against the odds when a space mission goes awry. As narrative progresses she transforms from a nervous, panicked and inexperienced astronaut, to a capable and determined one (with just a little bit of help from George Clooney). Her gender is irrelevant to her ability, something which makes for a refreshing watch.

the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-an-interview-with-rooney-mara-daniel-craig-and-david-fincher.img.594.396.1324267469019The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo (DIR. David Fincher, 2011)

Emotionally fragile, but physically formidable, Lisbeth Salander is perhaps the fiercest female on this list. TGWADT navigates the world of corporate corruption through the eyes of inked, pierced and pissed-off computer whizz Lisbeth, as she sets about getting revenge on the men that abused, and institutionalised her. In the meantime, Lisbeth proves herself just as commanding, clever and quite frankly terrifying, as any male vigilante on the big screen.

hailee_steinfeld_in_true_grit-wideTrue Grit (DIR. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010)

In the Coen Brothers’ remake of Charles Portis’ novel, True Grit follows the traditional Western trajectory of revenge, against the backdrop of a harsh and desolate landscape. Finding herself in this hostile environment of whiskey-swigging, gun-toting, foul-mouthed cowboys is 14 year-old Mattie Ross, who must prove she has enough grit to survive. And boy does she. Mattie has no interest in her male counterparts for protection or otherwise, and continually demonstrates that she has the confidence, competence and sass to outsmart them all.

million-dollar3Million Dollar Baby (DIR. Clint Eastwood, 2004)

The boxing ring is a place where blood, sweat and spectacle reigns. Where violence is a language and machismo is the currency. Hardly deemed a place for a woman. Million Dollar Baby trod relatively new territory then in depicting the trials and tribulations of Maggie (an Oscar-winning turn from Hilary Swank), a working-class woman who conquers the boxing world. Whilst she masculines herself to trainer Frank’s tastes, to see a woman in the ring at all is certainly a change of pace and a forceful blow to the notion that only men can put up a fight.

zero-2Zero Dark Thirty (DIR. Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

Wars, and by extension, war movies, have typically been the domain of the male population. However, this Kathryn Bigelow helmed exploration of the CIA’s search for Osama Bin Laden represents and honours the real female CIA operative whose dedication was key to his capture. Jessica Chastain, as Maya, is on formidable, snarling form. She imbues the characters with stoicism, steely resolve and unshakeable determination. In some respects she is both the hero and the villain of the story, employing controversial interrogation techniques to achieve her aims. But the point that Bigelow successfully drives home is that she is the lone wolf; the sole female mole at table of ego-driven male officers and thus a symbol of exceptionalism.

This is by no means an extensive list. Please share your own suggestions for films which subvert a masculine genre!