If you want to be creative, write for television – Sundance London

The Hollywood Reporter recently highlighted the challenges of indie filmmaking on both sides of the Pond these days.

A Hollywood Reporter article recently highlighted the challenges of indie filmmaking on both sides of the Pond these days. In the US, the studios continue to look for ‘safe’ material. In the UK, even government financing doesn’t solve all of the problems for filmmakers wanting to create more challenging films.

From a panel on the state of independent film at Sundance London, it sounds like depressing days for filmmakers trying to get ambitious work made and distributed in the US, and the UK. However, if you can avoid the siren’s song of theatrical release, you may be able to find a home for your creative vision.

While several panelists highlighted that the Oscars of late have seen many indies with leading numbers of nominations, [James Marsh (Man on Wire)] said the studio system in the U.S. has in many cases stopped consciously pursuing indie-type projects. “Narrative risky work has moved to TV,” and great filmmakers are finding freedom on television, he said. “A lot of good writing is done in American TV, too. The studios have given up on this.”

He said while “there are great films being made even in that system,” great scripts often don’t end up making it to the screen – or only in weakened form. “The system is just there doing what it’s doing. Great scripts…they will either ruin them or never do them.”

Mobile download for only .99 – Street Language film

Would you take a risk to save someone’s life? Check out our new short film, “Street Language”, now available for download and on DVD.

Would you take a risk to save someone’s life? Check out our new short film, “Street Language“, now available for download and on DVD. Click here to check it out.

Non-Filmmakers Learning From Woody Allen

What can entrepreneurs learn from Woody Allen? Apparently a lot!

What can entrepreneurs learn from Woody Allen? Apparently a lot! I was intrigued by this article on TechCrunch that lists 9 things non-filmmakers can learn from his career. Of course, as a filmmaker I have appreciated his films, both the hits and misses. He has remained independent and true to his own vision through 50 years and many earth-shaking culture shifts.

Woody AllenIt’s worth digging into the details, especially stories from different seasons of Mr. Allen’s career, his disdain of the Academy Awards hoopla, etc. But here’s an excerpt:

In today’s day and age, we want to transform decades of work into years or even months. Allen built up his career over five decades and kept at it persistently, even when scandal, or a bad movie, or a bad article, would cast gloom over his entire career. But he shrugged it off.

So what can we learn from Woody Allen?

  • Wake up early
  • Avoid distractions
  • Work three to five hours a day and then enjoy the rest of the day
  • Be as perfectionist as you can, knowing that imperfection will still rule
  • Have the confidence to be magical and stretch the boundaries of your medium.
  • Combine the tools of the medium itself with the message you want to convey
  • Don’t get stuck in the same rut – move forward, experiment, but with the confidence built up over experience.

The same can be said for successful entrepreneurs. Or for people who are successful in any aspect of life. Is Woody Allen a happy man? Who knows? But he’s done what he set out to do. He’s made movies. He’s told stories. He’s lived the dream, even when it bordered on nightmare.  I can only be so lucky.

Read the whole article, “9 Things Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Woody Allen”

13 Rules For Realizing Your Creative Vision

I find myself needing to shift back and forth during the course of a film project – from being a pirate and letting the chips fall where they may (The ‘Done Manifesto’ stage) to the obsession stage where I am looking to polish and perfect.

If you have ever worked to launch a project or product, you know how different it feels than when you’re working on something that is well-established. I like this “Done Manifesto” as a way to capture the need to work and think differently in the wild days of beginning something new – like at the beginning (and at various stages) of a film project.

Click here to see the full graphic from FastCoDesign:

Infographic Of The Day: 13 Rules For Realizing Your Creative Vision | Co. Design.

But the funny thing about realizing a creative vision–whether it’s a startup or a personal project–is that it requires a set of working rules that is almost the opposite of the slow, careful deliberation that typically rules our working lives.

Examples of principles they suggest:

#1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion

#8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

#10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

In a filmmaking process, I’m trying to think of the dividing point when a project moves from the startup phase, where rules like this apply, to the stage where something is established and you need to begin to shift your thinking. I know that brainstorming and the first stages of scripting benefit from these rules. Even the first stage of rehearsals with actors and the first assembly edit of the film.

I find myself needing to shift back and forth during the course of a film project – from being a pirate and letting the chips fall where they may (The Done Manifesto stage) to the obsession stage where I am looking to polish and perfect.

If you’re an indie filmmaker, you probably need to learn to function in both modes. Not always an easy thing to learn.

Screenwriters Slogans For The Wall

42 ways to improve your screenplay – from Chris Jones blog

From screenwriter and instructor Alexander MacKendrick – a great set of 42 aphorisms he had on his walls as he wrote and taught screenwriting. Good writing is not about learning everyone’s rules and ‘can’t miss’ methods. But learning from those who have gone before is part of task.

Read the complete list at: ChrisJonesBlog.com- Screenwriters Slogans For The Wall… by Alexander MacKendrick.

A few of my favorites that I haven’t read in every screenwriting book:

Self pity in a character does not evoke sympathy.

Coincidence may mean exposition is in the wrong place, i.e. if you establish the too-convenient circumstances before they become dramatically necessary, then we feel no sense of coincidence. Use coincidence to get characters into trouble, not out of trouble.

Ambiguity does not mean lack of clarity. Ambiguity may be intriguing when it consists of alternative meanings, each of them clear.

The role of the ANTAGONIST may have more to do with the structure of the plot than the character of the PROTAGONIST. When you are stuck for a third act, think through your situations from the point of view of whichever characters OPPOSE the protagonist’s will.

If you’ve got a Beginning, but you don’t yet have an end, then you’re mistaken. You don’t have the right Beginning.

DRAMA IS EXPECTATION MINGLED WITH UNCERTAINTY.

Worthwhile Reading – “The Writer’s Journey”

Christopher Vogler combines Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung to paint a picture of mythic structure in storytelling for film.

I’m reading “The Writer’s Journey”- one of the prominent screenwriting texts. In it, Christopher Vogler combines Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (with Syd Field and Robert McKee looking on) to paint a picture of mythic structure in storytelling for film. It’s all Heroes and Archetypes and elixirs. If you want to understand popular film story structure, it’s an important read.

If I have any hesitation, it’s that Vogler presents an important point-of-view for film structure, but he often rhapsodizes about these mythic truths and ‘energies’ in a way that makes me feel like I’m in a new age self-help seminar. At least he’s enthusiastic!

Storytelling: a Dying Art? Screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi

I continue to hammer into my students’ minds the idea that the story is the most important thing, even in a visual/technological artform like cinema.

I continue to hammer into my students’ minds the idea that the story is the most important thing, even in a visual/technological artform like cinema. I have always appreciated Barbara Nicolosi’s thoughts about screenwriting (didn’t know she was Catholic.)

In a very real sense, we need stories to teach us how to live. We enjoy the lessons because stories delight us with their artistry.

From Patheos.com — Storytelling: a Dying Art? Talking with Screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi.