Monday 30 April 2012

"Appleseed Elementary"

Here's a webseries that will take you back. Appleseed Elementary. In the wide brown land, that would be a Primary school, but this is an American series. 

As you've already guessed, there's the eager new teacher, an assortment of burnouts and no-hopers, and a troubled Principal. But there are no psycho nuns with rulers to whack you on your bare legs until you cry, so it looks pretty good to me.

Appleseed Elementary is written by Kirsten Clark and Jerrod Clark, and directed by Adam Siegel. Beyond that, all I can say is, they're not much into explaining their work.

Anyway, here's Episode 1.


Sunday 29 April 2012

John Burnham Schwartz and Dustin Hoffman

John Burnham Schwarz is a successful writer, the author of five novels. One of his books, Reservation Road, was made into a movie. 

When John was a teenager,
his fatheran entertainment lawyerrepresented Dustin Hoffman. At the time Hoffman was a regular guest at their house.

John Burnham Schwartz front left, Dustin Hoffman far right.
A couple of days after watching the movie Me and Orson Welles, I came across a piece Schwarz wrote for The Guardian, called Dustin Hoffman and me. It includes the following anecdote.
It was August 1979, a rainy night in an old beach house on the Atlantic coast. I was 14 years old. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was on my summer reading list for school and, after dinner, as my family drifted back into the living room to sit by the fire, one of our house guests – a famous, energetic and physically unprepossessing actor with a prominent nose and flat, nasal voice – picked up my copy of the book, opened it at the first page and began performing it aloud, inhabiting the disparate minds and voices of the protagonists George and Lennie with uncanny precision. At first, self-conscious smiles appeared in our makeshift audience, though we quickly realised that this extraordinary display was no laughing matter. We were meant to watch and listen, which we did – for hours, as the rain beat down on the roof, the branches of the pine trees scraped and tapped against the windows, and the fire burned to embers. And when the hulking man-child Lennie (twice our guest's size, one had to assume) ended up crushing another man with his bare hands, and the rage drained from his powerful limbs, his terrible confusion – he had wanted to protect, not to hurt – made him, in the actor's sublime incarnation, what he truly was, both wolf and lamb.

I stayed for the duration, hardly moving in my seat. A trip to the bathroom was out of the question; the bathroom from which, earlier in the day, behind the locked door with the whaling ship painted on it, I had overheard my mother quietly sobbing (three months later, she asked my father to move out of the house, which he did). When the performance was finally over, and with a curtain-call bow of triumph, the actor handed me back my book, his sweaty fingerprints still on the cover, tragedy for me was no longer just a notion in a story, but a ghost in our house.

For a couple of years at the end of the 1970s, Dustin Hoffman was a fixture in our family. My father was his lawyer and friend. Dustin was a movie star at the peak of his fame, the most intelligent and brilliant actor any of us had ever met, and he was with us a lot, making us laugh, entertaining us, opening doors to worlds brighter than our own, observing our ways and moods and accidents, our spilled drinks and sullen glances and careless goodnight kisses, never missing a beat. And we enjoyed it mostly, and depended on it, until in every respect that particular show came to the end of its run.
Great actors are different to the rest of us. If you're interested in acting, and in the way one will ruthlessly exploit the pain of others in a quest for acting greatness, it is worth reading the article in full.

'Star Wars' dialogue and the vernacular

 How many of these lines do you NOT recognise?

 Origin unknown.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Book review: "On Directing Film"

The book, On Directing Film by David Mamet, was recommended to me by Brian McDonald. He said: 
It is ostensibly about directing, but it’s really about telling stories with pictures. This is a thing that most screenwriters have almost no idea how to do. Most screenwriters write radio plays, not screenplays. This is a visual medium. Learn to use the pictures.
It's a small book, just over 100 pages in paperback. The focus is on the weakness of most wannabe screenwriters—how to tell stories with pictures.

Here are a few quotes from the book:
A good writer gets better only by learning to cut, to remove the ornamental, the descriptive, the narrative, and especially the deeply felt and meaningful. What remains? The story remains. What is the story? The story is the essential progression of incidents that occur to the hero in pursuit of his one goal.

The point, as Aristotle told us, is what happens to the hero... not what happens to the writer.
House of Games (1987)
Screenwriting is a craft based on logic, It consists of the assiduous application of several very basic questions: What does the hero want? What hinders him from getting it? What happens if he does not get it? 
We don't have to worry about creating a problem. We make a better movie if we worry about restoring order. Because if we worry about creating problems, our protagonist is going to do things that are interesting. We don't want him to do that. We want him to do things that are logical.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
If you listen to the way people tell stories, you will hear that they tell them cinematically. They jump from one thing to the next, and the story is moved along by the juxtaposition of images—which is to say, by the cut.
   People say, "I'm standing on the corner. It's a foggy day. A bunch of people are running around crazy. Might have been the full moon. All of a sudden, a car comes up and the guy next to me says..."
   If you think about it, that's a shot list: (1) a guy standing on the corner; (2) shot of fog; (3) a full moon shining above; (4) a man says, "I think people get whacky this time of year"; (5) a car approaching.
   This is good filmmaking, to juxtapose images. Now you're following the story. What, you wonder, is going to happen next.
State and Main (2000)
The work of the director is the work of constructing the shot list from the script. The work on the set is nothing. All you have to do on the set is stay awake, follow your plans, help the actors be simple, and keep your sense of humor. The film is directed in the making of the shot list. The work on the set is simply to record what has been chosen to be recorded. It is the plan that makes the movie.

We can identify with the pursuit of a goal. It's much easier to identify with that than with "character traits."
Wag the Dog (1997)
Always do things the least interesting way, and you will make a better movie. This is my experience. Always do things the least interesting way, the most blunt way. Because then you will not stand the risk of falling afoul of the objective in the scene by being interesting, which will always bore the audience, who are collectively much smarter than you and me and have already gotten up to the punch line. How do we keep their attention? Certainly not by giving them more information but, on the contrary, by withholding informationby withholding all information except that information the absence of which would make the progress of the story incomprehensible.
Heist (2001)
You tell the story. Don't let the protagonist tell the story. You tell the story; you direct it. We don't have to follow the protagonist around. We don't have to establish his "character." We don't need to have anybody's "back story."
If you are telling a story, then the human mind, as it's working along with you, is perceiving your thrust, both consciously and, more importantly, subconsciously. The audience members are going to go along with that story and will require neither inducement, in the form of visual extravagance, nor explanation, in the form of narration.
   They want to see what's happening next. Is the guy going to get killed? Is the girl going to kiss him? Will they find the money buried in the old gold mine?
   When the film is correctly designed, the subconscious and conscious are in alignment, and we need to hear what happens next. The audience is ordering the events just as the author did, so we are in touch with both his conscious and his unconscious mind. We have become involved in the story.
On Directing Film is practical, provocative, cheap to buy, easy to read. Don't miss it.

Friday 27 April 2012

Interview with Billy Marshall Stoneking

Billy Marshall Stoneking is an Australian screenwriter, poet and teacher who, though now based in Sydney, was born in the USA. He migrated to Australia in 1972, where he wrote the TV series Stringer and an episode of the show Mission: Impossible
   Billy will be teaching a one-day seminar in Adelaide on May 20, followed by a four-day seminar. I met him online and took the opportunity of asking some questions.

You didn’t go to film school, though you taught at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) for a number of years. How would you respond to David Mamet’s suspicion that film schools are useless”?
I did attend the film schoolAFTRS1983 graduate, and I agree with David Mamet. Most film schools I know of, and I have been associated with a few of the ones in Sydney, are run by people who don’t really understand story or drama and have, overall, very little talent in the art of teaching. Schools tend to place more importance on buildings and equipment and technique than they do on discovery, risk and inspiration. 
   I am reminded of Whitehead’s comment: “The secondhandness of the learned world is the secret of its mediocrity." 
   Film schools simply don’t give their students enough opportunities to enter the drama. Drama is a language for presenting emotional energy and if you’re to become fluent in the language you have to use it, all the time. If a scene is the equivalent of a sentence and the language is drama, how can you possibly learn it making only ten or fifteen or thirty scenes a year. If you compared that to learning Spanish you’d have a very hard time getting yourself around Mexico Citylet alone a compelling screenplay. Film schools, at best, teach little more than “tourist drama”.

*  What are three things you wish someone had told you about screenwriting when you were starting out?
It’s what I wish they hadn’t told me, but I’ll take a stab at it:
1) "No" always means "maybe"; 
2) Knowledge has nothing to do with it; and 
3) Never go to bed with anyone that has more problems than you do.

*  You famously wrote an episode of the TV series Mission: Impossible. How did that come about?
Impeccable connectionsplus the producer wanted to option my best-selling book, Lasseter: In Quest of Gold.

*  That episode of Mission: Impossible was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, one of the most influential of all Australian directors. Did you work closely with him, and if so, what did you learn from the experience?
I know Brian from the old days, but I didn’t confer with him about his job. The script was fairly self-explanatoryas most of them were.

Tutama Tjapangarti
*  Who was the person who has had the biggest influence on you as a screenwriter? 
Tutama Tjapangarti would be up there with the best of them, though he never wrote a screenplay, or anything else for that matterbut wowwhat a storyteller! 
   Others would have to include John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, James Agee, and Woody Allen.

*  You are a script consultant with Script Central, which has been in business since 2003.  Can you give us one example of a script which passed through that agency and eventually become a decent Australian movie? 
Not offhand.

Maya Newell
*  Who would you consider the most interesting filmmaker currently working in Australia, and why? 
Maya Newellshe’s fresh, she’s smart, and she’s a very close friend.

*  How would you respond to the proposition that, these days, it is easier to make money teaching screenwriting than it is practicing screenwriting? 
Anyone who thinks teaching is easy has taken leave of their senses.

*  What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date? 
Every moment. I don’t think of it as a career.

*  What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide
Audition by Michael Shurleff—don’t touch any of the others.

*  What are your ten favourite movies of all time
[ Billy provided a list of almost 200 movies. I really did want just ten, so have selected a representative sample from the longer list; which will probably offend him, but I'm sure we'll get over that. Life's too short, etc. You can see his full and evolving list here. ]
Network (1976)
Seven Samurai (1954)
*  You’re teaching a one-day seminar in Adelaide on 20 May 2012 called ‘Secrets, Lies and Filmmaking,’ followed by a four-day seminar called ‘The Drama of Screenwriting.’ What would you say to a young wannabe screenwriter to convince them to take time off work, and part with a handful of cash, in order to attend either of these events? 
They wont be taking time off work, they’ll be taking time off their jobthere’s a difference. What they’ll do in the four-day workshop is work creatively in ways that they have never before experienced. It’s very much a learner-centred workshop no sage on the stageand its very collaborative. 
   What participant/writers go away with is an entirely new and useable way of looking at themselves and their characters and the stories they want to tell. Ditto for the one-day, but because it is only one day it is even more intense!

Thursday 26 April 2012

"Thijs and the ladies"

How many actors do you need to make a short film? How about one actor, armed with a mirror?

Here's the first episode of a Dutch web series that featured at the 2011 Marseille Web Fest. The story line focuses on a hapless individual who is on the hunt for a girlfriend. 

The film has English subtitles, but you could probably follow it without their help. 

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Overcoming your fears

Public ridicule. Pigeons. Heights. Asking a girl out. Pigeons. They're all common fears people suffer from. Especially pigeons.

If you ever wondered how to overcome your fears, meet a bloke who managed to defeat most of his.

Written and directed by Ross Johnston, somewhere in Belfast. Shot and edited by Neal Megaw. Naturally they didn't mention the names of the actors in this short film; they were concentrating on the pigeons.

    Vimio    YouTube   

Tuesday 24 April 2012

"I Hate Being Single"

I Hate Being Single was created, written by, and stars Rob Michael Hugel. It is a webseries that puts an unconventional comedic spin on a story we've all heard many times before. 
Rob, a recently dumped self-admitted hipster, blunders through single life trying to figure out where he belongs in a manner that is charmingly clueless and entertaining. Described as a mix between Curb Your Enthusiasm, Portlandia, Louie, Flight of the Conchords, I Hate Being Single takes a look at the Williamsburg Brooklyn scene from the inside out, as an response to the wave of other Brooklyn-based shows, 2 Broke Girls, I Just Want My Pants Back, How To Make it in America, The New Girl.
Here is Episode One.

    Blip.TV    Facebook    Kickstarter    Tumblr    Twitter    YouTube   

Monday 23 April 2012

Ira Glass on the Building Blocks of Story

Some of you are already asking, Who is Ira Glass

He's a first cousin to composer Philip Glass. Fans of The Wire will appreciate that he was born in Baltimore and attended Milford Mill High School in Baltimore County. Today he is the voice of This American Life (TAL), a weekly hour-long radio program that he has served as producer and host since 1995. For more info on TAL, click here.

Put simply, the guy tells stories. He's been doing it a long time and has hundreds of thousands of listeners who come back for more every week, which suggests he has some skills.

Here is part one of a four-part video in which he talks about The Building Blocks of Story.

There are two basic building blocks to stories:
1. The anecdote. A sequence of actions; a story in its purest form; with a bit of bait. (Raise questions from the beginning. If you raise a question, it's implied that you're going to provide an answer along the way. That keeps people interested.)

2. The moment of reflection. What it all means. (You need to provide both for it all to come together and be larger than the sum of its parts.)
The picture on this video is a bit fuzzy, but the sound is clear.

    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4   

Saturday 21 April 2012

Book review: "Rebel Without a Crew"

The best part of my recent holiday at Victor Harbor was the fact that I finally got to read Robert Rodriguez's book, Rebel Without a Crew. It's been around since 1995 and can be found on most recommended reading lists for filmmakers. 

These days, Rodriguez is best known for the four Spy Kids films, his relationship with Rose McGowan, the fact he still lives in Austin Texas, and his filmmaking association with Quentin Tarantino

Rebel Without a Crew is based on a journal Rodriguez kept from 1991 to 1993, the period during which he planned, made, sold, and publicised his first feature film, El Mariachi (1993). 

Although the book deals with his adventures as a filmmaker, it has a bit to say to writers.  
I was never big on writing scripts. I have read many times that the best way to learn to write scripts is to actually sit down and write two full scripts and after you're done you should throw them away. You'll learn a lot by doing those first two but they'll be awful, so after you write them you should throw them away and start writing your real script.
The idea didn't appeal to Rodriguez. He had made about thirty short films at that point, starting from when he was twelve. He was now twenty-three. He needed motivation to write a script and the idea of tossing his work away afterward didn't fill him with enthusiasm.
It suddenly hit me: Instead of writing two scripts and throwing them away afterwards, why not just take the scripts and make them for really low budgets? That way while you're practicing your writing skills you can also practice your filmmaking skills. That's what I decided to do with El Mariachi. I would write two scripts, both about the same character, but I would film them on a low, low budget all by myself. Then I would sell them to the Spanish video market where no one in the movie business would see them if they were no good, so it was almost like throwing them away, only I would get paid for them.
He was inventing a film school with just one pupil, himself. His teachers would be his own experiences, mistakes, problems and solutions, and the burgeoning Spanish-language video market would return him his investment. 
I went on to write the first Mariachi in three weeks. It's amazing how quickly ideas come to you for a script when you're going to be actually making the movie in a few months, not just writing for writing's sake.

Where this story gets interesting is with his fund-raising methods. Robert Rodriguez has been a human lab rat four times. Which is to say, he voluntarily submitted to being locked up in a pharmaceutical drug testing facility and experimented on, in return for hard cash.
When it came time for me to make El Mariachi, I needed someplace quiet to write and earn money at the same time. Naturally the research hospital fit the bill. I knew that if I checked in for a monthlong drug study I could clear about $3,000, with room and board paid for, and have plenty of time to kick back and write my script. ...  In my mind I simply imagined that I was getting paid to write a script.
The reality wasn't that simple, but I'll leave it for you to read for yourself. The next stage, the story of how he filmed a feature film, with minimal assistance, makes the book worth reading on its own, but I will skip over that as well. 

Once the film was finished, Rodriguez went to Los Angeles in the hope of selling El Mariachi to one of the Spanish language film distributors. It is difficult to believe, but after making thirty short films and his first feature film, Rodriguez had still never seen a professional screenplay.
On our way back to the apartment we stopped by the Hollywood Book Store and I bought the script to Road Warrior [better known to Australians as Mad Max 2] so I can have something to read. My script for El Mariachi was completely mis-formatted, which is why my thirty-five-page script ended up being a ninety-minute movie.
The section of the book covering his dealings with various agents and Hollywood studios is a real eye-opener as well. That is followed by his triumphant tour of the Film Festivals, a section called 'The Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film Course,' and a copy of the original script for El Mariachi.

Rebel Without a Crew is a highly readable, informative and inspiring book. Take a look at it sometime.

Friday 20 April 2012

How to spot a liar

Lie spotting has become a science that is already creating problems for people involved in performance arts, especially actors, but also for writers. It's our job to mislead our audiences, at least for part of the journey. The better they become at spotting the lies, the less effective our story-telling will be.

And, of course, there's the other thing, about not wanting to be conned ourselves.
On any given day we're lied to from ten to 200 times, and the clues to detecting those lies can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and "hotspots" used by people trained to recognize deception—and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.
This is another long video, about 19 minutes, but worth watching. 


Thursday 19 April 2012

How can I meet other writers?

As has been mentioned elsewhere, I struggled to make contact with other writers when I was first starting out. I'm not your smooth, chatty, man-about-town type. I do have some things in common with James Bond, but most of them are imaginary. 

In my early days, I attended industry events and listened to people. I attended seminars and training days, and listened to other people. I went to lunches, where I did a lot of listening. Eventually I'd done so much listening that people, having talked themselves out, asked me about my writing. And so it began.

When meeting a criminal mastermind's enforcer, I always stand with my hands in my pockets, like James Bond.  (Don't try this with producers. They'll suspect you of playing pocket billiards, and worry it could result in complications at meetings.)
One thing led to another. A few years ago, some of the people I met established a writers' group in Adelaide. At the first meeting, a stranger informed us that he wrote a new screenplay every week. He was a screenwriting ninja. A guru. A kung fu master of the black art. Then he asked us, "What's a Treatment?"

That was my introduction to the curious fact that (the idea of) screenwriting attracts a percentage of weirdos. I started this blog as a place where new writers in Adelaide could make contact online. Some great people have come along since and are now part of one of the three screenwriting groups meeting in Adelaide. 

When a criminal mastermind is about to cut me in half, I pretend to know his story, like James Bond. (Don't fake story with producers, though, they'll test you on theme and structure and, if they detect BS, you'll have sliced up your own career.)
Most of the new contacts have been lovely people, but there were some others. Like the guy who announced his presence, but refused to answer any questions about his experience and areas of interest, saying instead that he would be the one asking all the questions. He followed that with a series of e-mails in which he expressed his growing dissatisfaction with my level of service. My favorite bit was this:
Can you pass my email to someone else at Adelaide screenwriters for me to communicate with because clearly we are unable to communicate and I am asking that you personally do not email me ever again. Due to you not understanding me in the past, I will say it again; this means that I never want to hear from again Henry.
If they don't understand you, it is clearly the fault of the audience. Find yourself a different audience.   Screenwriting 101. 

For the rest, a few tips to help you get started:
  • Don't be afraid of going up to strangers at industry events, and saying, "Hullo. I'm Joe Bloggs. I'm a writer." I met people doing that. I had to get used to them calling me "Joe," but it was worth it.
  • At your first meeting with other writers, avoid mentioning your problem with the gamma beams from Jupiter messing with your mind. 
  • If you believe writers' groups are part of a conspiracy to steal your ideas and exclude you from the Hollywood Millionaires Club, you're probably right. Don't give them the satisfaction. 
  • It's okay to impress other writers by providing a long list of famous writing teachers with whom you have a special relationship. They might check up, though, so it's best if you only mention people you have, in fact, met at least once.
  • Try telling the truth about your lack of experience. All the famous writers started out having written nothing and knowing nothing about screenwriting. Then they learned. Often in company with others.
  • If you experiment with the random use of phrases like "Excuse me," "Please," and "Thank you," they might teach you the secret handshake.
  • Instead of claiming to have a black belt in screenwriting, admit you've never even seen a professional screenplay, and only have a single, half-baked idea for a movie that you got from watching something on late-night television that you're now hoping everyone in Hollywood has forgotten about. We all start out from where we are.
  • Writers' groups work best where there is a high level of trust among the members. This trust emerges from respect, a common interest, and the willingness of people to make themselves vulnerable by speaking openly about their ideas. 

This rant was inspired by a combination of my real-life experiences as a screenwriting blogger and a post on Write Here, Write Now by Lucy V. Hay, called How Do I Make New Contacts? It's short but good. Go read it now. 

Wednesday 18 April 2012

"Street Art" - PBS - Off Book

PBS, for those who don't know, is the Public Broadcasting Service, a non-profit American television network. They broadcast a range of programs, most noticably for Australians, the PBS NewsHour, which is home to people like Jim Lehrer, David Brooks and Mark Shields.

They also have their own YouTube channel, with almost 5,000 videos uploaded. Part of that is a sub-channel called "Off Book", a web-exclusive series that explores cutting edge art, focused on a new generation of artists.  

No, it's an optical illusion, done in chalk. Street art, at it's most challenging...
This video is called Street Art. It's different, but I like it.
The street is a space where art thrives, and a place where artists can shape the public aesthetic. Olek, a sculptor whose medium is crochet, and Swoon, a mixed media artist, disrupt daily life with work that creates wonder, emotion, and humor. Equally at home in museums and galleries, both artists also create installations that challenge the formats of traditional art spaces. With powerful layers of meaning, beautiful aesthetics, and using unique media, these two prolific creators are pushing the boundaries of contemporary art.


Monday 16 April 2012

Interview with Nate Golon

Last February I received an e-mail from a young filmmaker who asked me to feature a short film, he'd just made, on this blog. The film was Briefcase, a six minute short which opens with a night-time shot of a guy inflating a tyre at a service station. I'd been in that exact position, pumping up tyres at a local service station, many times. The view looked so familiar I assumed the film had been made in Adelaide.
   In fact it had been made in Los Angeles, as I realised later. The filmmaker was Nate Golon. He has more front than Ned Kelly, as we used to say; a traditional Australian virtue. So I ran the film. I admire a bit of chutzpah
   Then I forgot about it, until I received another e-mail from him, this time telling me he'd engineered a unique outcomehe'd sold his film to Netflix (something we don't have access to in Australia), while still retaining control of it. I felt there was nothing else for me to do: I had to ask him some questions.

* What's the story with your Netflix deal?
Netflix now offers a VOD feature in most new TVs, and they were looking for a cinematic-looking short film that they could use in retail stores worldwide, as an "example" of what kind of quality movies Netflix offers, even though Netflix won't offer Briefcase as a rental. It's really a win-win, because I can still develop the concept into a feature film, and keep it online.

* Is that it, for Briefcase, or will you continue to develop it?
I'm planning on developing Briefcase into a feature film. I'm also going to develop a different concept, a thriller/action trilogy, with each film being five minutes long, that I will star in.

* Anything else you're working on?
I'm currently starring in a play in Los Angeles. 

* What show is that?
Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. It runs through the end of May. It's a five character play, and I'm one of the two leads. It's a challenging piece, one that takes a lot of focus and energy.  

[If you're in the LA area, all the details for the show are here:]

Your upbringing might best be described as ‘trans-American.’ How did your childhood help you prosper in Hollywood?
I hated my childhood when I was living it. My family moved all the time, and I grew up on the West Coast, East Coast, and then in various places in Colorado through high school. It was hard to make good friends, because just when I'd start to make some, we would move.
   Looking back now, it really had some advantages. I had to be outgoing, because I was always coming to a new place and being the new kid. I also was needing to reinvent myself all the time. Some of the areas we lived in were nice, some were not. I grew up around people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels, and I had to find a way to constantly fit in. It's made it so that these days, no one is ever a stranger to me, and I'll talk to anyone. It's also a huge benefit in acting, as I find it easier to understand where characters are coming from, no matter what their background is. I can always find something about that character to relate to.

Evel Knievel
*  You first appeared in a biography, as Evel Knievel. What was that like?
It was great!  I was living in Seattle, and had just been bitten by the acting bug. I knew little about acting at the time, and auditioned for the role from a post I saw on Craigslist. It was a History Channel reenactment of Evel Knievel's life, hosted by Matthew McConaughey. I played Evel Knievel in his young, wild days, when he was robbing banks, getting arrested for kidnapping his estranged wife, and starting to make a name for himself. The producers let me watch a whole bunch of interview footage of Evel, and the guy was a trip.

Lucy Honigman
*  I notice that you claim to be able to do an Australian accent. Meryl Streep failed that test. (Her attempt was painful to Australian ears.) Americans attempting to sound like Australians usually come over as Cockneys with a bad cold. Have any Australians approved your claim?
There's an Australian actress (Lucy Honigman) in my play, Ghosts, and she says my Australian accent does sound like a Cockney with a bad cold. Oh well.

Briefcase wasn’t your first attempt at filmmaking. What was the background to that?
Before I created the film, I wrote, produced, and starred in a comedic web series, called Workshop, that follows six struggling actors trying to make it in Hollywood. We released Season 1 of Workshop online in 2009, as thirteen episodes, 7-10 minutes each. The show was nominated for five Best Web Series awards. 
   I learned a ton from doing that, which was the first thing I had ever written or produced. From what I learned from that first season, I wrote a second season in 2010. Season 2 ended up being six episodes of 22 minutes, and debuted on Hulu in April 2011 as the first ever independently produced half-hour comedy ever to air on the site. 
 [Both seasons of Workshop can be found at]

*  What have you learned about making webseries TV?
What I learned from doing those two seasons of Workshop was that for something to be successful online, it needs to have a short, concise story that moves quickly. People do not have the attention spans when they are online that they do when watching TV or film. If a video online is slow or boring, people can click away, and there's lots of other content. 
   When I created Briefcase, I had a few goals in mind. Most importantly, it had to tell a cohesive story in six minutes or less. In my opinion, when someone clicks a video that they're unfamiliar with, and it's over six minutes, they are less likely to watch it. 
   I also wanted to create a project that makes you want to watch it twice to figure out exactly what's going on. All the answers to what is happening in Briefcase are there, but it's up to the audience to figure it out. 
   Finally, I wanted there to be no wasted time in its six minute run-time. Credits are unnecessary with a film this short. If someone is interested enough to want to know about the cast and crew, they can either scroll down and read the video details, or click on the film's Facebook or Twitter link. When I see short films that have 30 seconds or a minute of slow moving credits to start, and nothing is really happening in the film, I guarantee they are losing viewers.

*  What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as a film producer?
The biggest mistake I made with Briefcase was that I actually lost the briefcase we were using the day before our last day of shooting. It was a nightmare. It took me several weeks to track down an exact replica, and more than anything, I felt like an idiot.

*  What are some of the shortcuts you’ve learned in filmmaking?
Some good ways of making it easier on one-self as a writer and producer is to make the scenes and locations not too complicated, and to be flexible. Sometimes my friends will send me their scripts, and they'll have scenes that require tons of background actors or really tough-to-get locations. 
   Season 2 of Workshop had 130 co-star and guest star roles, and 100 locations, but I specifically wrote the locations as places that wouldn't be impossible to get. 
   Sometimes I was flexible when a location fell through. One hard-to-get location in Workshop Season 2 was when I had written two of the female leads being models at a car show, being harassed by car show gawkers. I had locked down a car showroom at a car dealership, but the day before we were supposed to shoot, the dealership backed out, and I was left scrambling. I ended up tweaking the scene slightly so that the same scene took place, but in an underground parking lot, where the actresses were getting out of their cars on their way to the car show. 
   With Briefcase, I made it easy on myself and only wrote four locations.

Audra Marie and Leanne Wilson of Workshop, in that parking lot.
*  How do you find actors to appear in your films?
Since I'm an actor, I am fortunate to know a ton of great actors in L.A., from the different acting classes I've taken, shows I've done, workshops I've taken, etc. If you're in a smaller market city, Craigslist is a good place to start, and also whatever colleges are in town. Hit up their drama departments. In bigger cities, there are various actor sites that you can post auditions.

*  How do you find scripts to produce?
If I'm going to produce something, I like doing my own projects first, before I look for other scripts. I work with a director and filmmaker all the time on everything, Andre Welsh, and when he writes something, I produce and sometimes act in his projects too. Andre directed Briefcase, both seasons of Workshop, and the pilot for my other project I starred in back in early 2011, Generation U.

*  Do you have any tips on fund-raising?
For fundraising, Kickstarter and IndieGogo are great tools. I used Kickstarter to raise the money to shoot Workshop Season 2, and it also helped raise awareness that I was going into production, etc., of the show.

*  What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide
I would recommend The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. I found it immensely helpful not only as a writer, but as an actor as well. It really teaches you about storytelling, and figuring out the characters and what they represent inside the story.

*  Name your ten favourite movies of all time.
Fight Club (1999)
The Game (1997)
The Sting (1973)
Gattaca (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Snatch (2000)

Here's the trailer for Workshop, Season 2.

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