Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 - A Year in Rear View

Well, what a year 2011 turned out to be on the writing front.

It started with a bang when The Red Bride successfully picked up a Feature Navigator grant from ScreenWest. I confess I was somewhat pleased to receive that call. Dancing may have been involved.

Since then there have been, I’m going to say, three to four drafts and many script meetings, discussions, existential crises, false starts, bouts of inspiration, moments of teeth gritting agony… in what is generally known as feature development. It was also an opportunity to work with a top notch script consultant from L.A. in Michael Hauge. Thank goodness for Skype!

There is a full line-by-line script session scheduled with the producers a few days after Christmas which will lock off the script… or 2011’s iteration leastways. It remains the best thing I have written and hopefully next year will see serious market interest.

Speaking of script consultants, 2011 was a year where I was exposed to several other top notch practitioners – from Karel Segers’ seminar on The Hero’s Journey to Paul Chitlik’s intensive five day treatment workshop to Simon van der Borgh’s entertaining (as always) exploration of genre. I love this level of hands on interaction with people who really know their screenwriting lore.

Not only does it keep you sharp on craft skills it actually generates content – there is a 28 page treatment from Paul’s workshop for a feature project that currently has a pitch document sitting with an eastern states production company; and a one page synopsis from Simon’s ‘invitation’ to come up with, over lunch no less, a feature film idea. There is a local producer interested in the subsequent one page synopsis but I simply haven’t had time to do anything further with it… yet. That’s on 2012’s To Do List.

I also had the opportunity to listen to writers such as Andrew Bovell (Lantana, Edge of Darkness), Ron Osborn (The West Wing, Moonlighting) and David Stevens (Oscar nominated for Breaker Morant) share their experiences and insights. Many thanks to the WA Branch of the Australian Writers’ Guild, ScreenWest and the Perth Actors Collective for organising such events.  

My focus throughout the year has been predominantly on developing feature projects but I was delighted to be asked to participate in the Professional Partnership Program run by the Filmbites Youth Film School. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience which now sees two short film scripts I’ve written about to go into production next month.

Feature development can be a hard slog so the opportunity to work with a talented group of young actors and the genuinely supportive staff has been a revelation. The next few days will see a workshop of one script and a table read of the other. It looks like I will also be invited to rehearsals and the shoots so from that perspective it’s as much a learning experience for me as the ‘students’.

It may have been a contributing factor to me shopping three of my short scripts once a producer released two of them recently. I have had some very interesting people respond and will be meeting with a director after the workshop tomorrow to discuss one of those screenplays. Another director is checking their eligibility for the funding round I have in mind and I’m waiting to hear back from others who have requested scripts. 

The end of the year has been incredibly busy. Suddenly I seem to be in demand as people seek me out to work with on a variety of different projects. Of the two directors attached to the Filmbites’ scripts, one has asked me to co-write his feature and the other had already approached me about writing a short that could subsequently be developed into a feature. The former will technically be an adaptation as it’s based on a real life Australian political event but it’s up to others to make announcements about the specifics. Suffice to say there is plenty of reading and research ahead of me over the summer.

I continue to enjoy reading other people’s scripts and offering feedback. I apologise that sometimes it takes me longer than I would like but it is dependent on how swamped I am with writing commitments. I have read some very interesting stories this year from a genre piece set on an oil rig in the North Sea to the debut effort of an actor turned writer to a funky web series aimed at young adults. I find the passion of other writers quite invigorating and discussing scripts is always fun.

One thing I have learnt during the year is that sometimes projects stall despite the best intentions of all involved. Directors withdraw due to unavoidable personal circumstances; priorities may change for producers; projects may simply be past their shelf life; funding bodies may not share your vision. I am always striving to better handle those sorts of disappointments.

Finally, thank you to all my major collaborators and supporters throughout the year – David Revill & Jocelyn Quioc at Tin Can Films (formerly Forgeworks); directors Chris Richards-Scully & Tim Dean; Hallie Mckeig and all the gang at Filmbites; producer Michael Facey; true hyphenate Anna Bennetts; Rikki Lea Bestall at ScreenWest; and all the recent additions to my circle of talented colleagues.

Have a great Christmas and see you all in 2012! 

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