Eilish Kent: Tips for Writing Short Films

Over her career, producer, script editor and story consultant Eilish Kent has commissioned (for RTÉ & BBC) over 100 live action and animated short films. She also ran clinics for Filmbase on short films and has sat on many selection panels for County Councils around the country. Eilish teaches screenwriting in the National Film School and assesses Film for the Arts Council. She can be hired as a story consultant and script editor through her website.

Eilish will hold a writing workshop to write/rewrite or polish your short film on Saturday, 15th June in Dublin.

Here Eilish gives her top tips for how to write a short film:

Small stories that turn on a single event work best.

Know what makes your central character interesting on screen, work out how to show this.

Change needs to happen but it can be very small.

Spend as little screen time as possible setting up the story.

Identify a key visual image that encapsulates the tone and feel of the world of the story.

Make sure you have a proper ending – this is the last impression you make on audience.

Consider sound and how it can carry story.

Know what makes your film stand apart from other short films.

Write the film without dialogue first.

Consider the location of each scene and how the choice of location tells the story. Try to vary the location from interior to exterior, etc. (if set in a single location look for distinctive areas within the location to create different atmospheres: intimate, anonymous, etc.)

Consider who, or what, should be in each scene to put the central character under pressure.

Don’t repeat a beat, every scene must move the story forward and/or reveal character.

When you have the story working without dialogue, write the dialogue to create conflict and reveal attitude/character.

Use themes as subject-matter of dialogue.

 

Join Eilish on a writing workshop to write/rewrite or polish your short film Saturday, 15th June, Dublin city centre.

https://www.eilishkent.com/events/write-a-short-film

 

 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/eilish-kent-producer/

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Tips: Getting Started as an Actor

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Ahead of her Intro to Acting for TV & Film course at Filmbase,  Sarah Hone gives us her 7 tips for getting started as an actor.

1 – Don’t be a jerk!!!!

Sounds obvious but if you respond to rejection or “constructive” feedback negatively you will be remembered as someone with a chip on their shoulder and therefore not considered when roles are being handed out. Pick your battles wisely – no-one wants to work with someone with a bad attitude.

2 – Be proactive.

No one is going to come knocking on your door offering you an Oscar. Nor is someone going to “discover” you when you’re waiting for your flight at the airport (unless you’re actually Kate Moss in 1988). If you can’t get a good agent who is going to find work for you (very difficult to get even if you’ve been acting professionally for years) then you need to find work yourself. Sign up to Fishpond and StarNow and get into the habit of browsing online audition notices every day.

3 – Do your homework.

When it comes to castings or securing a place in an acting school, find out who is going to be auditioning you and have a general idea of what they have worked on before. If you have taken the time to get to know their body of work it will show that you are eager to impress and are truly interested in the business.

4 – Don’t be afraid to take low paid (or unpaid ) work when you are first starting out.

Join an improv group or co-op theatre company and get experience and exposure in the industry. That way you’ll meet like-minded souls who will inspire and encourage you, as well as allowing potential future employers see your work. If you are performing in something you will be able to network and create connections which will hopefully lead to more better paid work.

5 – Be 100% professional in auditions.

If you are applying for a place in an acting school and part of the audition is a warm-up or improvisation exercise, don’t forget that this is still part of the audition where you will be watched like a hawk and judged on your behaviour! The facilitators will be looking for someone who listens to instructions, takes direction well and is able to focus.

6 – Follow your gut instinct.

If something seems sleazy or unprofessional then it probably is.

7 – Don’t get disillusioned!

We all have moments where we want to give up and take on a cosy 9-5 with a guaranteed pay cheque and a spinning office chair. If you truly know that acting is your calling and the only path to career happiness then you need to find some way to make it work. Breathe, reboot and rage against the dying of the light…

 

Sarah Hone is an industry professional with over fifteen years experience working in the theatre and film world. She has a BA in Theatre and Performance and an MA in Dramatherapy, and has worked as a professional actress in Ireland, USA, Australia and Japan.

 

Intro to Acting for TV & Film – Sarah Hone

sarah hone b&w headshot 22nd May – 17th July, 8 Mon Eves (no class 5th June)

€275 Members / €295 Non-Members

 

This rigorous film-acting course is aimed at aspiring and beginners level actors, as well as theatrically trained actors, wanting to make the transition from stage to screen.

 

Visit Filmbase for further info.

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Ross Whitaker: What I Learned Making ‘Between Land and Sea’

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Photo by Kevin Smith

 

Between Land and Sea, which chronicles a year in the life of the big wave surf community in Lahinch, Co. Clare, has been touring Ireland for the last two months. The surprise hit has been critically acclaimed as well as attracting sold out audiences around the country. As it prepares for its last few screenings (at the Mermaid, Bray on May 15th and IFI, Dublin on May 16th) in Ireland and for its international market bow at the Cannes Film Festival next week, Ross reflects on the experience of making a surf film from the perspective of a complete outsider. (Screening info via BetweenLandAndSea.com)

 

When I was approached to direct Between Land and Sea by the producers at Motive Films, I was excited but very scared. Excited because it was something completely new with a blank page to work from (after about six years working on my previous film!) and because I knew that I would be filming in a spectacular place. And scared because I knew nothing about surfing and because I knew I’d be working from a low budget in a genre where films are rarely less than spectacular. Indeed, hadn’t there already been a brilliant surf film made just a few years ago, Wave Riders? And the director of that film, Joel Conroy, was a surfer himself who knew the world inside out.  Still, I figured it was too great an opportunity to dismiss and decided I’d just have to learn how to make the film as I made the film.

 

Here are some of the things I learned making the film.

 

1. Know what you do and don’t know – one of the most daunting but ultimately helpful aspects of starting this documentary was realising that I had very much a blank page in front of me. I knew very little about surfing, so I tried to turn that into a positive in two ways. Firstly, by making sure I played to my strengths, chiefly to try to make my characters comfortable enough to be themselves on camera. And secondly, I kept an open mind to everything and everyone in Lahinch, who could educate me about surfing, and tried to use that information to portray the surfing world as they saw it.

 

2. Find someone who knows the world you’re in – as I started the film, the producers (Anne McLoughlin and Jamie D’Alton) said to me, “it would be great if you could find a local person who could work with you on the ground.” Thankfully, this happened and I was very lucky to meet Kevin Smith, a brilliant young filmmaker living in the area who was happy to collaborate on the film. I had to overcome my instinct to want to make the on-the-ground creative decisions myself and open myself up to the expertise, knowledge and connections of a locally based person. The rewards, in terms of what we were able to capture with a small but dedicated team, were massive.

 

3. Adapt your style to what’s in front of you – while Between Land and Sea maintains many elements of my previous films (I hope it has a sense of character intimacy and is interested in some of the same themes), I wanted it to also be specific to its environment. After a little time there, it struck me how different and special the light is in the west of Ireland and I wanted to get this across at all times, so I decided that everything should be naturally lit and that we would use no lights in the making of the film. I hope this gives the film a more natural light and reflects to some degree what it feels like to be there. Another thing that struck me in Clare was how it sounds very different to the east coast, so in the edit we tried to bring that to the film too. The pace of the film also tried to reflect the pace of life in the town. While a lot of surf films attempt to be high octane, the day-to-day life of coastal towns really isn’t like that, so that’s another thing we tried to reflect.

 

4. Explain what you plan to do and then do that – the people who I filmed in Lahinch were hugely generous with their time and energy and increasingly so as filming went on. I came to understand that people in surfing communities are well used to outsiders coming along and filming them but that they have also grown a little tired of this, particularly when people make promises that they don’t keep. So, from quite early on, I tried to be clear about my intentions and how I thought things would pan out. I think as people saw that I was serious about what I was trying to do, that a mutual respect developed and this was key to being able to capture people naturally.

 

5. Work with an editor who gets it – the editor of the film is Andrew Hearne and I really wanted him to cut the film, not just because he’s a wonderful editor but because he also grew up in a seaside surf town. Andrew grew up in Tramore, a great surf town in Waterford, so when he was cutting the film, he really understood the rhythms of life and the motivations of the characters. He contributed a huge amount to getting the feel of the film right because he had lived in a similar place.

 

6. Don’t underestimate the potential reach of the film – despite being a low-budget, obscure film and not in position to get distribution (with broadcasts coming soon and without Irish Film Board support, we were not an attractive proposition for distributors!), the film has surprised us in how it has managed to find an audience. I must remind myself in future that audiences do want to see honestly made films about other human beings and throw in some lovely landscapes and surfing and you might be amazed at what a film can achieve. Facebook has been key for us in getting the word out and a good trailer can spread the word fast about a film. Since my last film, Unbreakable, was distributed two years ago the media landscape has shifted and social media has become even more important. In addition, there are more media outlets than ever and if you cater to their needs, a film can get a lot of exposure even without a publicity budget. Finally, I’ve learned that a good local story can have international resonance and we’ve been delighted by the response of international sales agents who really seem to get the universal themes of the film.

 

The film will screen at the March du Film at Cannes Film Festival and we’ll soon find out just how far this little film might travel!

 

 
Mermaid Wicklow Arts Centre, Bray (with Q&A)

Monday, May 15th @ 20:00 (Buy Tickets)

Dublin: IFI Cinema (with Q&A)

May 16th @ 18:30 (Buy Tickets)

Ennis: glór

June 1st plus BBQ @ 18:30 (Buy Tickets)

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Tips: Ten Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Out

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Ahead of his Screenwriting Essentials course at Filmbase, Stephen Walsh gives us 10 tips he wishes he had got starting out.

 

1.       It’s not about explaining. It’s about proving.

You’re writing a story, not a stock inventory or an application for planning permission!

2.       If all you’ve got is a plot, then you’re in trouble.

No combination of events is interesting unless it’s happening to somebody we give a damn about.

3.       Planning doesn’t kill spontaneity.

A story is a puzzle, with its own logic and its own rules. You can set any rules you like. But then you have to play by them.

4.       Just because it really happened doesn’t make it interesting.

Be prepared for blank looks when readers get to the part of your script that features a lightly fictionalised version of that hilarious thing your uncle Pat did with the frozen turkey at Mick’s funeral.

5.       When in doubt, get closer to the people.

Storytelling originated because we’re nosy and we want to know the things we shouldn’t know about people who’d prefer we didn’t know them!

6.       Every story is about desire.

Who wants what… and what’s stopping them getting it?

7.       It takes a while.

Your epic, two-part trilogy may need more than an afternoon’s work to get it into shape. (This can often be a deal-breaker for beginning writers!)

8.       Write for the eye.

About 75% of beginning writers accidentally write radio plays the first time they tackle a script.

9.   Clever is easy. Good is hard.

We’re aiming for a simple expression of complicated ideas. Never forget that script-writing is an exercise in communication. And for the person we’re trying to communicate with it’s always Monday morning, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet and they don’t care that we got a thesaurus for Christmas.

10.       It won’t write itself.

The scariest thing of all. The world is full of “writers” who expend all their creativity avoiding a commitment to the process of writing. Somehow, the Labours of Hercules were a doddle compared to the super-human effort it takes to remove the cap from a pen and scribble a few words on a bit of paper. People have climbed mountains and/or done the washing-up to avoid it; dogs have been taken for epic walks in frankly unsuitable weather and subjected to rants about how the world will definitely get its bum kicked when we get home and really launch into the script/book/dirty limerick that we’ve been working on (“In me head, like”) for twenty-seven years… ever since uncle Pat did that hilarious thing with the frozen turkey at Mick’s funeral.

 

Stephen Walsh wrote the feature film How Harry Became A Tree, directed by Goran Paskaljevic, starring Colm Meaney, Kerry Condon and Cillian Murphy, and co-wrote Where the Sea Used to Be with the director Paul Farren. He scripted the documentary features Patrick Kavanagh – No Man’s Fool and John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man, both directed by Sé Merry Doyle. He has taught screenwriting and conducted script workshops at Trinity College, Griffith College and Filmbase.

Screenwriting Essentials takes place 20th June – 25th July 2017 at Filmbase. The course comprises six evening sessions devoted to exploring the ins and outs of scriptwriting, for screenwriters who are just starting out and want to develop their craft.

More info here

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Tips: Producing A Short Film: In Three Simple, Difficult Steps

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Barry’s Bespoke Bakery (produced by Ben Keenan)

 

Ahead of his weekend course at Filmbase (18th & 19th June 2016), producer Ben Keenan shares three things you need to get right when producing a short film. 

Making a short film is hard, but going through all of that work without getting these things right would be a real shame…

 

1. The Right Script

The right script is better than the best script – choose something that suits your abilities, resources and sensibilities. Find out what kind of film you want to make and choose something fully do-able. A small victory is even better than a genuinely noble failure since it can show you parts of the process only available to filmmakers who finish films. When making a documentary, there should still be a script or vision for the finished film.

 

 

2. The Right Director

A functional and productive director-producer relationship is an expensive investment, so you should choose someone you can work with again. Often the script and the director come as a package, so make the decision based on both, with one eye on the proposed project and another on what you think it would be like to work with them again.

 

 

3. The Right Budget

Perhaps a little controversially, sometimes this is zero. Dollar-signed bags of other people’s money come with perfectly reasonable strings attached. If you are trying something experimental or trying to learn the craft, you are likely better off making something with little to no money. More freedom, lower cost on your mistakes, less visibility. You can also get a protracted shooting schedule which teaches discipline in continuity and allows you to review and digest footage as you proceed. As long as it’s a valuable learning experience for everyone on the crew and they know what they’re signing up for, it’ll be a fair proposition.

 

Producing a Short Film – With Ben Keenan
18th & 19th June, 1 weekend

Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

€175 Members / €200 Non-Members

Do you want to know what it takes to produce a short film? This course is designed for anyone setting out to make their first short film.

Intro:

Do you want to know what it takes to produce a short film? Producing a Short returns to Filmbase with experienced Producer, Ben Keenan (Barry’s Bespoke Bakery, The Chronoscope). Using successful short films as case studies, this course is theory based with some practical exercises. It is the ideal course for first-time filmmakers.

 

Course Content:

  • Relationship between Producer and Director
  • What a Director looks for in a Producer
  • Production Department – Who’s who?
  • Pre-production meetings
  • Short Films – Award Schemes
  • Legal Issues for Short Films
  • Script breakdown
  • Scheduling
  • Casting
  • Post-Production
  • Film Festivals

 

Ben Keenan

In 2009 Ben Keenan directed his first feature film, a comedy titled The rise of the Bricks, starring Emmett Scanlan, Eoin Macken, Ciaran McNamee, Cillian Scott and Cathal Sheahan. Since then he has gone on to work as a Development Executive for Fastnet Films and a Digital Content Producer in BK Media. He also produced and developed online comedy as Half a Giraffe.

Short films Ben has produced, including Barry’s Bespoke Bakery (Irish Film Board), The Chronoscope and This is Not A Conspiracy Theory (RTÉ), have screened at festivals around the world, including The Galway Film Fleadh, Eat My Shorts, The Underground Film Festival London, The Capital Irish Film Festival Washington, The International Film Festival Molodist in the Ukraine, The Charlie Chaplin Film Festival in Kerry and the Darklight festival.

 

Dates:

  • 18th & 19th June, 1 weekend

Class times:

  • Sat 10.30 – 5.00 & Sun 11.00 – 5.30

Pricing:

  • €175 Members / €200 Non-Members
  • €100 Deposit

Location:

  • Filmbase, Temple Bar, Curved street

 

To book your place, contact Filmbase Reception on 01 679 6716 and dial 0. For more information, email our training department at training@filmbase.ie. Please read our Terms & Conditions before booking a course.

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Tips: On Set Etiquette

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Actor Patrick Murphy gives us some advice on how to mind your p and qs on set ahead of his 4-day Acting for Camera Showreel Course at Filmbase (4th – 7th August 2016).

1. Always be Early

….and let an AD know your whereabouts at all times if you go wandering. Film sets don’t have time to send out search parties.

 

2. Pace yourself.

Keep a bag of dried fruit and nuts on you. The slow releasing energy will help keep you going.

 

3. Relax when you can

Try not to be too animated whilst waiting for your scenes and reserve your energy for when the camera is rolling.

4. Get to know the Crew

…and learn their names. Directors and cast may change a lot, but crews will mostly stay the same, and these are the guys you will be working along side for years to come.

5. Don’t be a Diva

A good attitude goes a long way, and word spreads fast about those with bad ones.

 

 

ACTING FOR CAMERA SHOWREEL

Filmbase

4th -7th August 2016, Thurs – Sun

€275 members / €295 Non-Members

This intensive 4-Day Acting for Showreel course is ideal for past acting students, or those with experience from similar course, to prepare, workshop, rehearse and shoot a scene.

Intro:

Filmbase have just announced an updated intensive 4-day ACTING FOR CAMERA SHOWREEL course. It is often difficult for aspiring and developing film actors to acquire worthy professional footage for inclusion in their showreel, Filmbase have decided to run a program specifically designed to facilitate this, covering relevant topics such as self-taping, acting techniques and self management.

 

Course Content:

Working with scene partners, you will be given scenes to workshop, rehearse, and learn. The course culminates in an intensive shoot day, where your scene will be shot, edited and sound designed for inclusion on your professional showreel.

This is a fantastic opportunity to produce a professional scene, working in a structured, professional context.

This is ideal for students of Level 1 and Level 2 Acting courses at Filmbase, or equivalent courses from other institutions. Places are extremely limited, so early booking is advised!

 

Lead Tutor: Patrick Murphy

Patrick is best known for recurring role of Karl in over 4 seasons of Love/Hate and has just landed a role in the acclaimed show, Vikings. He has been acting for the last 9 years and has appeared in numerous TV shows and films along the way. Patrick has studied Meisner, Stanaslavsky and done most other acting for camera courses Ireland has to offer. He has recently won the Underground Cinema’s Best Music Director award.

Over the years he honed in on what casting directors looked for in showreels, and he started his own production company, ‘Whispered Films’. As well as producing award-winning films, he has been creating showreels for actors across Ireland and England, both editing previous work and filming new scenes as needed. His back catalog includes creating popular music videos, adverts and documentaries.

Dates:

  • 4th – 7th August, Thurs – Sun

Class times:

  • 10.00 – 5pm each day

Pricing:

  • €275 members / €295 Non-Members
  • €100 Deposit

Location:

  • Filmbase, Temple Bar, Curved street

To book your place on this course, please contact Filmbase Reception on 01 679 6716 and dial 0. For more information on this course, email our Training Department at training@filmbase.ie. Please read our Terms & Conditions before booking a course.

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A Few Things to Consider Before You Start Writing Your TV Drama

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Ahead of her Writing for TV Drama course at Filmbase, which runs over 8 Wednesday evenings from 30th March – 18th May, tutor Eilish Kent suggests things to consider before you start writing your TV drama.

 

Ensure your central character is worthy of the screen time:

Renewable series or a franchise is the golden goose of TV Drama and something all TV channels want constantly; to create series that can engage an audience beyond season one you must create characters that audiences will want to watch, either for their great mastery (of some skill or talent) or for the incredible and difficult situation they are in, or both. These characters must also have rich backstories, the richer the backstory the more there is to mine for future stories and seasons. Without an interesting central character the series will not have legs, as it is the central character who will generate story by the manner in which they react to the situations they find themselves in.

 

The long emotional arc:

In series, as opposed to singles or features, characters’ arc of transformation is drawn out or never completed, they always have their Achilles heal to deal with and this is why the character retains interest for audience. Once the issue central to their character is resolved there is less at stake.

 

Working within the format:

TV works to prescribed schedules and programmes have precise durations; this means that as a writer you have to write within this structure. Unlike cinema, audiences can easily turn over to another offering, so it is imperative that you grab the audience’s attention and hook them in as quickly as possible.

 

Writing to the hooks:

To keep an audience engaged and wanting more you need to give them a reason to come back after commercial breaks and for the next episode or season; to achieve this, TV is written to the story hooks and breaks.

 

The rules of the world:

Once you have established the rules of the world you can’t break them. You can’t change a character’s true essence to accommodate plot; at the same time, however, you must continuously surprise audience within the context of what you have established.

 

Test the idea:

Before spending time writing your TV series test the idea, ask hard questions of the central characters and the central concept, what makes it interesting for your target audience and how will this endlessly renew itself.

 

Above all never be boring.

 

Eilish works freelance as a story consultant and script editor on film and all TV genre, she can be contacted on eilishkent@gmail.com

 

Course Details

Writing for TV Drama with Eilish Kent

  • 8 Wednesday evenings from 30th March to 18th May, 

€260 Members / €295 Non-Members

Writing Television Drama is a course aimed at writers who are interested in learning more about the fundamental skills of crafting good television drama in all its forms.

 

Intro:

Along with the explosion of high quality television drama over the last decade there has been an increasing diversification of audience viewing patterns. Broadcasters and production companies are increasingly looking for innovative and distinctive drama proposals capable of reaching and attracting large television audiences.

The course is highly recommended for writers who are interested in exploring TV drama as an avenue for their work, but may also appeal to directors and producers seeking a better understanding of television story structure and dynamics.

The course is designed and will be led by Eilish Kent, who worked for the BBC and RTÉ commissioning and developing TV dramas, for over 16 years. She has worked across formats from singles to renewable series, and across genre, from comedy to true life stories. She has brought many first time writers to TV audiences.

 

Course Content:

  • The principles of screenwriting and their application for television drama.
  • The current best practice for submitting drama proposals to broadcasters and television production companies.
  • The commissioning process and broadcaster requirements at the various stages of the development process.
  • The fundamental principles of writing for single and one-off dramas, serials and renewable series.
  • The world of the series and the series ‘Bible’.
  • The importance of research, generating storylines, arcs and plotting.
  • Creating compelling characters, pacing and tone and audience engagement.
  • Different formats and genre.

 

Tutor: Eilish Kent

Projects Eilish managed onto screen for RTÉ include Hardy Bucks, Raw, Fade St, Any Time Now, No Tears (International Emmy for best series or serial), Love Is The Drug (IFTA best series), Fergus Wedding, Paths to Freedom and Foreign Exchange. And for the BBC, Vicious Circle, Rap at the Door and Mezzone (RTS winner). She devised and managed StoryLand, a unique project when launched that saw 28 original online series produced. Prior to her work in TV, Eilish was an actor’s agent in London and worked in marketing for Oxford University Press. She is a graduate of EAVE and North by Northwest. She has a BA in English and History of Art and an MA in Modern Drama from UCD. Currently she works freelance as a story consultant.

 

To reserve your place on this course, please contact Filmbase Reception on 01 679 6716 and dial 0. For more information, email our Training Department at training@filmbase.ie. Please read our Terms & Conditions before booking a course.

 

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Tips: 5 Tips for Novice Screenwriters

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Writer James Phelan sets out his top tips for those new to screenwriting.

1 – FINISH YOUR SCRIPT

Sounds obvious but until you do, it’s all theory and hot air. Chances are when you pitch or visualise the project you envisage a couple of scenes or sequences that really rock. And those are the ones you talk about. And that’s only natural. There’s a reason that no one ever hushes an entire room at a pitching event or in a bar at a film festival and starts with ‘I have a couple of really terrible scenes that are rife with clumsy exposition, trite dialogue and really contrived beats.’

Be proud of your great scenes but even if they do turn out great, those won’t be the scenes that need work. It’ll be every other connective or establishing scene into which you need to layer or bury exposition and characterisation while simultaneously infusing the entire thing with entertainment value. Until the script exists, our illusions and dreams inspire us and protect us. Finishing a script is reality setting in. And usually it ain’t just setting in, it’s moving in.

And in terms of finishing, I’m referring exclusively to actual screenplays. The industry may be obsessed with treatments and short docs but that doesn’t mean writers should be. You may write the best treatments in the world but until you write the screenplay, it’s all just a promise to be awesome. Being awesome in script form is way more important. And impressive.

 

2 – NOW THAT YOU’VE FINISHED START AGAIN.

Nope. Not on a different project. The same one. Sure – get away from it for a while. Put it in a desk for a few weeks but unless you’re insanely talented or insanely lucky, you’re going to need to wrestle your script into its optimum shape.

Novice writers simply start to polish, tighten, augment and edit the first draft and assume that’s a second draft. It’s not. Re-drafts often need to be radical. All the prep documents aren’t the only place where fundamental questions should be asked about a project. Now that the skeleton of the story has been fleshed out, what are we looking at? Frankenstein or Einstein?

If the actuality isn’t lining up with the intention, then here come those fundamental questions again. Have we followed the right character? Have we started the story in the right place? How much do we need to shed or add to get the best out of this?

Some writers seek comfort in hitting a page count. However, just because you have 110 pages doesn’t mean you have a viable script. You just filled 110 pages. You have to police yourself on whether you’re padding out your story. It doesn’t mean the story is a dead loss. There are shorter forms for every kind of story. And any time spent writing is never wasted time. It is a process of discovery though.

 

3 – HAVE MORE THAN ONE PROJECT ON THE GO

Having a range of projects is crucial. Having writing samples that span many genres is better again. Generating your own back catalogue is easier said than done but if you’re a writer – you should be interested in exploring and developing your own range and ability.

Some aspiring beginners seem to adopt a stance of ‘I’ll write when someone pays me to’. Which, while honourable in it’s own way, seems a little daft to me. Yes, it’s great to draw a wage from writing but if you have no credits, how can you prove to someone else that you can write if you haven’t proved it to yourself. In a business where years and decades fly by, your principled stand-off with an oblivious industry may ultimately become life-long.

Write firstly for your own enjoyment and education. You can always monetise a project later. A couple of projects I’ve written were kick-started into paid development because convincing and viable scripts already existed.

 

4 – DON’T BE A SNOB

We all want to make movies. Let’s take that as a given. But in a small country with limited opportunities to get paid to write, cast your net wide and keep your options open.

I presume that no film purists starting their careers within this country can afford to be snooty anymore about tainting themselves with TV work if offered. You’d be nuts to ignore this outlet where you may be better paid and you will actually reach an audience. Bar our biggest films, the audience for some of our domestic film releases are pitiful. If you want to get your work out there, no one still does it better than TV.

Similarly, radio drama is undergoing a bit of a BAI-backed boom in this country. It’s a highly inventive, accessible and relatively inexpensive way of telling stories. While theatre retains a real allure for writers who get to maintain authorship throughout in a manner that no other form can match.

 

5 – MAKE SOMETHING

Again while I advocate building a back catalogue, there’s little point going to all that effort of generating all that material unless, once in a while, one of the damned things gets made. It’s bizarrely easy to forget.

As writers, we can retreat into our caves and start churning stuff out but when you become capable of constructing actual physical forts with printed scripts, it might be time to make one.

If you don’t want to be a director – that’s fine. Plenty of others do. Just throw a rock. Test your ideas and scripts by filtering them through someone else’s vision. No one’s work gets to screen unfettered. Start getting familiar with the heart-breaking compromises. Learn how to protect what’s important and integral. Learn how to lose some battles. Learn which hill you want to die on. Hang on tightly. Let go lightly. Someone said that in a movie once.

 

James Phelan is an IFTA and Zebbie nominated scriptwriter whose first TV series, Rásaí na Gaillimhe/Galway Races, remains TG4’s most viewed drama. As well as a sequel season of that hit show, James has written several short films produced under Filmbase, Galway Film Centre and Irish Film Board schemes.

His current projects include the four-part drama series Cheaters, in advanced development with Blinder Films and RTE, as well as scripting duties on upcoming international animation shows Oddbods and Cuby Zoo.

His next project into production is Wrecking the Rising for TG4 and Tile Films. The historical mini-series is currently shooting and is an imaginative alternate take on the events of 1916 as three modern-day re-enactors and self-proclaimed Rising experts time travel by accident to Easter week and alter history at every turn. Soon they are battling for not only their own futures but the entire country’s future too. The show’s title in Irish is Éirí Amach Amú.

 

WTR PUBLICITY STILL 1 (Peter Coonan, Owen McDonnell & Sea¦ün T. O'Meallaigh at the GPO in Wrecking the Rising)

Peter Coonan, Owen McDonnell & Seán T. Ó Meallaigh at the GPO in Wrecking the Rising

 

 

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