Two to share. First up, I was a quarterfinalist in the SWN Goldman Awards with my comedy feature, Snitch.
They sent me a laurel, which was lovely of them. I’m particularly pleased, as the judges in this include Ed Solomon, screenwriter of the Men in Black, Bill and Ted and the Now You See Me franchises (there’s a third one of NYSM being developed now), and Fleur Costello, former BBC comedy producer with over 20 years in the industry.
Next up – and this only happened this week – the BBC called out for submissions to their Upload Festival (May Day weekend) and I thought I’d give it a go (bear in mind I’m a writer not a performer) so dug out an old poem (a short old poem) with a twist ending. Off it went, and made it onto Radio Kent, so yay me!
Finally – not so much a mini-win for me personally (but fundraising for my charity) – I’m taking part in my third Firewalk next Friday. As you know, I manage a small community space and we’re looking to begin opening up again in the next two months – slowly at first, as our people are elderly and/or vulnerable and the priority is to keep them all safe.
But we’ve almost all had our second jabs now, so confidence is growing that we can get back to some semblance of normality. If you’d like to help us get our programme underway again, this is the link to share (or you can sponsor me, that’d be fab!) Thank you!
Well, didn’t we get all excited? Well, I did, obviously.
This is the news that hit Thursday:
Yay, screamed I. Then awwwww as Chris Evans tweeted this:
(Bonus Jamie Lee Curtis content though)
So, possibly not then. I know some people think it would cheapen the beautiful ending of Endgame, but I think there are two more standalone stories to tell with Evans as Steve Rogers (with him having handed the shield onto Sam to be Captain America), neither of which impact on his hero’s journey, as broken down below.
Firstly, we left Agent Carter with unfinished business, so either series 3, with Steve backing up Peggy as she solves the mystery and then goes on to found S.H.I.E.L.D. (or a feature film version). Think of all the internal conflict Steve will have, unable to change the future, unable to stop Hydra growing inside S.H.I.E.L.D. How much could he, should he, tell her? Delicious.
Secondly, a prequel (as they’ve done with Black Widow) on what he and Sam (and hopefully Nat – maybe a quick visit to Bucky, too?) got up to in between Civil War and Infinity War, with Steve as Nomad. Rough, dirty, long haired, bearded Cap … where was I?
Wishful thinking on my part, I suspect, until I saw this:
… and got all excited again! Keep everything crossed, I beg you.
Now, as you can see from the title of this post, this was going to be about my favourite screenwriting structure, The Hero’s Journey, and how it completely fits the arc of Steve Rogers in the MCU. So that news breaking at this time seems a bit spooky, doesn’t it?
I don’t do graphs or charts as I was rubbish at maths and they remind me of maths. It’s words all the way for me. Lists I get. And the Hero’s Journey Structure is just that. (You can make it into a pretty circle if you want.)
Here we go:
An Ordinary World: The world is at war, and Steve wants to do his bit, alongside BFF Bucky. He shows his determination and courage.
The Call To Adventure: Steve applies to the army. A lot.
The Refusal of the Call: The army rejects him due to his obvious deficiencies (the refusal doesn’t always have to be the MC refusing a quest e.g. Luke, Frodo.)
Meeting the Mentor(s): Dr. Erskine earwigs on Steve and Bucky and knows he’s found his good guy. I would also include Peggy as a Mentor figure, she was so much more than a love interest, as proven with her appearances throughout the franchise in her own right.
Crossing the Threshold: Puny Steve is transformed into Captain America.
Tests, Allies and Enemies: The First Avenger; The Avengers; Winter Soldier; Age of Ultron.
Approaching the Innermost Cave: Civil War and the Sokovia Accords.
Ordeal: The fight with Tony.
Reward: Bucky is saved.
The Road Back: Infinity War brings him home to the Avengers.
Resurrection: Endgame – apart from The Avengers literally resurrecting everyone, Cap is back in the fold, and will lead the Avengers once more – until …
Return with the Elixir: Steve gets to go home. Home being Peggy; his compass points the way, and his compass is a picture of Peggy. Anyone who thinks Steve’s arc should or could have been different doesn’t understand story. Stucky fans will point to the “I’m with you to the end of the line” quote without understanding that Endgame was the end of the line for them. Steve saved Bucky three times, he deserved to go home.
I don’t know if Marvel planned this, or whether it only came about when they knew they were introducing time travel, but since Markus and McFeely were the showrunners of Agent Carter, as well as writing all the Cap films, Infinity War and Endgame, I’d like to think they did.
You have to find a way of telling your stories that suit you, and this structure just makes sense to me. It even works with a short documentary I’m working on, an eye opener that came out of a seminar with Dr. Steve Evanson, co-creator of the BBC’s Coast. Remember the snakes v iguana on Planet Earth? Yep, it’s a hero’s journey structure. And no, the name Steve Evanson is not lost on me *ghost emoji*
Here we are again! A year on and my portfolio is out of control. OK, it isn’t, because I’m organised, it just looks that way.
You see, once I create a world and characters I love, I make them work, so they could go from a feature to sitcom, to audio drama to short sketches, depending on what opportunities arise. Hence, there are now four screenshots, compared to last year’s one:
SNITCH has been rewritten and is being submitted to opportunities and competitions. It got off to a good start as semi-finalist in the London International Screenwriting Competition. I’m also adapting it into a TV series. It’s also now deliberately funny, following feedback that I should embrace my comedy voice!
CROWNING DAVID was previously known as MARROWFAT 241, a sci-fi feature (still there for reference and its first 10 pages made quarter finalist in the London International Screenwriting Competition), but is now being adapted into a comedy-drama series.
AUNT COOKIE’S I’m looking to adapt as a radio comedy-drama, as well as revisit the pilot.
THE OTHER GIRL is a new sitcom.
THE DONATION was a short sketch that came out of a sitcom course and has been adapted for various opportunities.
HUB SKETCH – I run a community hub, and this plus The Donation, will form sketches for BREWING UP, a series based in the hub (I’ve got the keys, see, so location location location!).
MAKING A SCENE was various different scenes from some of my projects for an opportunity.
SPLIT was formerly GOODBYE GIRL.
EVOLUTION was ALIEN: EVOLUTION, now rewritten and being submitted to various opps and competitions.
UMBILICAL is my psychological thriller that has really earned its keep this year, as did …
SERENA, which was upgraded to semi-finalist in the Table Read My Screenplay Awards.
BRAVE FACE and NO EXCEPTIONS are in a holding pattern, as is ELERI EVANS, bless her, she’s being ever so patient (but her time might come this year, as I need a 10 page treatment for an opportunity and I’ve tons of info I’ve gathered for her story).
MAUD is an historical drama feature or series, or possibly a radio sitcom, based on real life events. Like I say, I like to make them work for their place. It’s the middle ages with lots of battles, so I’m thinking radio might be the best bet, and having seen the first episode of The Great, I might well embrace the comedy side of it (there is one, believe it or not).
DESPATCHED was my scene as part of a collaborative sitcom episode from the sitcom course and was huge fun, and challenging, as my character was on her own with just a sarcastic computer programme to talk to.
THE ANCESTOR is the supernatural horror that came out of the opportunity I blogged about before.
And finally, the LONELINESS film, is a docu-drama story about the importance of volunteering and dealing with the shit that life throws at you, featuring one of my lovely volunteers at the hub. That’s just a basic outline at present, notes are elsewhere.
I hate the thought of writers block, so I find that having a few projects on the go, and shaping them for different opportunities that crop up, means that if I get stuck on one, I can switch to another. I also re-typed SNITCH completely, word for word, and it was amazing how much better it became, so that’s the next task with my other complete projects.
Today will be tough for so many, since we’re back in full lockdown. Stay safe, accept every offer of help – if you’re in Medway, give me a shout, I can point you to various organisations – or just join me on Twitter @ScattyJan if you want to chat (and swear at the stupid z-list celebs who think they know better than doctors. Grrrrr.)
I do love an opportunity and the generosity of screenwriter, script consultant and producer, Clive Frayne, provided just that.
Clive put out a call for his 2020 Script Development programme and I was one of over a hundred screenwriters who responded (considering what was on offer it should have been more).
Tasked with providing Clive with an idea (not a logline) I was able to use what was literally a one line scrawl in a notebook while on holiday last year, which was: ‘Great location for a murder’.
That’s because it would be an ‘impossible’ murder, as I was on a tiny ferry with three crew and twelve passengers, all strapped into their own, individual seats that no-one could have left without being seen.
This idea grew and I was delighted to make it into Clive’s shortlist of 15 writers. From there, he gave us additional assignments, one of which was to make a Pinterest board with images that gave a sense of the story and characters (that’s a snapshot above). And what an inspiration that turned out to be – I’m doing one for all my stories now!
I’ve now gone from that one line idea to an almost fully-fleshed out supernatural horror story that explores the psychological and emotional cost of family betrayal, and I’m really excited by it.
My involvement in Clive’s scheme ended there, as Clive had the tough task of whittling down to just two writers. So I’m breaking my rule of buying no more how-to books to apply more of Clive’s process to my scripts. You can find it here.
Yes, it’s time for my annual “I’m going to start blogging again” post.
Ok, I’m probably not, because my priority is to write scripts, and by and large, throughout 2019, that’s what I’ve been doing.
I wanted to keep myself accountable, so to that end, I took a screenshot of my projects on 5/1/19, and just remembered to do it again today to compare and check my progress.
And I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done. On 5/1/19, I had six projects on the go: Eleri Evans (YA feature opening two pages – I have an outline elsewhere); Aunt Cookie’s (tv pilot) The Deal (feature) The Bond (feature) Alien: Evolution (competition short) and Sally (feature).
It looks more than six due to needing excerpts for submissions, or where I was debating which way to take the script (e.g. The Deal has two different endings).
To say I’m pleased with how re-writing has gone is an understatement. This is today’s screenshot.
Goodbye Girl is a short, rewritten from a script I did from my Uni of Kent Writing for Stage and Screen course.
Serena – previously Sally – is now a long short which I hope to shoot myself.
Aunt Cookie’s was rewritten and has been submitted to various competitions and gigs.
Alien: Evolution is a short written for a competition, and is now being rewritten.
Snitch – previously The Deal – is now a first draft feature with a definitive ending.
Umbilical – previously The Bond – was rewritten and has been submitted to various competitions and gigs.
No Exceptions and Brave Face are shorts that came out of Talent Campus, and received Special Commendations from the Four Minute Screenplay Competition. Brave Face is another I’m hoping to shoot myself (along with Goodbye Girl).
Marrowfat 241 is a speed draft sci-fi feature adapted from a short story I wrote years ago, and is awaiting rewrites.
And Eleri Evans is still hanging in there, awaiting her turn!
It’s already gearing up to be a busy opening couple of months, as I was lucky enough to be awarded a bursary from the Oppenheim-Downes Foundation, which is paying for two courses with Raindance.
Across ten weeks from the end of January to the end of March, I’ll be taking a Filmmaker’s Foundation Course and a Producer’s Foundation Course, which I hope will equip me with the skills to make a short film for my charity, The Net Community Hub.
Our aims are to reduce social isolation and put an end to loneliness, and the short film will hopefully raise awareness of these issues, as well as publicise the good work the hub is doing, supported by its volunteering partners, Walderslade Together.
The bonus is that these will also equip me with the skills to make my own films. So I’m raising a glass to 2020 – of gin and tonic, probably (seriously, I was given sooooo much gin for Christmas) – and making this year the big one.
Like most writers, I’ve done my fair share of courses – short and long, online and offline – to help improve my writing. I’ve attended events and seminars to glean nuggets of info from those who’ve been there and done it, and signed up to numerous writing websites’ newsletters .
And now, I’ve finally taken myself by the scruff of the neck and gone for the Big One: Talent Campus, the London Screenwriters’ Festival’s rocket-fuelled 7 day, 4 week intensive workout.
I’ll openly admit, I thought it was too soon for me to take full advantage of it. But then I thought, what the hell? I’ve either got talent or I haven’t and it’s probably best to find out sooner rather than later, right?
I was still unconvinced though, and my application contained 10 pages of an incomplete script which was pretty much a raw first draft, where I teed up ideas to explore further along. I figured, if they accept that, I know I’m on the right track.
So here I am. The intense activity away at Ealing Studios starts on June 26, but we’re in the Pre-Ignition phase and they’ve already set a first homework assignment, a 2 page script for their Impact 50 project.
It’s something I looked at briefly before, but couldn’t come up with a good idea, mainly I think, because I was concentrating on my TV pilot for a competition. So I let it go – and then slightly panicked when the assignment came through.
Don’t settle on your first idea, it said, and eventually the snippets I’d been jotting down previously formed themselves into a workable plot: An elderly lady decides to protect her canine best friend from suffering the impact.
I decided to give her a cantankerous husband to play off, then decided to give him dementia – we lost my dad to the condition, and I’m involved in the local dementia action alliance, so I’m confident including it in my stories.
But then a funny thing happened. Having only two pages to play with, I ran out of room for the dog. So the story became: A woman whose husband lives with dementia shields him from the present by recreating a date from their past. Which hadn’t been in my notes at all!
For novelists, November is a huge month, with a small endeavour known as NaNoWriMo keeping them busy. It’s like the vomit draft I mentioned previously, aimed at getting some 50,000 words of a novel down on paper.
For screenwriters, the equivalent is Zero Draft Thirty – a month long attempt to bash out the first draft of your screenplay, or plan or rewrite – there are no rules. It fitted well with my three pages a day plan.
March was ZDT and I decided to adapt a thirty page short sci-fi story. I quickly realised that the twist at the end was really only the end of the first act and then came the hard part of upping the stakes.
I took vomit draft to a whole new level as I struggled to make sense of the story – and also struggled to not edit as I went along – until finally, something clicked. It might only be 48 pages in total at present, as the 3 pages a day gave way to thrashing out the story, but it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and I’m pleased with the overall concept. My main character turned out to be fun too!
Although I found the rewriting process with the other two projects a lot of fun, I’ve parked this story for now – it was more of an experiment for my first ZDT – and am going to focus on another project that I feel more passionate about, one that has a beginning and an end but a higgledy-piggledy middle. This one, a darkly comic crime caper, has been one of my main projects since I started to focus on screenplays and I’m itching to crack on with it.
Flitting between the two stories is a bit of luxury at present, as the two completed projects are now with a script consultant. The pilot I’m going to enter in Thousand Films competition, and the feature will be sent to Sheridan Smith’s production company, Barking Mad Productions – Sheridan very kindly put out a call for scripts and has promised to read all of them – I’m guessing she’s decided for forego sleep for a while!
All this is happening while putting together the next RLF Murderous Medway (21st September), for which we have some cracking authors already lined up. A pretty productive March, which has energised me for April!
You know I said I’d be writing at least 3 pages a day? I actually have!
Therefore, as we near the end of January, I can look back on the month and be really proud that I’ve now two complete project drafts. And it’s thanks in part to the excellent book (see above) by Pilar Alessandra: The Coffee Break Screenwriter.
I was stuck at a rough 12 pages for the pilot episode of my TV series, so, since it was Pilar’s weekend TV writing course that set me on the journey with it last year, I revisited her book to jump start me again.
Going into the weekend last year with just the basic concept, I came away with the full template for all the elements of a mini series bible, which subsequently turned into a 5 page document that set a strong framework for me to work from.
But knowing my characters and where I want them to go turned out to be the easy bit. So using Pilar’s book, I’ve begun to work through the 10 minute exercises and concentrate on one part of the script at a time. Before I knew it, I’d hit 45 pages. And I’m still only at the beginnings of the rewrite processes!
Having already completed the vomit draft (as I’ve charmingly seen it called) of my feature – Pilar refers to it as the speed draft (as in you write it quickly, not while you’re high) – I’ve started the rewriting process on that and already it’s gained another 4 pages.
It helps that I’ve finally made the effort to make more, dedicated, time. I’d let too many distractions keep me away from the writing but a new approach has proven worthwhile. This is essentially not writing just on the computer – printing the drafts off and going through with a red pen (like in the olden days) clearly works for me. Pen and paper, you can’t beat it.
Yesterday I was at the second Rochester Write Then Socialise and basically sat quietly for 3 whole hours working through the script, with Pilar’s book becoming more and more thumbed as the day wore on. The beauty of this was that once I felt a break was in order, I could reward myself by chatting to fellow writers over a coffee, the importance of which can’t be underestimated.
Writing is a lonely, solitary business and it’s easy to become isolated. While we were all concentrating on our own projects, the sounds of low chatter, tapping on keyboards and the scratching of pens reminded me I’m not on my own.
My ambition is to write a screenplay. A full length film. I’ve got the whole film playing out in my head – interrupted occasionally by the TV series I want to do. And chocolate adverts.
So I’m dabbling in online courses for film making and screenwriting, through the brilliant Future Learn portal – masses of free online courses you can do in your own time, or alongside potentially thousands of others. Do check them out.
The one I’m currently engaged in is ‘Explore Film’ and it’s pretty awesome – I’ve already watched some brilliant short films and am feeling inspired. Into Week 2 and there was the opportunity for some practical work. Today found me on location (at the ever welcoming Cafe @172/Dot Cafe in Rochester) with the lovely Sam Rapp, The Dyslexic Poet, and the also lovely Penny from the cafe (who didn’t need too much persuasion, since she’s another crafty creative we’ve found).
The brief was to write a 30 second script on the premise on someone in a room giving something to someone else coming into the room. I then had to storyboard it (you can see that on my Creative Arts Pinterest page. A must if you like stick men work) and then rope in some unsuspecting victims to film it with me (see above).
And this was the result. I still haven’t discovered the techy tricks that will make the video look as good on YouTube as it does on the iPad, which is annoying – but hopefully that’s something we’ll cover as we progress.