Monday, June 13, 2011

A Paranoia of Screenwriters

I don't know if there is a collective noun for a group of screenwriters but if there isn't can I proffer 'A Paranoia of Screenwriters'?

Because (as every right thinking, decent, hard-working screenwriter knows) everybody is out to steal their ideas, screw them Toby Ziegler style with their pants on, and generally suck on the marrow of their creative genius like some vampiric nemesis writ large.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating... a little. I have come across those people and I am sure you have too. You just roll your eyes and head straight for the free wine.

So it was refreshing for two days to a) be in the presence of the redoubtable Simon van der Borgh who conducted his Genre Workshop in typical entertaining style and b) hear approximately 20 feature stories ideas as a result of Simon's devilishly simple writing exercises.

To those of you mailing copies of your scripts to yourself by registered post, yes I was recording every pitch on the iPhone 4 I don't have and I've been busily transcribing your genius as we, um, 'speak'.

Seriously though, I LOVE these sorts of workshops precisely because they are all about stories and creativity. Spending a couple of days discussing the history of genre, genre types and conventions, audience expectations, referencing films and watching clips, discussing character and story rather than templates. All brilliant stuff. And highly interactive.

It's always interesting listening to other people's story ideas and we had a wide range from horror, to supernatural, to a rom-com, action-adventures, family dramas, social justice, epic fantasy... and my little science fiction horror. You also get the benefit of feedback and thoughts from Simon and your screenwriting brethren which helps gauge if the story has potential.

Plus one key message that emerged from the workshop - the consistency of TONE. The knock on a lot of Australian films being that because they don't know what genre they want to be their tone is all over the place which alienates audiences as expectations are not met.

So thank you to Simon and kudos to all the talent in the room who contributed to making it an enjoyable and productive couple of days. Let's see how many of these ideas make it to the page and hopefully further...

Just don't tell anybody a group of screenwriters gathered together in the one place and freely gave of their time and ideas... we have a reputation to uphold!

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