Sunday 31 August 2014

The screenwriter as orchestral composer

A screenwriter was like someone presenting a hundred folders of sheet music to an orchestra, with not only the parts for all the instruments charted out but how their harmonies and counterpoints worked as well, how they all went together, how loud they'd play and how soft, how fast, how slow, accented and muted, with a final file handed to the orchestra's conductor, whose job it would be to make sure those hundred performed in unison.  ~Marc Norman, "What Happens Next"

Boston - Time Lapse

This video was created by Sean Collins as a tribute to the city of Boston.

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Saturday 30 August 2014

Charlie Chaplin directs 'City Lights'

This clip, shared by The Criterion Collection, shows Charlie Chaplin at work on City Lights. He was a perfectionist and didn’t settle until he was satisfied. The audio commentary is a window into the process he followed. Despite City Lights being Chaplin’s fifth feature film, and after countless short films, the production lasted almost two years. Shot without sound, although sound films were becoming more and more mainstream, City Lights is also the first film where Chaplin took on writing the score, on top of co-writing the screenplay, directing and acting in it.

Friday 29 August 2014

How to build a rom-com

Johanna Schneller is an American-born Canadian film journalist, magazine freelancer and a 'nascent screenwriter.' She recently published an article in The Globe and Mail, a nationally distributed Canadian newspaper, on the subject of the latest Daniel Radcliffe movie, The F Word. The article is called How to build a Canadian rom-com.

The F Word. Let me jump in, for the benefit of those with overheated imaginations. The "F" word in view is... friend. (The United States censors deemed the title too risqué for a PG-13 rating, so they called it What If.) As most of you know, the worst thing you can be considered by that member of the opposite sex on whom you have a heart-thumping crush is... a friend. 

Schneller reports that, unlike many films that purport to be rom-coms, this one is both romantic and comedic. 

She spent some time at the Toronto International Film Festival with the writer (Elan Mastai), the director (Michael Dowse) and the star (Daniel Radcliffe). They helped her figure out three important romcom rules. 

Rule No. 1: Men fall in love, too.

I think men are more romantic than women, frankly. The feeling of falling in love is great on both sides. In my experience, it’s mainly my male friends who go, ‘I love her, I don’t know what I’d do without her.’ It seems to me that women can function well without men. But as soon as a man has been in a relationship for a while, if that’s taken away, all functioning goes. ~Daniel Radcliffe

Rule No. 2: Don’t cheap out on the details.
In a restaurant scene, you want 40 people, not two. You’re better off to take less money yourself and keep that $20,000 in the extras budget. And never cut the production designer’s budget. ~Michael Dowse

Rule No. 3: Don’t omit the falling in love part.

Johanna Schneller says in her article: "In a baffling number of romantic comedies, the section where the leads fall for one another is glossed over in a generic Love montage: wordless scenes of walking along the beach, feeding ducks in a park, etc. In The F Word, that montage is actually the movie. Only with words in it. And jokes."
That’s what I loved about the script. It’s so hard to write those moments of falling in love, to write the connection. Why do these two find each other so funny? Why do they want to hang out so much? We’ve all been through that first flush of, ‘This person likes me, I like her, this is great.’ Being allowed in, as an audience, to watch that intimate, fun process unfold is a gift. ~Daniel Radcliffe
The characters use the comedy as a way to flirt and get closer. The more they take the piss out of each other, the more they’re saying to each other, ‘I love you’ or ‘I forgive you.’ Instead of trying to build the moment with editing, we tried to capture the moment with writing and acting. ~Michael Dowse
Watching people connect is endlessly fascinating. In the absence of that, we’ll take other stuff – car chases and explosions and nudity. But to me those merely fill in the gaps of what we actually want, which is to watch people try to communicate. ~Elan Mastai
Read the full article here.

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The rise of multichannel networks on YouTube

As we've known for a few years now, YouTube is turning into seriously big business, even for the little guys. The ability to have your own Channel, and make money from it, was the start. Now we have the rise of multichannel networks (MCNs). Bloomberg Business Week has a great article on the subject - here.

Short film, and new webseries, both from Adelaide

I heard about a couple of small Adelaide film developments yesterday. The first is a one minute entry in the local Short Circuit Film Competition, made by an enthusiastic bunch of people I used to be in a screenwriting group with. Turn Up The Heat was written by Sally Hardy, directed by Annalouise Sortini, and produced by Stuart Sturgess, Sally Hardy, Nathan March and Annalouise Sortini.

You can VOTE FOR THIS FILM in the competition up till the end of 31 August 2014.

The other item of news relates to the release of the trailer for the new season of the web series Wastelander Panda.

One of the last remaining pandas in the Wasteland, Isaac has grown up with his family under the rule of the Tribe of Legion. Responsible for the violent death of a young girl, Isaac is banished to the savage world of the Wasteland, and sets out to find a replacement to reinstate his family into the tribe.
The new series, called Wastelander Panda: Exile, consists of 6 x 10 minute episodes. It will have its world premiere on ABC iview (September 20th, 2014), followed by the international premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas (September 18th-25th, 2014).

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Thursday 28 August 2014

Interview with Gordy Hoffman

Gordy Hoffman is a screenwriter, director, teacher and the founder of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival for Love Liza (2002), Gordy made his feature directorial debut with his script A Coat of Snow (2005), which world premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival.
     He has conducted screenwriting workshops all over North America, Poland and the UK, and has served as a panelist for the IFP Script to Screen Conference, Women in Film’s Script Conference, the George Eastman House Film Festival, as well as a judge for the McKnight Screenwriting Fellowships in Minnesota. He sits on the Professional Advisory Board of the Film and Media Studies Department at the University of Kansas.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Rochester, New York, and spent my childhood there.

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I am one of four children, and had wonderful friends in our neighborhood, where I spent my childhood running around outside.

Where did you go to school?

I am a proud graduate of the University of Kansas.  Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

When did you first take an interest in writing?

My first memory was a writing assignment when I was in second grade. I loved how you could make up anything you wanted when you wrote.

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

Probably as a paper boy, but I was selling stuff to the kids in the neighborhood very early. I’m an entrepreneur!

What was your first paying job as a screenwriter?

I got an option, I think for $600, and some Dodger tickets. Haha.

I marvel at the fact that you were not a produced screenwriter when you started the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition. I don’t mean to be rude, but what were you thinking at the time?

I have no idea what I was thinking as I had only written Love Liza, but I’m so glad I did, because it’s been the best education any one could have.

What one aspect of the BlueCat Competition has given you the greatest satisfaction?

Supporting the people who do not win with our feedback. They love it and when they write us expressing how grateful they are, I know we are doing something important.

You wear multiple hats. Do you have a preference: would you rather be writing, directing or producing a movie?

I’m a filmmaker, and right now I simply want to direct what I write. That’s all I really have time for.

Despite having a famous brother, you have followed your own path in life. The two of you went to different schools and got involved in entertainment in different capacities. And though you beefed up the mother role with the intent of attracting Kathy Bates, Love Liza wasn’t written with Philip in mind. How did it come about that you worked together on that film?

I let him read it and he wanted to play the lead. This was before he had shot Boogie Nights (1997), that’s how long ago it was. I’m so glad we made that movie, as many people love it.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about making a living from screenwriting when you were starting out?

If you ultimately want to direct your own work, then you should not try to write for hire. Just make a film, then make the next one. That’s the shortest path.

Be humble with everyone you meet and don’t wait for others to follow up with them. You stay in touch and be polite.

If someone wants to hire you or buy your writing, make sure you get to join the WGA. Refuse to make the deal until they agree.

If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie writer in Adelaide, which one would it be?

Read anything on Kurosawa talking about screenwriting.

What are your ten favorite (favorite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?
Animal House (1978)
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
The Third Man (1949)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Contempt (1963)
The Seven Samarai (1954)
Slap Shot (1977)
Baby Face (1933)
Rififi (1955)
These are off the top of my head!

What’s next for Gordy Hoffman?

I’m writing a feature for Abigail Spencer and we plan to shoot in 2015.
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Wednesday 27 August 2014

How to Talk Australians, Ep.2

The Delhi College of Linguistics presents How to Talk Australians, an introduction to Australian culture, with particular emphasis on their cuisine. This is a terrifying look at the Aussie diet. Includes an Indian take on ‘How to build your own barbie.'

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Monday 25 August 2014

Texting and the Internet in Film

Here's another detailed look at one simple facet of filmmaking from Tony Zhou.

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Sunday 24 August 2014

Time Lapse - Chicago

Cityscape Chicago is a timelapse piece by Eric Hines, consisting of over 30,000 still photographs shot on the Canon 5D Mark III incrementally around downtown Chicago, Illinois.

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Saturday 23 August 2014

Joss Whedon talks about screenwriting

Here's a three-part interview with Joss Whedon, recorded by BAFTA.

Part 1:
The creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer explains how writing became his "favourite thing ever." He was working in a video store, finished up on a Friday and started the following Monday as a staff writer.

Part 2:
How did Joss Whedon bring together all the Marvel superheroes? And why does he come up with his funniest lines at funerals? Find out in our second Whedon interview!

Part 3:
In our final part, Whedon talks about the challenges of directing, how he "treats film like the military" and his advice to new filmmakers. 

Friday 22 August 2014

The 10 best jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe 2014

To find the favourite joke, ten judges scoured the Edinburgh Fringe Festival's venues for a week before nominating their three favourite jokes. They were then put to the public vote, with 2000 people choosing the ten they found funniest.


1. "I've decided to sell my Hoover ... well, it was just collecting dust." Tim Vine
2. "I've written a joke about a fat badger, but I couldn't fit it into my set." Masai Graham
3. "Always leave them wanting more, my uncle used to say to me. Which is why he lost his job in disaster relief." Mark Watson
4. "I was given some Sudoku toilet paper. It didn't work. You could only fill it in with number 1s and number 2s." Bec Hill
5. "I wanted to do a show about feminism. But my husband wouldn't let me." Ria Lina
6. "Money can't buy you happiness? Well, check this out, I bought myself a Happy Meal." Paul F Taylor
7. "Scotland had oil, but it's running out thanks to all that deep frying." Scott Capurro
8. "I forgot my inflatable Michael Gove, which is a shame 'cause halfway through he disappears up his own arsehole." Kevin Day
9. "I've been married for 10 years, I haven't made a decision for seven." Jason Cook
10. "This show is about perception and perspective. But it depends how you look at it." Felicity Ward


"I go to the kebab shop so much that when they call me boss in there. It's less a term of affection, more an economic reality." Ed Gamble
"Leadership looks fun, but it's stressful. Just look at someone leading a conga." James Acaster
"I bought myself some glasses. My observational comedy improved." Sara Pascoe

Thursday 21 August 2014

Book review: "The Cheeky Monkey"

Tim Ferguson is a comedian, writer and producer. He has written and produced sitcoms, live stage comedy shows and light entertainment programmes, and is Australia's foremost teacher of screen comedy. He toured the world performing stand-up and musical comedy as a member of the Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS). Tim is the author of The Cheeky Monkey and Carry a Big Stick.
     In this post we're only concerned with The Cheeky Monkey. I got my copy from Booktopia, after kept me hanging around waiting for six months. When I discovered that several pages were blank and others printed out of alignment, I rang Booktopia and a nice young man sent me a replacement copy; no fuss, no bother. 

There are a number of things to take into account when assessing something like a comedy instruction textbook. One of them is language. In her autobiography, Bossypants, Tina Fey gets the difficult stuff out of the way upfront. She offers a list of possible reasons why people might hate her, including the fact that she uses:
... all kinds of elitist words like "impervious" and "torpor."
That's on page 5. In contrast, Tim waits until page 74 to work in a solitary torpor. To be fair, he was talking about the TV show The Office at the time and Ricky Gervais can have that affect on people.
    So, only one torpor and no impervious; that can be construed as a mark in its favour. (I'm currently reading What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman—that's the guy who wrote Shakespeare in Love—and I'm batting away words like zaftig and hegira and ritardando and priapic and crepuscular, so I'm a bit sensitive.)

The title of the book, The Cheeky Monkey, is a clever Australian choice, drawing as it does on long usage of the phrase to describe someone who is disrespectful, but in a cunning way. The weakness of the title is that it gives no clear indication that this book is almost entirely a description of how one goes about creating your very own TV sitcom.
    There are seven chapters; two deal with writing jokes and five deal with designing, creating and selling a sitcom.
    I've read a few comedy instruction books in my time. This one shocked me. Truthfully. If, like myself, you knew Tim Ferguson from a few brief appearances on television, you could be forgiven for thinking he was another Australian smartarse, with a big mouth, rapid delivery, and a capacity for holding a tune. It was the depth of his erudition that shocked me. Sure, he could only manage one torpor, but his grasp of comedy history around the world, on the one hand, and his tight, systematic delineation of the principles and categories of humour, on the other, surprised me. 

    Then I remembered that he was already teaching a course on comedy writing at RMIT University when he succumbed to demands that he write a textbook on the subject. He also teaches short courses at RMIT, UTS, VCA, AFTRS and in conjunction with a variety of screenwriting bodies. The dude might sound like a smartarse, but he's seriously bright and absolutely dedicated to what he does.

Who should read this book?

    Anybody working as a writer. Not just bespoke comedy writers. Every writer. If for no other reason than the application of the principles outlined will help you punch up your dialogue.

Tim says in his Introduction:

The aim is to offer comedy writers some broad principles and practical methods for devising and assessing their work.

The central purpose is to aid screenwriters in developing (a) sitcom.
And, yes, the book is riddled with jokes-by-way-of-example, the secret reason most of us have for reading comedy instruction books; a bit like reading Playboy for the photos articles.

The Cheeky Monkey: highly recommended.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

"Damn Right I'm a Cowboy"

Please, watch this short video.

Now read this:

Damn Right I'm a Cowboy is an Australian feature-length documentary about local music. It was a foot-stomping riot at the Adelaide Film Festival. Made with no grants or funding, it received 'facilitity support' (but again, no money) from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), and screened three times to great reviews. 

Now it's been invited to be part of the Down Under Berlin Film Festival in September this year! Down Under Berlin, held annually at Moviemento, the oldest cinema in Germany, is the largest showcase of Australian films in Europe.

The bad news? The ABC paid music copyright for their screenings only, so some tracks in Damn Right I'm a Cowboy need clearance before anyone else can see the film. That costs anywhere from $200 to $2000 per track used.

For details, some clips, and a list of rewards for donating go to:

Can you help send this bundle of joy to Berlin? Thanks for reading. May the horse be with you!

Now here's a couple of tracks from the show.

How to Talk Australians, Ep.1

The Delhi College of Linguistics presents How to Talk Australians, an introduction to the Australian vernacular, with particular emphasis on their penchant for expletives and derogatory put-downs.

Here's episode one, "G'day Knackers."

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Monday 18 August 2014

Made Underground - London

US band, the X Ambassadors, is searching for buskers. London was their first stop, a city that has made some incredible contributions to the global music catalogue.

Jamie N. Commons, a London native and former busker himself, guides Sam Harris through popular performance areas in the city, but also off the beaten path. They visit a houseboat on the canal, and a beach in the middle of town. They stumble across a Chapman Stick player, an unconventional ‘hand pan’ instrument, and some unexpected bluegrass vibes.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Do schools kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Saturday 16 August 2014

The 'Aussie List'

Simonne Overend
Australians in Film (AIF) is a Los Angeles based non-profit organization made up largely of Australians who work in the film and television industry. The board of directors features top journalists, publicists, managers and industry executives. AIF 'Ambassadors' include Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts and Mel Gibson.

AIF has appointed a new President, Simonne Overend, and one of her first points of business has been to launch the Gateway LA script development program.

The program will support the development of commercially successful, Australian-created television and movie screenplays.
Ms Overend said recently in LA:
This new program will help Australian projects secure exposure to the best networks in the business, and our goal is to discover screenplays with strong global appeal. I look forward to steering the program and supporting the wealth of talent we are currently seeing emerge from Australia, and to working with the Australians in Film network as a whole.
Simonne Overend has been based in Los Angeles for the past several years where she works as Vice President of Scripted Development for Essential Media, creating a slate for the U.S. market

She will co-chair the program with Peter Lawson, Executive Vice President of Production and Acquisitions at Open Road Films. In his previous roles, Lawson served as President of Production at Thunder Road, and Executive Vice President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions at The Weinstein Company.

The Gateway LA prize will see between one and three winners announced per year. They will be selected from an ‘Aussie List’ of up to 10 film and television scripts, circulated to a group of judges selected from the AiF network.

Winning projects receive a cash award to facilitate development of the script, a flight to LA, targeted meetings with producers and executives, and table reads.

Modeled on The Black List and the UK’s Brit List, the script development program will promote Australian writers to both Australian and international producers, development executives and talent in Los Angeles.  

Applications are now open and will close on September 12.

Friday 15 August 2014

How a boy became an artist

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a children's book author and illustrator who created the Lunch Lady series of graphic novels - and he has a powerful story of his own.

The child of a single-parent heroin addict, he was brought up by his grandparents, and his best friends, he says, were characters in books. 

His story about how he became an artist and an author was performed at Tedx. It's a powerful tale of the importance of creativity and imagination. 

Watch it, and keep a box of Kleenex handy.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Coen Brothers and Roger Deakins

Coen Brothers and Roger Deakins have worked together on a lot of films. Here is a tribute to that work, with some of the greatest shots of their filmography.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

The History of Sound at the Movies

This is the first lesson in a six part course by John Hess and (The course will cover science/microphones, recording, editing, foley, and ADR.) 

The inclusion of sound at the movies was one of the most dramatic changes in all of film history. Dive into the early experiments of Edison trying to incorporate sound from film's inception, through the experiments in the early 1920s, The Jazz Singer and the industry sound overhaul, and finally the multi-channel surround and modern movie sound technologies.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Robin Williams: 1951-2014

Robin Williams passed away yesterday. He was a quiet child, who did not overcome his shyness until he got involved with his high-school drama department. He attended the Juilliard School from 1973 to 1976, then was cast as the alien Mork in Happy Days. His appearance was so popular with viewers that it led to a spin-off sitcom, Mork & Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982. From there he expanded into movies.

Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
Popeye (1980)
Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Cadillac Man (1990)
Hook (1991)
The Fisher King (1991)
Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
 The Birdcage (1996)
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Patch Adams (1998)
One Hour Photo (2002)
The Big White (2005)
The Aristocrats (2005) 
A rabbi walks into a bar with a frog on his shoulder. 
The bartender says, 'Hey, where did you get that?' 
The frog says, 'Brooklyn. There's hundreds of them.'
Night at the Museum (2006)
The Big Wedding (2013)
Thanks for the memories, Robin. In closing, here's my favorite television clip from 2002.

Jacques Tati - The runaway bicycle

Here's an extract from the 1949 film by Jacques Tati, Jour de Fête. The runaway bicycle segment of the film is sometimes described as an homage to the 1926 Buster Keaton film, The General, which deals with a runaway train. 
   In Jour de Fête, Tati is a postman who struggles to complete his rounds due to the generosity of the villagers who ply him with wine at every stop. A similar scene occurs in the 2008 film Welcome to the Sticks when Philippe Abrams, a post office administrator, tries to set an example of efficiency for his postman. 
   Meanwhile, this extract shows a Chaplinesque exercise with a bicycle.

Monday 11 August 2014


At the end of his greatest adventure, Skillman has vanquished his nemesis, recovered the priceless artifact, and saved his latest lover from certain doom. But as he struggles to figure out what comes next, his lady begins to realize her confident, capable man hasn't the first clue what to do once the guns are down.