Sunday, December 30, 2007

swimming and scriptwriting

At this time of the year, I'm down the local lido as soon it opens every morning at 9 am. I love swimming and the water temp now is around 22 -24 degrees - perfect. I take my daughter - who can't swim yet - but at least she's big enough to stand up and try in the shallow end. In between, I get a chance to do a few widths. I only do widths because I won't swim in water that's over my head (i.e the deep end). I won't go underwater and I only do breast stroke - I'm terrified of drowning.

There are two distinct types of swimmers - those (mainly women), who like me, only do breast stroke and never go underwater. We take life easy and even chat while we swim, we don't get swim-rage when others cut in - in front, we tread water, pace ourselves and we don't over exert. Maybe we're scaredy cats?

Then there are those for whom swimming is a mission. They get irritated with the laconic widthers slapping across the pool. They do front crawl, back crawl, they pound and pummel the water with their fists. They do underwater stuff, they dive, they jump in, they race. I admire their tenacity and verve.

Maybe there's an analogy to be drawn with scriptwriting? Something about daring - or maybe about finding your own way...

Well my swimming is probably not going to change but the writing always can..


After a bit of bloth I've managed 2 posts in one day - must be something in the air! Post on 'future' coming soon..


One Christmas eve a long time ago when I was sharing a nice woody house in West Norwood with other lodgers, the live-in landlord decided to treat us all to a traditional Polish festive dinner and told us not to eat at all that day because it was going to be 25 courses (!). Earlier in the day, my sister had phoned to wish me season's greetings before she caught a train somewhere down south. It had just started snowing lightly and as the day went on, the snowfall grew heavier until several inches lay on the pavement.
We started eating around 8 and my main memory of the food was the texture rather than the colour or taste. There were things like herrings in jelly, a sort of sago pudding, a thin black sausage in lentil paste and jellied eels and such like. Hmmm. Happily the courses were small and they kept on coming, dish after dish. Luckily there was plenty of wine to wash it all down. At midnight we were finally finished, inebriated and attempting a few Polish phrases. Then the call came. My sister now 200 miles away had just remembered that - before she had left her flat in Tulse Hill that morning - she had put an apple pie in the oven fairly high and wanted me to go over right now and switch it off - because she was scared the house would burn down.
Furious, I slammed down the phone. Ten minutes later she rang again. But I was already out the house - muffled up to the eyeballs in hats and scarves, cursing her. I'd climbed on to an old bicycle and was pedalling through the blizzard straight down the middle of the empty main roads. I reached her basement flat and as I didn't have a key, I clambered first over the side gate and round the back. The windows were all steamed up and the kitchen was full of smoke. I broke a pane of glass in the window and climbed in, switched off the cooker, took out the pie which was just a black crust, wafted out the smoke for a few minutes, climbed back out, pulled the window shut, staggered back to the bike and cycled back home.


The template has changed because I tried to add falling snowflakes to my blog (didn't manage it) and then went back to my old one to find it had gone all back to front - so I had to get this new one and now I've lost my label cloud... grrrr

OK so next post - the future

Sunday, December 23, 2007

wherever you are...

Season's greetings and may 2008 be the best year ever!

Thanks for dropping by and a special shout to those who have left comments, (however sporadic) - because you make it all worthwhile - including Potdoll, Pillock, Lianne, Lucy, Elinor, Verging Writer, Martin, WC Dixon, James Whyle, Jon Peacey, Oli, Facety, Sal, anonymous and anyone else I've forgotten!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Seasonal sloth

Seem to have turned into a bit of a blog sloth of late (or should that be bloth). I think this is probably due to seasonal factors or the subliminal trans-atlantic effect of the strike or even possibly that I have nothing writerly of interest to report.. My time has been consumed by holiday-schooly things and following the political goings-on over in Polokwane.

I wondered why my blog was still getting a fair amount of hits lately (peaking yesterday) and it seems that its all to do with the
Amarna princess again. Another piece of the Bolton trio's fabricated art turned up in the US last week and has re-ignited interest in the story.

Now for a couple of bits and pieces. Here's information about Pangea Day an online film competition/award with a script development grant for the winner. Deadline is Feb 15th 2008.

PARTICIPANT PRODUCTIONS AWARDS & GRANT. A grant and awards program has been established through a partnership with Participant Productions, the production company behind such socially conscious films as An Inconvenient Truth; Syriana; and Good Night, And Good Luck. For the "Outstanding Filmmakers Awards Program," Participant Productions will select five filmmakers, each representing a different continent (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia [including Australia]) to receive a $5000 filmmakers grant to both reward outstanding achievement and provide support for these filmmakers to continue making films. In addition, Participant will invite all the filmmakers whose films appear on Pangea Day to submit a treatment for a feature film or documentary. Participant will then reward one winner with the "Filmmaker Grant" which includes $20,000 to continue the development of the treatment and a non-binding first look deal with Participant for the treatment.

More information can be found on the website by
clicking right here.

Plus here's a heads up for
scribomatic - a useful site where the most recent posts from a range of screenwriting blogs and websites can be found all in one place. This is now my starting point for scribosurfing. Those with blogs can install the widget.

With everything now shut down for at least 6 weeks here, there's not much to report on the writing front - so am catching up on a few films, reading and taking it easy until the new year.

Plus of course I'm busy sticking glitter and sweet wrappers onto my beautiful blog greeting card ready for the next post...


Monday, December 10, 2007

Doris Lessing

from Nobel Lecture December 7th 2007

'The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise ... but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us – for good and for ill. It is our stories, the storyteller, that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, what we are at our best, when we are our most creative.'

Read full text by clicking on this link here.


Sunday, December 09, 2007


In times of strike or stalemate, who better to turn to than Thoth - the ancient Egyptian patron of writers (and by extension scriptwriters)? Diplomatic Thoth who was credited with inventing writing and numbers, was also God of the moon and magic.
In art, Thoth was usually depicted with the head of an ibis with a beak resembling the crescent moon.

"Thoth the Scribe, wrote the story of our reality then placed it into grids for us to experience and learn through the alchemy of time and consciousness."


Friday, December 07, 2007

video messaging

So I noticed the other day ( just before LAN went down) that there is a little 'create video' icon in the menu bar of my inbox. Probably always been there but I've just never clicked on it - well I found that when I do, it triggers my webcam and I can send email video messages - just like that! So of course I've been sending them here, there and everywhere, one to my sister on Wednesday wishing her a happy birthday. This week, I was making a promo and I booked the edit via video message.

Then, getting bolder, I did a video pitch of my latest script and emailed it in to drama at the local broadcaster. The same day, I received a reply directing me to the film portfolio.

So it seems to work. Perhaps - in a sea of correspondence - the recipient welcome a real person popping up in their inbox - who knows? Maybe it is also the shock value. Anyway I say give it a go....

Today I might even try the bank manager..


Monday, December 03, 2007


when short of things to post about - there's always keywords. Here's a list of the top keywords & phrases that have brought people to my blog lately (highest number of hits - those at the top of the list... etc)

amarna princess/ princess amarna
scriptwriter on strike/ scriptwriter strike/ strike action scriptwriter
xhosa initiation ceremony
give yourself a pat on the back lyrics
talk to me cheadle
scriptwriting opportunities
skokiaan blogspot
internet cafe claremont wynberg south africa
treasury tags
registration code snail mail
how far away is nigeria from the UK?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

radio competitions

The BBC's annual African Performance playwriting competition 2008 is now open for business.
Plays must be half an hour in length when read aloud, and feature no more than six characters. The subject matter must resonate with an African audience. Entries are sought from Africans living in Africa

Deadline is January 31st 2008. There are three prizes. The first prize is £1000, the second is £850 and the third prize is £650. Visit the website here for full details of how to apply:

and now here's another more specialist one which may be of interest:

Africa: Radio scriptwriting competition to cope with climate change.

The Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (DCFRN) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) are launching a scriptwriting competition entitled African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change. The competition is open to African radio organizations, including broadcasters, production organizations, NGOs with a radio project, farmers’ associations with a radio show, etc. Competitors are invited to submit a radio script on one of the following themes related to local adaptation to climate change:Water and soil management; cropping strategies emphasizing drought-resistant plants; livestock management practices; fisheries and agroforestry; other (for original topics related to coping with climate change and not listed above)To assist radio practitioners with producing the radio scripts, a climate change resource kit and a guide to writing radio scripts will be prepared and distributed to interested African radio practitioners. Professional coaching and mentoring on scriptwriting will be provided to participants throughout the process.

special website has been set up for this competition and includes info on coaching etc. Click here to visit the website. Entry deadline is: March 15, 2008. Winners will be announced in May 2008. Scripts will be reviewed by an international panel of judges. The top 15 entries will receive high quality digital audio recorders.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

merits of feedback

I've blogged briefly about feedback but I think it might be useful to go into more depth especially since feedback on my latest script has varied so much in quality and usefulness.

I think there are basically 6 types of feedback

1) The mum (best friend) feedback. Well we all know what this is like - usually over the top, complimentary, uncritical and non-analytical, always delivered verbally and ends with "well I know you're a good story teller anyway." The best thing about the mum/best friend feedback is that it is quick - they read it usually before anyone else. The worse thing is the lack of impartiality.
However, I have been wondering lately whether it is possible to combine the mum /best friend feedback with the
Michael Arndt feedback sheet.
If you hand your mum/best friend a printed sheet where they have to rate particular categories of your script from 1- 10 and also rate the weakest elements - then perhaps it could be more helpful....hmmmm?

2) The spot on feedback - usually comes from someone older and wiser than the writer. This feedback is from someone who knows you, knows your writing, your narrative leanings, your weak spots, your inspirations, your motivators. This is the most valuable feedback you can get - because not only does it hone in on exactly what is wrong with a particular script but it presents that information to you in a wholly acceptable manner and thus propels you towards writing greatness.. ahem. The 'spot-on' feedback is always correct. It can say when the idea is completely off the boil and should be abandoned.
The downside to such feedback - is that it is rarely available 'on demand' so there's a tendency for the writer to over-rely on it. Remember the feedback favours must be returned with as much wisdom as can be mustered.

3) The mish-mash feedback. The mish-mash feedback is your average, everyday run-of-the-mill feedback containing some moments of brilliance yet little to surprise the writer. It is quite likely that the mish-mash feedback person does not respond particularly well to your story or was not excited by the writing.The mish-mash feedback is indecisive and contains mixed messages which tend to confuse the writer.

4) The slasher feedback. This is feedback from someone who either doesn't really 'get' the story at all or who only ever scanned the script - but nevertheless considers their opinion to be both important and useful. Slasher feedback is delivered with confidence and aplomb and holds little regard for the writer. Slasher feedback is characterised by negative phrases, snarky witticisms - and always demonstrates a lack of ability to see a way through any narrative difficulties. The slasher may even take it upon themselves to cut up your script for you and send you back a mutilated or completely re-arranged version of your text for your appraisal.
It is worth reading the slasher feedback with care, as on occasion, there can be the odd suggestion which may prove valuable ..

5) The late feedback. There's the feedback that always comes after you have sent your script off - usually from a busy person. Luckily it usually confirms all the strengths and weaknesses that you have acknowledged in your script and therefore rarely creates much agitation.

6) The executive feedback is frequently paradoxical or confusing. Never wanting to appear mistaken, it tends to be short and convoluted. This type of feedback usually accompanies a 'no'. The 'no' can arrive quickly or slowly. However if the 'no' comes from someone high up, who has obviously read the entire script - within a week of it being sent, then don't be disheartened - because that's really not too bad at all.....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

a way forward for sithengi?

A new Sithengi board was elected at a special general meeting on November 16th 2007 which may prove to be the first step in the revival of South Africa's key annual film and TV industry event.

The board however faces an uncertain future with major financial issues awaiting resolution.

Read more on Screen Africa's website

comments are for post below..

should black stories be told by black directors?

Read Jason Solomons in Guardian filmblog.

'This week I meet Kasi Lemmons, director of the startling Talk to Me, about African American 'shock jock' Petey Green. Could a white man have told this tale?
Talk To Me is one of the most enjoyable films I've seen all year. It's breezy, funky fun because of the two terrific performances of Don Cheadle and our own Chiwetel Ejiofor and because the music and milieu feel genuine and heartfelt.
The story of radio DJ Petey Green, set in late 60s Washington DC and featuring scenes around the killing of Martin Luther King - but I venture that its authenticity really stems from the film being directed by a black woman, Kasi Lemmons '

Read on here.

Friday, November 23, 2007


"the story doesn't necessarily have the kind of pre-recognition factor that allows this type of factually based drama to find an audience"

Half a packet of pink paperclips goes to the first person to provide the correct interpretation of the sentence above.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Nice word pox

Blog hiatus while my daughter is off school with chicken pox. The whole class seems to be off. Probably because these days, chicken pox's time-line has shrunk to fit in with parental schedules. In my day you were off school for 2 weeks. Nowadays parents slap on a bit of calamine, wait until their grizzling infants look a bit less spotty and send them back to school to infect the entire class. In the chemist's queue my itching daughter's eye fell upon some discounted children's DVDs (a big no no) so along with calendula and calamine, I came home with what I thought was an Australian version of Peter Pan but actually turned out to be a mishmash of Pan and Captain CrustyMumpyGrumble or something. Perhaps it was re-cut to specifically target low attention span masses for whom visual coherency and narrative have become redundant. The fact that my daughter didn't seem to mind was a little worrying. Five is a funny age.

Not long before the chicken pox landed, she went off for a 'play day' with a couple of other schoolfriends wearing a new pink hair-band lodged in the front of her Afro. (I have never been into pink, but in this era of consumer conformity, it is hard to counter) When she was returned home, I was appalled to see that her hair had been hot-comb straightened into a style resembling Condoleeza's. Aggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

A pox on that parent!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Amarna princess

Here's one for the cuttings file (which I'm sure will be turned into a TV drama soon) - the story of the family from Bolton who successfully conned the art world for more than two decades.

In 2003, the local council used grant money to buy a stunning translucent alabaster Egyptian statue from them for £440,000 only to later discover it was a fake. Shaun Greenhalgh created the Amarna Princess from a block of calcite using an ordinary mallet and chisel.

For successful forgers, the Greenhalgh trio 'had an unremarkable lifestyle.' Despite having £500,000 in the bank they lived "in abject poverty", said police. 83 year old Olive had never even left Bolton.

Read the full story on the BBC website here and see a slide show of all the various forged art pieces here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


South Africa might seem a little off the radar when it comes to the US Writers Guild strike and indeed the majority of scriptwriters here produce for local content and broadcasters - and tend to be consumed by a different set of pressing professional issues.

Striking US writers have stated that it is not proper for writers anywhere (that includes here in SA) to approach, negotiate, pitch or do business with any of the 'struck' WGA signatory companies during the strike action. The list of companies is available
here and contains a fair number that have done or are currently doing SA co-productions.

Last year alone, film and television production (the majority of which here is overseas co-production) contributed over 5 billion rands to South Africa's economy (3 billion in the Western Cape and 2 billion in Gauteng). It might be timeous for the writers union
SASWU to issue some statement of solidarity - since any benefits eventually won by striking US writers will have far reaching impact, and may provide additional leverage for on-going local negotiations.

For further information and to read various recent media coverage of the strike - see Robin's blog here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

snail mail

So I take my smart, professional looking manila envelope to the post office, to find that the online services are down and for some reason stamps can only be sold in low denominations and by the time the man behind the counter has finished sticking on the sixty plus stamps, my letter is transformed into a multi-coloured medley of flora and fauna..

Sunday, November 11, 2007

this and that

A meandering post, this one. The script is now re-written, polished, tweaked, combed and edited as thoroughly as I can manage and ready for the off sometime this week.

I've been considering whether to overhaul the blog - either that or link to a web page of professional stuff etc - something fairly low maintenance. Maybe I'll first put up more information in my profile and then make the transition bit by bit. Any ideas?

The other day I went to the dinner launch of the Parliamentary Film Festival. Before we ate, they showed a fascinating 2 hour-long documentary by Egyptian filmmaker
Jihan El Tahri - Cuba An African Odyssey which first I thought was going to be a bit heavy, but ended up being riveted by the tragicomic story of Che Guevara's military campaign in the Congo and his numerous disguises. Being more drawn to fiction than documentary, I thought this whole little known segment of Che's story would make a brilliant movie in itself. Anyway the fish was delicious and some twist of fate found me seated at the same table as the prodco whose job I'd stepped off - earlier this year. Bygones perhaps..?
Last thing I want to ruminate on today is contracts. The big jazz one hasn't yet arrived which means other plans have to be postponed. However, the contracts for the next two scripts have - but major issues still need to be resolved. Hmmm. Sometimes I prefer to work on an ad hoc basis - than be tied into difficulties very early on.
Let's see.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Ok another scintillating topic - brads. The industry standard brad of choice for scriptwriters all over the globe is the ACCO brad.

I actually prefer the wider headed silver brads that used to be fairly easy to purchase in many UK stationers but they are difficult to get hold of here. I arrived with a large box but after they were all consumed I resorted to re-using them and even prizing them off other people's scripts (ha ha!). After a while they can rust and the washers go astray or they get too bendy or break. Here in Cape Town I've hunted high and low for them - to no avail.
So I started using butterfly pins which are almost identical to the industry brads - gold and two pronged but there are no washers to accompany them. It doesn't bode well (for a critique) if someone stabs their fingers trying to extract a script from an envelope.

Purely for home (or temporary use) there are treasury tags. I've always found these to be highly impractical and have never, ever sent off a script fixed with treasury tags. I've never used those curly ring bindings either.

My latest binding of choice is the 'file fastener'. These metal knife things bend through the punched holes and then slide into a clasp for safety. I know that these are also a 'no no' in industry circles but at least they look neat and are easy to remove - though they can also prove lethal for readers. They're also readily available.

So what do you use?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

seeing spots

warning: banal post ahead

The easy bit is typing 'The end', then it gets more and more difficult. To help with rewriting today, I decided to use multi-coloured spot stickers - only because there are packets of them in my top drawer. I started off sticking them in the right hand margin of each page (a different colour for each story thread and up to 4 spots on one page). This was pleasantly time consuming and repetitive.
Then I laid the pages out on the floor - three rows for the three acts. It looked rather pretty - a bit like a colourful morse code or braille. I thought this might make it easy to see where story threads were going awol and it did, I suppose. Then I returned to the much more practical notebook. Just hope I have it all sorted now - just want to get this out of the way.....


Monday, November 05, 2007

good, bad and the ugly

Just received another helping of feedback on my script - which this time was apposite, thorough, practical and constructive. It articulated issues which I hadn't been able to put my finger on as well as confirmed that I'm on the right track and was right to follow my instincts. So for now I'm going to do another print off, work out the 'through story' properly and then tackle the last revision.

Getting a critique is a bit like taking a child to the doctor when you don't really know what's wrong with them. Amputation is unlikely to be the best answer.


TVC blog bows out

read here

and the final post here.


Tagged by Elinor in the lame meme

1. I once went to a fancy dress party dressed as Florence from the Magic Roundabout and won.
2. I don't really see the point of memes but do them anyway.
3. At school, I learned to do fast, backwards, mirror handwriting. Worryingly, I can still do it.
4. I'm a magpie. In London I used to have a box full of odd gold and silver trinkets that I found on the pavement and on tube seats. I once found a thick gold bracelet lying right outside my front gate in Camberwell. I never wear anything gold. Every so often I'd go and take it to be melted down and then start all over again.

In this country, I've never found a thing - maybe because there's so many people looking
5. When I was a teen I used to go to the Orrell Legion disco in Wigan with two gold stripes painted in my hair. One time the bus driver asked if a motorbike had run over my head.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Following Lianne's Arvon inspired lead, I'm answering twenty questions about writing methods.

1.Do you outline?
Yes - I never like to start without an outline - the more detailed the better

2. Do you write straight through a script, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?
Usually straight through, though I might skip a difficult bit and come back later

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?
PC of course - though I started out always writing with a pen in big notebooks

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third?
Third. Though 1st is useful sometimes (eg recent monologue)

5. Do you listen to music while you write?

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?
Sometimes names are there from the word go. If I'm basing a character on someone, I tend to keep their real name (and change it at a later date). In several scripts, my female lead character's name begins with a B - for some reason

7. When you’re writing, do you ever imagine your script as a book/short story?
Yes sometimes.

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn’t want him/her to do?
Characters should surprise. Recently a character convinced me that, although he'd bludgeoned someone to death, it wasn't murder.

9. Do you know how a script is going to end when you start it?
Sometimes not always - as I said on this blog before - I tend to travel hopefully..

10. Where do you write?
At home at my desk

11. What do you do when you get writer’s block?
I don't believe in it so I don't get it. If I don't want to write, I don't write. Anyway we all write crap sometimes.

12. What size increments do you write in?
Depends. I like to write a lot fast, say at least 10 pages a day then rewrite much slower

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?
My last I'm still working on. I'd say it'll have gone through about 5 major revisions before going out.

14. Have you ever changed a character’s name midway through a draft?
Yes in the last draft - a black character became white and his name changed too

15. Do you let anyone read your script while you’re working on it, or do you wait until you’ve completed a draft before letting someone else see it?
I wait until I've finished - although I do like to have feedback or input on outlines or whatever before I get started.

16. What do you do to celebrate when you've finished a draft?
Have a glass of Pinot Grigio

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?
Although I tend to have several on the go, there's usually only one that I'm truly focussed on.

18. Do your scripts grow or shrink in revision?

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners?
Yes I have one long-standing critic who I've known for years and some others.
Have had mixed involvements in collaboration - once developing a series - which was fantastic until the money ran out. I also brainstormed a sitcom here once but wasn't enamoured with the process or the project - so I left.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising?
Revising. I think but I like finishing a first draft too

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

19 pages

Well I suppose you could call it feedback - but hacking nineteen pages out of a script and then sending it back - feels more like amputation...

Hmm. But it has sparked some intriguing solutions - so here I am - back at the drawing board. But after this, it's finished and going off no matter what...

Update: have now decided to await feedback from long-standing 'friend-in-scripts' (whose feedback is always spot on.) Have to follow your instincts sometimes - and mine was telling me to put those pages back in!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Slightly garbled blog as things seem to be speeding along. Awaiting feedback on the script but have already been told that there are 3 beginnings (hmm don't know how I managed that one - but I do see what they mean - still nothing that can't be fixed with a small tweak). Since sending it for reads, have been doing a few more passes on the dialogue - snips here and there.

Yesterday had a long overdue conference call about the next two scripts - a thriller - (have I ever written a thriller? - no but I'll give it a try) and a tug-of-love drama. Both quite meaty. I said initially that I could 'more or less knock out a script in a month' but I've now revised that to 'the more time I have - the better the script is likely to be.' Hmmmm. I also managed to persuade them, that at this stage I should write only the thriller treatment for the same (lowish) amount. 50% will be back end on both - which is not what I like but hey - beggars can't be choosers.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The End

Yee haa! The script is finished. I'm fairly pleased, (I think) though of course there's now a hefty edit awaiting and a few holes that need to be filled.

It has been the most difficult script I've ever written for various reasons. One story thing that emerged is - since the conflict is explored from the POV of the main character - the antagonist becomes (almost) like a figment of his imagination. Hmm. I hope that works. You see this is a story, based on real life events - and while I have free reign with my main character, there is less leniency with the antagonist (he could sue) - so with him I've had to stick more or less to court records and news stuff in the public domain.

Early next week I'll send it off to the producer and a couple of others for quick-turnaround feedback (ha!). Let's see. If there's not too many dramatic adjustments needed, hopefully I can put an application in the post soon.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Advanced Sreenwriting Workshop

I haven't really been doing much in the way of round ups lately - but here's a free training opportunity for those based in Gauteng:

Creative Industry, supported by the Embassy of Ireland, is offering six screenwriters the opportunity to attend a fully-funded Advanced Screenwriting Workshop with a highly qualified Irish screenwriting tutor. The workshop will take place at Sasani Studios in Johannesburg over two long weekends, 8 – 11 & 15 - 19 November and writers are invited to apply with an idea for a feature-length screenplay. Preference will be given to applicants from a previously disadvantaged background.
Collaborators working with the individual screenwriters or with an interest in their project, such as directors, producers and script editors, are also invited to participate. There is no cost attached to attending the workshop. The weekends will consist of a mixture of screenings, lectures, writing exercises and workshops focusing on the writers’ projects with visiting script consultant and screenwriting tutor Mary Kate O’Flanagan. These sessions will offer a mixture of theory and craft, designed to develop six projects which are at outline or draft stage. The workshop offers an invaluable opportunity for committed writers who need professional input and clarification as they undertake a screenplay or work to polish a first draft.
Mary Kate O’Flanagan works as a script consultant across Europe, lectures on the undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Ireland’s National Film School and is the course director for an advanced project development course for FAS/Screen Training Ireland.

For further details please email fiona"at"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The poisoned dog

Thought I'd clarify a few things about the poisoned dog in the script. The poisoning is a cruel act of revenge and the dog is a beloved pet. I realised I'd forgotten to bring in the dog earlier on in the script but I've now fixed that.

So now the dog is seen out and about (with the protagonist) and of course generally enjoys life until the fateful morning .....

Monday, October 15, 2007


Ok have finished off the second act and literally just banged the story out on to the page. Now it's printed out ready for me to shift it all around, pull together and make it work. Much more stealth is needed, and so now I need to work backwards through the narrative. For instance, there's a 'honey-trap' journalist and right now it feels obvious so I'll have to go back and feed her in but this time as potential 'love interest'. There's also a poisoned dog - who prior to being poisoned - hadn't even made an appearance ..

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

family (2)

I wrote letters to my estranged father and other newly discovered half brothers over the next 6 months or so and then the correspondence dried up.

Just before Christmas of the following year, I had a large chunk of funds from the Arts Council deposited in my bank for a short film. My friend Penny wanted to go on holiday and so did I. Casablanca sounded intriguing but then I thought - hey Sierra Leone, why not? My friend was eager to meet my re-discovered family.

It was 1990 and after booking flights, I fired off four telegrams to relatives at various addresses in the hope that this was enough notice.

We stepped off the plane at Freetown airport down the rickety iron stairs on to the runway where a small crowd of African men waited in the 40 degree heat. Some held hand written placards. I felt a surge of panic as I surveyed the faces - seeking out the one that might be my father.

Over the years me and my sister has speculated about him. We had a few faded photographs of my mother's wedding in Edinburgh. The summer after we'd first arrived in the UK over 20 years ago, our father sent my sister a birthday present - a small, illustrated book on Roman ruins with cellophane separating each page. After this, communication stopped completely. We moved numerous times. He moved too.

Years ago he was in government or something - in forestry and we'd heard all sorts of rumours - about diamonds and the like. I now knew from recent letters that we had a half-brother - just a bit younger than me - who'd spent 18 months in Pademba Road prison. Four of his uncles had been executed for planning an attempted coup.

At the bottom of the iron steps I suddenly saw it - a placard with 'Barbee Surname' written on it. Penny shrieked. I stared at the man holding it - he was tall, well built - but not old enough to be a father. It was my half brother. There was another young man next to him- squirming.

We greeted one another. He tried to mask his disappointment. We went to collect our luggage. Mine had gone astray - to Russia - and during the 3 weeks stay, it never turned up. My brother led us to a shiny, white Mercedes parked in front. We chatted. He had expected me to be wealthy and be bearing gifts. Here we were - looking like student backpackers. His friend drove us to the largest hotel in Freetown. We went inside and discovered the prices were way beyond our budget. At this point the friend became fidgety and told us we had to pay for the Mercedes. We handed over some pounds and then asked him to take us to the cheapest B & B in town.

There was a B & B opposite the dilapidated City Hotel (immortalised by Graham Greene). Downstairs was the bar and upstairs the small, dank, smelly rooms were separated by sheets of plywood. We were tired and thankful. I fell asleep straight away.

After a couple of hours, there was a hammering on the door. It was my brother again telling me that my father was now outside waiting to see me. I pulled on smart clothes and went outside. It was night time. A thin man reached out to me and I clutched at him but I couldn't see him in the dark, narrow corridor. Penny followed. We went down stairs.

In the dim bar, I sat across the table from a thin, stern man with a deep frown. We sat and stared - a twenty year gaze. He told me; 'You look just like your mother.' We talked. He asked after my sister. He was vague - sweeping his hands through an unknown past; he hadn't expected questions. He was still cross with my mother and said she'd 'taken all the furniture' and never told him she wasn't coming back.
I told him I had hoped he was going to be rich and have lots of diamonds. He laughed.

Penny and I travelled round Freetown with my brother - we saw the prison, the cotton tree, the bars and schools. Sometimes a wave of memory came in the smell of food - 'sakitomboy' or palm oil and I was five again.

Five and remembering. There was the uncle whose house was packed to the rafters with empty, green bottles. There was Holy Rosary school and the nuns. There were the pitanga cherries in our huge garden in Kenema. There were the animals that my father brought home regularly from the forests - the owl that stayed up in the tree for a week before it fell down from the branch like a plum - dead. Monkeys, tortoises.

We had to go to Sendumei - the village where my grandfather -the Paramount chief came from.

We took a coach. My brother and father travelled ahead and said we would get a lift back. It was more than 40 degrees. On the ride I developed 'freshblood' a bumpy heat rash under my knees. After 5 hours, we arrived at the small village.

Here everyone was related to me in some way. In the small huts, the women fawned over us, plucking the earrings from our ears. We heard their life stories. 'I am Bintu Tonye' an aunt told me, 'I have had thirteen children and only one survived.'

We went to meet the village leaders - my father's elder brothers - in the central hut. There were speeches and I was presented with 'Barbee' a mask and given a gown to wear. Penny was given one too. Then together with numerous aunts and relatives and children, I had to lead a shuffling pied-piper dance through the village. It went on and on and on. I'd stepped into Indiana Jones. Later the devil dancers came out - men decked in fringes of straw whirling round and round.

The aunts cooked for us and cleared out one of the houses in the middle of the compound especially for me and Penny. Tonye pointed out of the window and told me 'That is where your brother is buried.' I knew my mother and father's first child was a boy who had died as a baby - before I was born. It was only now I found out, he was buried here.

When I tried to sleep, I felt an overpowering, ancestral quickening rolling me backwards into the past. Terrified, I got up - I didn't want to join them. I told Penny to not let me fall asleep, because I knew I would die. She had a travel alarm clock by her bed and she set it to go off every half hour. We stayed awake - our whispering punctuated by the half hourly shrills - until the morning.

The next day we went back to Freetown.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


My head is starting to spin. Waved off my sister and her hub back to Brum via Blighty from Cape Town International this afternoon after a weekend of 70th birthday celebrations (and a sneaked-in bit of writing here and there). The trouble with being a scriptwriter is that people (who may've flown 5000 miles to see you) never think you're actually doing anything important at your desk and that you're messing around or something (ahem...)

Right now I've just about hit the wall with this script - you know the challenging bit where the writing momentum seems to have flown out the window. What is left is the unappetising graft - an uphill slog, knocking it out. But soon it'll be time for another act print out - to shift everything around, pull it together and add pizzazz. That's much more interesting ..

The back burner script projects will be on the front burner as of next week (with contracts and money all being spoken about in the same call.) I always believe it's best to say yes to everything first (within reason) - because most of the time it'll take forever to actually get off the ground anyway. But first I have to get this one finished. Phew! What else?

I was a bit perturbed after reading the
UKFC's new development criteria (which now seem wonderfully writer-friendly as well as pecuniarily enhanced - that no re-submissions are allowed. The old scheme of course allowed re-submissions. As I previously submitted (prematurely and with only a treatment) I despatched an email query to clarify matters. Happily it seems it will be ok.

There you go. Onwards type, type!

Friday, October 05, 2007


I once received this feedback on an urban teen script set in South London; "the writer certainly has an ear for the cadences of London patter." I read that back and thought; 'Hmmm what a shame you don't" (ha ha)

I love writing dialogue. I just had a scene in the current script where a bloke from the UK converses with my SA protagonist. Two characters from completely different worlds and the collision is mostly reflected through their speech.

Really dialogue has to work on a number of levels - be authentic and accurately reflect the milieu/ background/ world of the character, communicate (of course) but most importantly it has to sail off the page or rather sail out of the mouth - whoever the character is...

Just a brief musing today - but feel free to contribute any thoughts...


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


October already but I keep thinking it is still September. Posts may be a bit sparse while I juggle writing the script, entertaining family from overseas and keeping up with plans for my mum's big birthday party at the weekend. But hey - the sun is staying out now and it might be time for a swim soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

beads & beats

Ok so now writing work is piling up on the sidelines while I crack on with the current script. Act one is in the bag. The 'layered time' stuff was rather like threading a multi-coloured beaded necklace, stringing in one colour and then another. Then I trimmed all the VO right back. So that's done.

I've beat sheeted the next two Acts which now should be fairly straight forward to write (ahem).

Looking ahead I can foresee a problem with the ending. I know some folk think you shouldn't bother starting a script without knowing the ending but I tend to be of the opposite opinion - better to travel hopefully than arrive - allow the story to find its conclusion. But maybe that's waffle.

The problem I have with this script is how to end a story based on 'real' events. I think I may have to insert a hefty dose of fiction to tie it all up. Hmmm.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007


My sister and her new hub are coming to stay on Saturday. Their forthcoming visit has set me thinking about all sorts of things to do with siblings and location and family etc. (I'm a bit cautious about mentioning family members on the blog in case they suddenly discover it and get all sensitive or something.) Anyhow...

I think I mentioned in passing how, once upon a time, after a 20 year estrangement I saw my father in Sierra Leone again.

As it happens - finding him was a fairly easy task. First I went into the Sierra Leonean High Commission in London, sat in the waiting area for a while, told them what I was there for and was ushered into an office. The conversation went a bit like this:

Me: 'I'm looking for my father'

Large Official: 'What's his name?'

Me: 'MBD'

A ripple of frowns, then the large official turns round and bellows round the office: 'Anyone here know MDB?'

Everyone shakes their heads.

Large Official: 'No. Sorry no one has ever heard of him'

I smile politely and leave.

At the time, I was sharing a nice woody house in West Norwood with a couple of lodgers and a live-in Polish landlord. It was nearly Christmas and I'd told them what I was doing. The Polish landlord suddenly became more obsessed about the search than I was.

'Directory enquiries!' He urged and snatched up the phone.

In five minutes he presented me with 2 numbers. There were only 2 MBDs in the whole of Freetown.

A bit shakily, I sat down and rang the first number. A small boy answered.

Me: 'I'd like to speak to MBD'

The phone dropped and the boy ran off - back through time, shouting 'Daddy, Daddy!'

A man came to the phone. My heart stopped beating

'Hello' the deep voice said.

Hello I said, 'It's Me, Barbee Surname'

There was silence. Then a rapid: 'Oh my God, oh my God, Oh my God'

Across the room the Polish landlord and other house inhabitants eyed me inquisitively. I gripped the phone and hoped my father wasn't going to have a heart attack there and then. Then the rush of questions: 'How is your sister? How is your mother - when are you coming here?'

So it was a while and a bit after this I went to Sierra Leone to see my father again (I may post about that sometime.) Intriguingly - when I did see him again - he knew that I'd been into the High Commission in London to look for him.

It was a trip that my sister never made. A pity. Our father died a few years later.

Recently my sister has been delving into family trees and the like - history, people, location, connectedness, places. She found out a whole heap of things that none of us ever knew about my father - another family in Liberia - even half sisters with the same names as us!

Another discovery was finding that we have another older, half brother in the UK.
My mum and my dad met at Edinburgh University in the late 50s. Before my mum, my dad had a brief fling with a young woman. When she announced her pregnancy he denied the baby was anything to do with him and never ever saw him. So our half-brother grew up with no contact with his father.

But now my sister has met our new brother and his family and everything.

And weirdly in photos - he looks a bit like me....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

feeding back

I quite like the idea of Michael Arndt's script feedback 'form' that Jurgen Wolff mentioned on his blog recently. To read JW's post click here.

'He gives his friends a form to fill out. On it, they are asked to rate from 1 to 10 how well each of the major characters comes across, and how effective they felt each of the major scenes is. He also gives them a list of ten things he thinks might be wrong with the script and asks them to rate to what extent (again, 1 to 10)'

I like the fact that this type of feedback is writer-led - so could be more useful in the early drafts. The questionnaire could be adapted to suit a particular script. It could also help eliminate vague or conflicting PO3 feedback - (for those that go that route)

Hmmm. Might try it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

no queue

Hub was wondering why he gets no visitors to his blog and I told him it's because he doesn't update it; 'like one of those shops in Zimbabwe with no food on the shelves - no one goes in.' So he says 'But some people would still come in, because there'd be no queue.'

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Pages, pages how many do you write? Of course it depends whether you are working part-time or writing full-time or not. I read somewhere recently that 5 pages a day is reckoned to be a reasonable writing count (for a full time writer). That does seem very doable. At that daily rate you can churn out a feature script in just over 3 weeks.
In the past I've tended more towards manic writing bursts - where I literally write upwards of 20 pages in one day, rather than make steady progress . Usually when I write loads, it is because I've had plenty of time to think through the entire story. Also some stories are more straight forward than others - more easily told.
On the current project, I'm happy doing anything between 0 and 5 pages a day. Yes O pages of writing sometimes(!) But on the 0 days, I'll be planning out what's next and making all kinds of notes. This 'multi-layered time' thing requires pieces of story information to be revealed stealthily - so it has to minutely planned.

Hmm pages, pages - what about you?

Friday, September 14, 2007


This may be as close as I ever get to seeing my plaque. However I finally have the euros in my bank - yippee!!
So be warned - when it comes to chasing up money owed - if polite enquiries fail - then a stream of increasingly rude and threatening daily emails will probably do the trick.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Ok so this is a 'scriptwriting in progress' post - so non-writers or those wanting a more exciting read, turn away now.

This script that I'm writing is based on a true life story - in a way it's an offbeat 'zero to hero', pivoted around some big historical moments.

The other day I realised I had to layer the timing of events and kind of zap back and forth between different places. Why? - mainly because I want the story to link 'moments of revelation' that occur at different points in the protagonist's life. Also I realised that bringing in the antagonist (and the real conflict) at the act one turning point (around 30 pages in) just won't work - it's far too late. People will be thinking - so where's this story going?

I've avoided using the words 'flash back' and 'flash forward' here and I'll avoid pointing them up as such in the script (even though they are there). You see the story is threaded together with a fairly sparse present tense VO. Generally I don't think viewers and audience have a problem with stories that skim back and forth time-wise - so it's getting it down on the page simply - which is the difficult part.

Thinking it out and chopping it up often takes longer than actual writing. So now back to the computer - but at least I know what I'm doing. I think.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Now that things are moving forward at a rapid pace once again (isn't it funny how life can just stodge up for weeks on end with not much happening apart from the rain) the big trip can be planned. Too soon to try and make it during the next school holidays here - so it looks like I'll be back in Blighty & Brum for 3 weeks just before Christmas coinciding with the big 'summer holiday' here and maybe even go to NY on the end - (all part of research of course.) Cor - not been back for 6 years. Had lots of visits here from family and a few friends and even imported my mum in the meantime (ha!) and now my sister and new hub are due over here in the next couple of weeks or so. Even so I'm wondering if I'll have a bit of culture shock - what with everything having gone up so much in the meantime, or maybe I might not even want to come back again. That's the worst thing about moving so far way for so long: estrangement from close friends. In an ideal world I'd spend the SA summer here (Nov - April) and then the rest of the time in the UK. Although that's not an entirely impossible scenario, it would require a considerably higher income (!).

Another plan involves storage - getting a built-in floor to ceiling shelving system thing up one wall of the office. Hub probably has around 3 million photo stills (negatives mainly) but for the last 5 years everything has been stored on CDS and DVDs which now amount to hundreds of discs and tons of ring binders - stuffed into every available wardrobe and cupboard and shelving in the house - in no particular order. I once worked at the Ronald Grant archive (and Cinema Museum) in SE London (I wonder if he's still around? - update: blinking heck he is - just found this on the web - have a look:)
nice little job where the assorted bunch of blokes spent day after day rummaging through filing cabinets stuffed with classic Hollywood film stills and memorabilia whilst keeping up an never-ending thread of lurid celebrity gossip. That archive seemed to have absolutely no system of organisation whatsoever and just relied purely on memories & instincts of the dedicated staff to locate requested stills. I sat in front of an Amstrad one day a week and typed up invoices and then posted them. (BTW on the vid everything now looks a lot more ordered than it used to)
So anyway organisation is pretty high up on the 'to do' list at the moment...

In other news - I saw a big hairy eyebrow of a caterpillar crawling across the floor to hide under the fridge.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Partial lunar eclipse today and a new moon - not visible from these (or those) parts at all but it is supposed to be about beginnings.

I remember last September 22nd eclipse was the first day of a shoot. We were actually shooting during the time of the eclipse at a large local observatory - so at the appointed time, the place was suddenly swarming with eclipse-watchers filing into the smaller observatories. Then just as everything grew chilly and the shadow crossed the sun (or whatever way it happened) production phones started ringing crazily with the powers-that-be bizarrely telling us that we weren't authorised to shoot (!) and ordering us to stop immediately. So much crisis management was going on in the background.

My advice to anyone planning to shoot during an eclipse? Avoid it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


We writers are fond of deluding ourselves aren't we? - particularly about our own work. A little while ago in this very blog, I commented on some prep work for my own writing - "Being a monologue it is fairly organic - zapping easily back and forth between disparate places, people and incidents over time in a way a script could never do." See I wrote that just down there a few posts back.

Now I've had to rethink that 'in a way a script could never do' - why not? - I mean why ever not - why can't a script do that? In fact as the script progresses it is becoming more and more obvious that that this is exactly what it has to do - so yaa boo and sucks to whatever informed that thought. See the thinking process can be meandering, smug and not always correct . So here's to 'multi-layered temporality' or something like that - if I can get it right

I didn't ever want to have to mention Madeleine on this blog - but now I've done it so here goes. This whole weekend I've been glued to the Sky News Madeleine developments and over the last 24 hours have probably scrutinised every available analysis on the internet. It's not as though there's been a dearth of more interesting or pertinent social issues to follow (particularly here in South Africa!) But I do admit I've been a compulsive Madeleine news follower pretty much from the start - every new trail from Praia da Luz I've probably discussed at length with hub. My Madeleine interest is more to do with the way the story is playing out - with its twists and turns, highs and lows. At one point there was even a 'Schrödinger's cat' type paradox - when two sets of potential DNA results could have meant that Madeleine was dead and that she was alive (with both probabilities existing at exactly the same time.) Even Lynda la Plante's best split screen TV hasn't thrown up a conundrum like that..

And today I skimmed through hundreds of online Madeleine blog comments and conspiracy theories, commentaries and blog psychics reports and psychics' analyses and photographs and drawings. And the worst of all these things - something that really took my breath away and chilled my blood was a poem (posted a couple of months ago) & supposedly written to satirise the pseudo psychics - a poem written from the point of view of dead Madeleine - talking about 'why and how her mother killed her'... I won't go into detail but you can probably find it fairly easily....

And after that, I stopped looking - because I'd found what I was looking for - in all the stories and facts and fictions - here was something so awful, and nasty and compelling and vicious - that it almost rang true -and yet it was just words...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I was wondering if there was something in the stars that might explain why projects that have been dormant for the best part of the year should suddenly spring into action - all at the same time. A quick visit to TJMacgregor's September horoscopes for writers (Aries) here tells me that "After the 7th, when Venus turns direct in Leo, you’re writing at the speed of light. Suddenly, your plot and characters are behaving the way they should and your writing is smooth, even." That sounds good - despite not explaining the shift - so maybe it is down to Saturn's move on the 2nd ...

Anyway, am now around page 20 of the script. A snippet of feedback pointed out - ever so politely - that the antagonist is completely missing in the opening pages. I was planning on bringing him in at the end of the first act but realise (ahem) that this is probably a little late. So a bit of hasty re-jigging went on today to pull him into the story a bit faster.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Ok - the big pitch meeting was today and when I say 'today' I mean it happened this morning - of course otherwise I wouldn't be blogging about it (in accordance with the karmic law of favourable outcomes) especially since said meeting has already been postponed three times. So although not directly film related - it is still writing related (jazz thing) So what I'm really saying is that the green light is now on.

Plus in other news the bean count audit was approved yesterday by the powers that be - meaning that the final tranche of funds due from the series can at last be released.

So four days in and September already seems a whole lot breezier, brighter and more benevolent than August...


Saturday, September 01, 2007


September already and oh how this year has sped by - and to top it all it's this blog's first birthday tomorrow. One year of words. One year of wondering. One year of rabbiting (ad noone in particularum).

So what do you buy a blog who has everything? (ha ha) Actually I may well treat it to one of those technorati 'favourites box' things - they seem quite cool and smart in a Quality Street, non elitist kind of a way. Anyone know where I get one from? Or failing that I may go for a colour change...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Even though I've been blogging now for nearly a year, I don't think I've mapped the entire course of a new script before. The current project was mentioned when it was a mere one pager so I may as well carry on.

This hasn't been a typical way of scriptwriting. The one page contained a word on which most of the story is pivoted - the word 'accident'. Then came the treatment - which was just a chronology of events that didn't really focus on either the character or story direction. More drastically, for some reason the treatment missed out the crucial word 'accident'.* Then a long monologue which told the entire story from the POV of the lead character and finally a flexible one page structural outline.

So now I'm finally writing the script and on page 12 so I'll keep updating on how its going.


* Hmm - so I suppose what I'm demonstrating here is that it is possible to completely forget the 'raison d'etre' for a story while getting lost in the detail.

Friday, August 24, 2007


- well finally finished the monologue which rambled on for a whopping 26 pages in the end. Don't think I've ever done so much preamble before starting scripting but it has really helped focus the story. Now I'll move on to a one pager - mapping out the acts and key turning points - then finally on to the script.

I did up Lianne's meme but I've taken it down now.

In other news, I've been chasing up my plaque and euros. The latest from the accounts department in Lagos is that the euros are on the way to them (from Italy) before they send them on to me (by which time they may well be worthless)


Monday, August 20, 2007

pastures green

Well the blog has been getting short shrift these days what with everyone decamping to greener and more voyeuristic cyber pastures. But I've started it and so I'll finish - anyway this space can now be used for more leisurely musings. Blogging is so much more sedate and it doesn't really matter whether only 4 or 5 people read a post - does it? Still I'm bemused to discover that the virtual massive is perfectly happy to parade the entire contents of a life - online.
Hmm. Who was it said 'keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.'

What else? Well the short story or rather monologue is becoming longer and longer by the minute - rather like the type of hand-knitted scarf you'd never wear.

A synopsis for 1 of 2 scripts that I'm supposed to be engaged on very soon came though - containing the priceless phrase 'post pneumatic stress disorder'.

Anyway at last money is being spoken about so - onwards. Write, write, write.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


In an exercise designed to solve issues pointed up by recent notes and feedback, I've been working on an extended monologue that tells the film story from the main character's point of view. Thanks to a little blogchat first with Pot I didn't rush into scripting.

The monologue is providing background and family stuff which won't even make the script eventually - but paints in the social backdrop (AIDS/crime). The character is complex and needs to be very engaging, self justifying and persuasive otherwise the audience might not buy into his worldview or morality. Every now and then (in the monologue) he launches into a long rant on some aspect of society. So his emotions and everything are laid bare through a bleak humour.

Being a monologue it is fairly organic - zapping easily back and forth between disparate places, people and incidents over time in a way a script could never do. In my mind I'm already highlighting what's going 'in' and what's 'out'.

Anyway around 9 pages of prose so far and still a long way to go. Think it will end up around 18 pages. Progress has been a bit stymied with my daughter off sick from school this week.


Monday, August 13, 2007


Call for scripts
Red Pill Productions, a Johannesburg-based production company, is looking for intellectually challenging short and feature film scripts, and groundbreaking documentary concepts. 'We are particularly interested in ideas and themes that explore the darker side of (South African) life.'
Please send a one-page synopsis (not a full script) of your script/concept to
stange.natalie 'at'
Red Pill is currently in pre-production on “Triomf”, a feature film based on Marlene van Niekerk’s award-winning book of the same name (visit the blog by clicking
here) and “Project Turmoil”, a feature documentary about a criminal gang who unleashed a reign of terror on the Cape Flats during the 1990s.

VUKA! calls for entries
The MultiChoice VUKA! Awards, an initiative that encourages newcomer and professional filmmakers in South Africa to make PSAs (Public Service Announcements) about worthy causes, is calling for
The deadline for entries is 20 October. For more information email
vuka 'at' or visit http//

Friday, August 10, 2007


The long awaited notes arrived today - 4 pages of feedback on an 8 page treatment - which is exceptional value for money in my book - especially since they were free (thanks to the UKFC's script development submission feedback scheme)

So while I have a good think, I'll finish grouting.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Realised last night that there's a holiday today here - Women's Day - so no school (which means no writing) and then because it falls on a Thursday, there's another holiday tomorrow too - so no school and no writing then either. Then its the weekend.
Just when I'm all ready to wade in...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Heads, bodies and legs

A good title don't you think? Must use it sometime - so if I leave it up here on the blog to stew awhile maybe the script will come too. Actually I just googled it and came across this - an internet version of the drawing game. In the 'Sky Stories' children's series I did a while back - there was one Australian story about the 'Ungambikula' who carved out the first beings from different body parts.

Anyway after clearing the decks (or desk) last week for the 'powers-that-be', I find that the 'rewrite' project that was simmering away quietly on the back burner is now boiling up on the front again. Plus I'm aiming to get a new script written (in response to notes) by mid September.

That's about it for now. Onwards.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


My trusty statcounter alerted me to my first ever visitor from Sierra Leone sometime last week - searching for 'film opportunities Africa' or something - so I hope this blog was some help.

Good to know that there's even sporadic internet access over there. Regular readers may know that I was born in Bo and lived in Sierra Leone until I was 5. My father was a Mende. Believe it or not - at that time Sierra Leone had the second highest standard of living in the whole of Africa.
Now it has the second worst in the world.


Friday, August 03, 2007


While I'm busy catching up on form-filling admin things, here's a whale jumping at Hermanus.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


all I wanted to do was pitch a film story to a new US company with studio links but I kind of ended up joining their social networking site to do it but it seems like they just want you to post pitches up on their site and who seriously is going to be up for that? and anyway I think I sort of pitched because the company is one of my new 'friends' so I sent a private comment (or two) so now new 'friends' arrive everyday and it's kind of rude to not accept isn't it? and the whole thing kind of pulls you in after a while - even though no one else seems to be too worried about trying to pitch direct but how do people keep up social networks on this scale and why ? and what do you do if you decide you just want to bail out..
or maybe you can't?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Long rambly post ahead.
What is the point of having a blog if you don't use it occasionally to blow your own trumpet - albeit anonymously (and even for minor successes)? Well my first radio play didn't win anything but was very highly commended in the BBC International Radio Playwriting Contest (reached the top 50 out of 1200 entries worldwide - the names are now up here for a short time). So a pat on the back there. I kind of knew my play was 'busking it' with way too many characters (after a massive culling from the original film script). You were supposed to have only 6 and I think I had 8 and a half.

Plus certain elements had to be completely re-worked for radio. Sex and death probably work better on film. But as a re-writing and craft exercise - turning a
film script into a radio play was fairly illuminating - particularly in regard to writing and 'preciousness' (more of which later).

So would I do another radio play? Yes probably but only for a ready opening like another contest - as it seems for Beeb radio drama you have to submit via a dedicated producer. They did re-launch radio drama over here a year or so ago but all seems to have gone quiet in the interim. Anyway there's another
half hour radio competition deadline at the end of the year (though it's for 'Africans living in Africa' and I'm unsure whether I fit the criteria - will have to confer with Barbee there - tee he)

So what did I learn from this exercise? That I prefer writing for film and I think visually rather than aurally.
But I settled on a better title for the play. That stays. Thinking about making a story work for radio as opposed to film was a good exercise to hone the story. Now I'll take all the improved story things back to the film script. The key character was originally an artist. This didn't work for radio and was changed. But now I'm going back to the artist. One big plus for radio is that you can convey thoughts. Plus radio has to pack a punch from page 1. The film script has a kind of 'slow burner' opening which I'm going to have to work on.

In the film script there was a key scene where 'a pitched battle ensued' (where did I read that line on a blog recently?). Anyway mine was kind of inspired by that scene in 'Once Were Warriors' when the Maori mentor delivers a Haka and twirls a sword (and the whole audience flinch in expectation.) I wanted to capture that strange energy and the sense of not knowing whether what is happening (on screen) is true or not. Anyway of course this 'pitched battle' - being totally visual had to be severely curtailed for radio.

The main thing I learned from the whole exercise was about 'preciousness'. One key issue for many writers (me included) is a lack of ability to dispassionately assess what you've written after you've written it. We become precious. We hold on to things that should go and are unable to see what doesn't work well which is why we need to hand it out; get it read, do PO3 or whatever.

When I was at art college in Leeds (across the road from the Merrion Centre), we used to do life drawing once a week - our easels arranged in a circle around a large, lardy, naked woman who had perfected the art of smoking without ever dropping the ash from the end of her cigarette.
One day after we'd been busy with the charcoal for about half an hour, the tutor stopped us all. He told us to each take our drawing and hand it to the person on our left. We were then supposed to carry on sketching the life model - working with someone else's drawing. Everyone was stumped. Some were horrified. One girl cried. Most thought 'what can I do with this pile of *?'

Then we just had to stop being precious and get on with it.

Monday, July 30, 2007


OK so this post is popping up all over - I'm linking to it here because it is funny.
For advice on your writing career read

Right that's enough faffing for today. Back to work

In the dark?

Then try Google's little black number - the search engine for the energy conscious.

Click here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

On ice

Another weekend, another children's birthday party. This one at Cape Town's hub of hedonism - Grand West - not the casino but the adjoining ice rink which still seemed a little too grown up for 5 and 6 year olds - but hey what do I know? The place was full of whirling teen skaters, flicking corkscrew curls as they skimmed mesmerising figure eights backwards under the disco lights. Very filmic.
Meanwhile the 5 and 6 year olds stumbled and skidded slowly round the edges, clambering back on to the decking once in a while for a piece of ice cream cake.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Opportunities round up

Update - (New!) GENESIS - dramas for television in African languages by South African scriptwriters.

SABC 1 Presents : GENESIS Four (4) dramas for television in African languages by South African scriptwriters. GENESIS is an exciting project aimed at promoting African languages through the production of compelling, innovative and dramatic stories in African languages. The 4 X 48’ minute television dramas will be broadcast on SABC 1.

Themes can encapsulate anything from the comic to the tragic, the traditional to the modern, the scientific to the magical, and even the extra-terrestrial. Stylistically, GENESIS also wants to extend the boundaries of the visual language and the cultural codes used on South African television.

APPLICATION PROCESS: South African writers are invited to submit a 2/3 page idea (treatment) for a dramatic story. The ideas or stories may be original or they may be based on pre-existing texts such as plays, dramas or even proverbs, and where necessary ALL copyrights cleared. Submissions may be in any of South Africa’s official languages but preference will be given to XiTsonga, SiSwati, TshiVenda and isiNdebele.

8 writers wil be shortlisted for development.

The closing date for submissions is Friday, 31 August 2007.

For further information and entry form contact Ramadan at the following email: ramadan 'at'

2. MNET EAST AFRICA IS calling for script proposals for the production of an East African television series. The production, with a budget of $1.1 million, will be shot in Kenya and will feature a regional cast and theme.
“We are not restricting the scripts concept but are looking for a theme based on the dynamics of everyday life in East Africa with family appeal”
The drama series to be screened next year, is one of a series of initiatives on film making in East Africa by the South African channel, which has announced a training project in Nigeria for 10 Kenyan film makers later in the year.
Deadline for submissions is 17th August 2007
The full brief can be downloaded by clicking on
this link here:

3. Call to Commonwealth filmmakers
Broadcasters and independent filmmakers from across the five regions of the Commonwealth are invited to submit initial entries to the Vision Awards by providing a written scenario for a short film. This year's entries are to be based on the chosen theme for 2007: 'Changing communities, greening the globe'.
Up to fifteen applicants will be short-listed by an independent selection panel and awarded £1,000 each to assist in the production of the finished film.
The winner will receive £2,500 and a trophy, and other awards will be made. The winning entries will, from January 2008, be broadcast Commonwealth-wide, particularly on and around Commonwealth Day (10 March 2008).
An application form and brochure may be received by sending an email to Applications can also be made online at the website - click
UPDATE: Deadline has now been extended to 27th August 2007

4. For radio playwrights across Africa, details of the next BBC African Performance Radio Play competition are now up on their website.
The competition is open to Africans not normally resident in the UK.
Entries can be on any subject as long as it touches the lives of Africans. They must have a cast of no more than 6 characters. They should run to 30 minutes when acted out.
There will be three prizes. The first prize is £1000, the second is £850 and the third prize is £650.
There is plenty of time to get writing as entries should arrive no later than 1 December, 2007.
Full details are available on the website -
click here.

5. Finally - a call for animated shorts:
ASIFA and Toon Boom Launch International Animation Contest
ASIFA (Association internationale du film d'animation) and Toon Boom Animation Inc. have announced the launch of International Animation Contest for the Web, open to worldwide creative minds. The contest is open until September 24, 2007 and is calling for animated shorts that are two minutes or less based on the theme, "Global Warming". To take part in this International Animation Contest, please follow the information on Toonboom Animation's web site, the registration form will be soon downloadable from