Tuesday 31 May 2016

How To Understand A Picasso

Evan Puschak explains Picasso, his history, influences and methods.

Monday 30 May 2016

Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens

The remix method of copying, transforming and combining is definitely used in The Force Awakens, as well as the other works of JJ Abrams.

Kirby Ferguson asks:

Is remixing a weak point in The Force Awakens? Is the remix method growing stale? Have we reached the limits of remixing?

Sunday 29 May 2016

The Kubrick Zoom

Connor Hinson has put together some interesting shots from a few Kubrick films.

Saturday 28 May 2016

The Controller

A mother who has to listen to her child? Yep.
Roles are reversed when a controlling mom is trapped in her son’s video game. Helpless, she now has to listen to him if she hopes to escape the unfamiliar game world.

Thursday 26 May 2016

The Pellet with the Poison's in the Vessel with the Pestle

Danny Kaye takes us back to the days of swashbuckling derring-do in The Court Jester. Here is the finest scene from that movie... just for old times' sake.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Paul Haggis on writing screenplays

Paul Haggis wrote the screenplays for Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale, Crash, and many others.

Here he talks about his career, his method for finding storiesbeing carjacked, reading your daily hate mail, among others—and how he follows through on a story idea.

He says that failure and success as a writer don't matter, as long as you continue doing what you want to do. 

First posted: 12 August 2012

Tuesday 24 May 2016

How David Lynch Manipulates You

Evan Puschak examines the techniques of David Lynch in his classic film Mulholland Dr.

Monday 23 May 2016

'Other Music' to close

After more than twenty years at 15 East 4th Street in New York City, Other Music will be closing their doors on Saturday, June 25th. 

Here's a short interview with owner Josh Madell, who explains how the mecca of underground music survived for as long as it did.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Worst film posters at Cannes

I love a good movie poster. Apparently Cannes has thrown up a few, umm, interesting examples. Here's one. The rest you can see at The Guardian.

Saturday 21 May 2016

What Makes a Story Relatable?

Kristian Williams takes a quick look at Pixar's approach to storytelling and character development.

Friday 20 May 2016

Evaluating A Screenwriting Idea

Ross Brown talks about evaluating a screenwriting idea.

Thursday 19 May 2016

The World Needs You

I had been out of film school for five years, was juggling a day job and a handful of side projects when I came across Charlie Kaufman's BAFTA lecture on screenwriting. It was like I'd been punched in the gut. At that moment, all the stress and agony about hustling up money and fame and a career completely fell away. And what was left was the humble reminder of what writing, creativity, and art should all be about. I made this video as a way to capture and share that feeling, that insight. The section of the lecture included in this video was my favorite passage. But Charlie Kaufman's lecture was full of wisdom. Please check it out.  ~Warren Berkey

Wednesday 18 May 2016

"Keep Calm and Carry On"

This is a short film that tells the story behind the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster, its origins at the beginning of WWII, its rediscovery in a bookshop in England in 2000, and how it became one of the iconic images of the 21st century.

Film, music, script and narration by Temujin Doran. Concept and production by Nation.


First posted: 9 August 2012

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Great Screenwriting Ideas Are Worthless

Richard Walter is an author, educator, screenwriter, commentator, consultant and chairman of the University of California, Los Angeles graduate program in screenwriting.

Monday 16 May 2016


Procrastination is the most insidious challenge writers face, and we battle it, on some level, almost every day. Instead of being a harmless delay, procrastination will literally destroy your dreams and keep you from the living the life you probably should be living right now.

Saturday 14 May 2016

How Does an Editor Think and Feel?

Tony Zhou says:
For the past ten years, I’ve been editing professionally. Yet one question always stumps me: “How do you know when to cut?” And I can only answer that it’s very instinctual. On some level, I’m just thinking and feeling my way through the edit. So today, I’d like to describe that process: how does an editor think and feel?

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Eleven Tips on Editing Short Films

Jordan Kerfeld is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and artist from Kansas City, Missouri. His films have appeared in film festivals and curated screenings around the globe and on PBS. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he received seven awards for his journalism and short films. He is currently studying for an MFA at the University of Texas. He also works as a video editor and producer

Jordan wrote a guide to editing short films for MovieScope magazine last July. Here are some of the main points from that article.

  • Short film editing boils down to a deceptively simple discipline: tell me a good story efficiently.
  • While feature films allow one to explore complicated thematic issues and and character, the strong short film is about articulating one clear idea.
  • Concentrate on two key questions:
  • 1. What is the idea driving it? If more than one comes to mind, eliminate the weakest ones.
    2. Ask whether the film as a whole can function without a scene, a line?
    Every minute, second and frame is precious in a short. Make each one count.
  • Much dialogue is completely unnecessary for narrative purposes. It's a character-building tool, and it is easy to get carried away.
  • Make actors look their best even if the script didn't give them anything to do.
  • Editing a short film is NOT about following the script beat-by-beat.
  • I can only edit the material in front of me, so I must be ready to make radical and bold decisions that draw out the best in the material and challenge my initial expectations.
  • I prefer to edit scenes in a way which conveys important story material but does not resolve cleanly.
  • Interest is generated when one can build tension and conflict in a scene and then flee from it to the next, while making it seem somewhat resolved.
  • I've discovered that continuity and match action editing are grossly overrated.
  • Make them wish the film were longer, not the other way around.

Here's a short film, called Knuckleball, made by Jordan Kerfeld about a year ago. 

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First posted: 8 August 2012

Tuesday 10 May 2016

The Billy Wilder Digitization Project

The Writers Guild Foundation has digitized its entire Billy Wilder collection - original copies of every script Wilder ever wrote, donated by the man himself from his personal collection.

Monday 9 May 2016

Indie-gogo Girl

First episode of Livin' The Dream, a new web series serial comedy from sisters Kim Spurlock and Mai Spurlock. The oh-so-personal tale of one woman's struggle to navigate the indie film world. How far will she go to attain Indie Director Goddessness?

Kit returns to film school to relive old glory, but instead discovers new anxieties.

Sunday 8 May 2016

The Evolution of Batman's Gotham City

Evan Puschak, the Nerdwriter, walks us through the history of Gotham City through the comic books, games and movies.

Saturday 7 May 2016

A Conversation with Syd Field

Syd Field is a name that is highly respected in the Film Industry. If you have had anything to do with the film world it is most likely that you have heard of Syd Field. Filmmaking is in his genetics and his books on screenwriting are legendary. Screenplay (1982) has been translated into at least 19 languages and The Screenwriter’s Workbook and The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver are the “bibles” for all screenwriting courses. He is a best selling author, international creative consultant to several governments, a script consultant, a teacher, international lecturer and a really gracious, interesting man to spend time with. Syd is without question the international expert on screenwriting and certainly one of the most inspiring.

Friday 6 May 2016


We humans we create, we work, we stay busy from birth to death and never rest. We build, aim higher, work harder, accomplish more, and to what end? "Balance" takes an abstract look at our modern world, the full and the empty spaces and time in which we live and choose to make our lives.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Meet The Peter Principle

We live in times of seemingly unending progress - and yet somehow things still always go wrong: trains are late, broadband speeds suck and the promotion always goes to the wrong person. Well, it turns out there's an explanation for all this - and progress itself is the problem.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Book review: "Dinosaur Theory"

Dinosaur Theory: Uncovering a New Approach to Screenwriting is one of those 'inevitable' books. It was inevitable that someone would write it one day. The surprise is that it was written by an Adelaide-based screenwriter. [In the interests of full disclosure, I have to tell you that Chris Tugwell was my first ever script editor.]

Even before I'd read it, when all I'd seen was the blurb outline, I knew I would like this book. Chris understands that the old Three-Act Structure Theory is misleading, and, when it comes to creating a story, unhelpful. In this he is neither first, nor alone.

Chris Tugwell
Some witnesses for the prosecution:
  • Paddy ChayefskyDramatic writing is really nothing more than telling a story, and nobody ever tells a story quite like anyone else.
  • Charlie KaufmanThere’s no template for a screenplay, or there shouldn’t be. There are at least as many screenplay possibilities as there are people who write them. We’ve been conned into thinking there is a pre-established form.
  • John Truby Three act structure, albeit a lot easier to understand than Aristotle, is hopelessly simplistic and in many ways just plain wrong. ... Three-act structure is a mechanical device superimposed on the story and has nothing to do with its internal logic—where the story should or should not go.
  • William FrougThe best way to tell your story is the way the story itself dictates. Do not try to contort it into a predetermined form.
  • Daniel PyneI completely eschew the formula of first, second, and third acts. I've run into too many writers who get lost in that old formula. They know where the first act ends, and they know where the second act ends, but their entire script is treading water because they're just writing from point to point.
  • Howard Suber With regard to any specific movie, everyone will agree on where the first act begins and where the third act ends, but there is often no agreement about where the second act begins and ends—even among the people who make the film.  
  • Bill Idelson The rich construction (read, 'structure') experts are not so much instructors as critics. They take a successful movie and dissect what the successful writer did. They remind me of wannabe painters who move a canvas chair into the museum and copy the brush strokes of Whistler's Mother. I only mention these charlatans to save student's time and money.
None of this helps the writer in the creation of their script

In Dinosaur Theory, Chris says this:
  • The trouble with all the graphs and diagrams that supposedly measure our emotional engagement in the script, and on precisely what page your turning point should occur, is that none of this helps the writer in the creation of their script. Worse, I believe it actually gets in the way.
  • I say this as a screenwriter, and as someone who over the past 20 years has edited, read and assessed literally thousands of screenplays by budding as well as highly skilled writers. In that time it has become clear to me that what all the good and great scripts have in common is not this mysterious Three Act structure. It isn't even that they have a great story, though that is pretty vital.
  • What each and every great script has is shape.

Yeah, shape. This might sound weird at first, but give it a chance.
  • I use the term 'shape' to distinguish what I'm talking about from what is described as 'structure,' of the Hollywood-guru-Three-Act variety. The two are fundamentally different.

They are focused on storytelling as an inorganic thing,
rather than part of the natural world

After studying structural theory for years, I went through an exercise whereby I reduced the major schemes—by Syd Field, Linda Seger, Michael Hauge, Christopher Vogler, Viki King, and Blake Snyder—to an overlapping chart, which highlighted the commonalities of their theories, and I submitted that chart to Brian McDonald (author of Invisible Ink) for comment. He approved my analysis, then said:
In the end we all say the same thing in slightly different ways. For each of us, I'm sure, there are subtleties that only matter to us. I think those authors are great, but they are focused on storytelling as an inorganic thing, rather than part of the natural world. They tend not to relate these structures to real life, or at least, to how we relate stories to one another in real life.

... the natural and obvious connection of events in your story ...

Chris Tugwell goes on to say: 
  • I'm talking about the natural and obvious connection of events in your story that draws it into one single, unified and sublime whole. Where everything fits like a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece has its own unique place, and the picture is incomplete without all the parts.
  • The shape provides the support, the skeleton, the bones on which your story hangs.

There are lots of different story 'shapes.' Just think about it. There is the 'Time' shape:
There is a 'Deadline' shape, a 'Task' shape, a 'Place' shape, a 'Journey' shape, 'Another Reality' shape, an 'Event' shape, an 'Anniversary' shape, an 'Object' shape, and so on. I can't reproduce all the information here; you'll have to read the book for yourself.
  • This is not new. The ancient Greeks and Persians knew about it. As did Chaucer and Boccaccio. Shakespeare used a wide variety of shapes in his plays; an island in The Tempest (a place), the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V (an event), the summer solstice in A Midsummer's Night Dream (one day). In Romeo and Juliet it is the length of a relationship from their first meeting to their deaths.
  • Each shape has particular features that make it powerful. Each has a certain character and qualities that make it suitable for particular stories. Although there will always be those writers who break the boundaries and find a way of using a shape in a surprising and unexpected way, whether it is Tarantino breaking a single day into out-of-sequence fragments (Pulp Fiction), or Pinter making time flow backwards (Betrayal). 
  • Genre isn't a lot of help in determining the shape of your film. It doesn't narrow your choices down that much. For this reason using a 'genre' can create as many problems as it solves; it is the ultimate one-size-fits-all approach. And genre doesn't help you explore your character's emotions and their response under stress. 
  • If it's a thriller genre, is it in the shape of a 'place' like the motel in Psycho, or is it in the shape of a 'journey' like Wolf Creek?
  • If it's a romantic comedy is it the Bridget Jones's Diary kind, that lets us into the head of the main character via the diary (relationship) shape, or is it the A Fish Called Wanda kind that is in the shape of a heist (task)?
  • Once the shape of your journey is clear, the way that events unfold will become more and more obvious and large parts of your script will fall into place.
  • And because it is so vital, uncovering the shape must happen before any thought of acts or turning points.

Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground

All of which leads into the theory element of Dinosaur Theory. Very few people ever get a complete idea for a story in a single instant. I usually think of a character in a situation. Then I have to scratch around to work out how that character in that situation translates into a complete story.

The bulk of Dinosaur Theory addresses the question of, How do I get my story fragment out of my subconscious? How do I dig up my complete dinosaur skeleton, without losing any of the vital pieces? It's a question Stephen King touched on briefly in his book On Writing.
  • My basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. (p.188)
  • Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground. (p.188)
  • Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. (p.189)
Whereas Stephen King just mentioned the problem, then moved his focus to what Brian McDonald calls 'wordsmithing,' Chris Tugwell spends a lot of time walking us through the process of discovering our own stories. If you struggle with the how of unearthing a complete story, this book is a good place to go for ideas.

However the breakthrough element in the book, for me, is Chris's idea of 'shape' as the predetermining element in devising the structure of a story. It’s a solid, accessible concept, easy to grasp and explain.

I'm already using it.

First posted:  6 August 2012

Tuesday 3 May 2016

This Is Not the End

Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell tried to make a film about something fake and it failed. So she made this instead.

Monday 2 May 2016


Forest creatures learn the harsh ways of the world, in this award-winning short film from The Animation School in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Sunday 1 May 2016

The Serial: From Dickens To Star Wars

Evan Puschak, the Nerdwriter, walks us through the history of serial storytelling.