Calling all writers!

Our seasonal Writers Gatherings are well underway, with a great mix of familiar faces as well as some newcomers, and we hope to welcome you all to our future gatherings, screenings and workshops; there’s going to be lots coming up over the next few months so watch this space for more details!

Ahead of the MannIN Shorts script submission deadline, (January 24th) we wanted to encourage any interested writers, those who have written previously and those who are complete beginners, to get together with a view to sharing our ideas and identifying some key considerations when writing for short films.

We’ll actually be holding another Writers Gathering this Saturday (Jan 18th) to help whip those scripts into shape before submission. Any interested writers are invited to bring along one or two copies of their scripts/screenplays, completed first drafts or even a few basic scenes which we can run through, bringing the ideas to life, and helping to identify any adjustments before the initial deadline. Drop in and see us at Thie Ellyn (The IoM Arts Society building, just off Withington Road in Douglas) from 10 ’til 12.30(ish).

Here’s a link to the location: http://isleofmanartsociety.com/location-2/

In the meantime though….

Image So what makes a successful script?

strong characters: not necessarily likeable, but definitely engaging, the writer must know their characters’ every thought and motive, and understand the world from their characters’ point of view. A strong character should be distinct, and it is their journey, their wants, needs, crises and decisions that drive the story.

coherent story: it is crucial to be clear about the story you are telling, it may seem like an obvious statement, but at an early stage, plotting the beginning – middle – end will form the backbone of your story and a good structure will keep you focused, allowing each scene to drive the story forward. The plot is the route, the story is the journey.

convincing conclusions: bringing the story to a meaningful climax whilst avoiding predictability can be a real challenge. As a writer it is essential to maintain an awareness of your audience at all times, what do you want to convey to them? What is the emotional response you hope to evoke? A well written ending will satisfy, leaving a memorable impact.

ImagePlot ‘twists’, are a common feature in short films such as the critically acclaimed ‘Gone Fishing‘, written by Chris Jones, (director of the London Screenwriters Festival, who recently ran a two-day workshop on the Island as part of the Film Festival). Although not essential, when used appropriately plot twists allow sufficient deviation from the main story to keep the audience engaged and entertained.

Once the writer is confident in a solid concept, the next step is to condense the story into a brief, clear synopsis, known in the biz as a ‘treatment’. A treatment allows the writer to convey the screenplay in a compelling way, introducing characters and addressing the story arc, highlighting conflict/resolution and plot progression.

Apparently, when hearing pitches for new movies, Steven Spielberg makes his decision based on a two sentence description of the story. As well as a comprehensive treatment, these ‘loglines’ are used as a marketing tool to sell potential scripts to producers (and audiences!) Here are a couple of examples of loglines from successful movies:

Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone:-
Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

ETposterET:-
A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial. He has to find the courage to defy the authorities to help the alien return to its home planet.”

Writing is re-writing after all… so before you start on the nitty-gritty of the script, write your treatment, when your treatment is complete, distill the essence into a logline… and get scribbling!

We’ve heard some great pitches so far, and with that in mind it would be useful to highlight some important criteria when writing for MannIN Shorts:

budget: (try and keep your production costs to a minimum so your budget remains achievable, and your producer will be a lot less stressed with production starts! )

location: (although your film doesn’t need to be set on the Island, the locations do need to remain on the Isle of Man; some of the most successful short films require only one or two locations, which also helps to facilitate a smoother shooting schedule.)

staying in the ‘real’ world: (it’s amazing what we can create with good props and make-up, but minimising the need for special effects keeps costs down and makes small-scale production feasible.)

cast number: (keeping your cast number small allows the story to stay focused; also, most of the previous film shoots have taken place over two to four days so the smaller the cast and crew, the easier it should be to co-ordinate availability… in theory!)

alicecreedAs part of the Isle of Man Film Festival back in September, we were fortunate to have a question and answer session with writer/director J Blakeson who spoke at a special screening of his film ‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed‘. The film is set almost exclusively in one location, and centres around only three characters, and yet the success of the film lies in the strength of the story, the relentless surprises which continue to keep the audience guessing up until the final few frames. As J Blakeson explained “[the script] is so twisty because plot is free! You’re sitting there in a room on your own and it doesn’t cost you anything to come up with a really good story. If it works on the page, then it should work on the screen.”

His one piece of advice for budding filmmakers and screenwriters was “…take every job you can and learn from every job you do. And don’t give up.” Wise words.

For further info in the meantime, the links below provide some great resources for aspiring writers and filmmakers alike:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/filmnetwork/filmmaking/guide/introduction/what-makes-a-good-short

Good luck! We can’t wait to see what 2014 has got in store…!

(Blog by Rosie)

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About MannIN Shorts

"MannIN Shorts" is a brand new Isle of Man film initiative set to provide a platform for hopeful filmmakers.  Young or old, local or international it provides a launch pad to develop skills, ideas and actually make films, right here on the Isle of Man.
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