Monday, January 29, 2007

The party years

Someone asked me to blog about 'how I got started'- but since I don't necessarily feel I have 'got started' I thought I wouldn't - but then I thought I could blog in stages about how I got to where I am now and then maybe blog about how I got started sometime in the future when it happens (are you still following?)

Let's start with the party years - the whirl of fun and irresponsibility and what-have-you when the mood is blasé and spontaneous. The party years are lucky - things happen easily - opportunities abound - drink flows - dancing goes on til dawn. (ha!)

I finished art school and started being an artist making massive charcoal drawings on pieces of brown paper in my bed-sit in East Dulwich. There was a small advertisement in the local newspaper offering a free video course and I went on it. The small group of us messed around, animating beans and lentils under caption camera and in the edit cut it up with interviews with artists. I was called 'the laughing director'. That video became support material for an application to an Art Council scheme to encourage minority filmmakers. I made a half hour doc about 5 British artists - most of whom have now gone on to great things. With another award, I made an 'anti-narrative' experimental video - shown on C4.

It was a time cram full of private views and launches and parties and openings and previews and screenings and rushes viewings and talks and discussions and so on.

I applied for a one minute film grant and didn't get it. Disappointed I packed my bags and went to Sierra Leone and saw my father again after 20 years. When I came back I was told I had a green-light - the 'lucky' 13th since one of the awards had to be overturned. It was my best yet. Soon afterwards I successfully submitted a 'proper' short film script for a New Directors award.

By now I was certain that making films was what I really, really wanted to do. Ironically this was the time that it started to become difficult.
The free flow of opportunity that I had become accustomed to started to evaporate...


Friday, January 26, 2007

Latest round up

Here is the latest round up of scriptwriting and film opportunities.

Previously I omitted DV8 who (apparently) still operate an open-ended online submission scheme for low budget South African feature film scripts. Visit their website
here for more information.

Someone alerted me to another (online) prodco seemingly on the lookout for 'strong, character-driven scripts and novels' set in South Africa. Information is available
here. I have not been able to check them out and they do request a $25 submission fee which is off putting. If anyone has further info - let me know (email address in my profile.)

For playwrights writing in any of South Africa's official languages, there's the Maskew Longman Milller competition for original and unpublished drama manuscripts. The deadline is 31st July 2007 and information is available

Just announced - the Roy W Dean Writing Grant is now open for applications. Co-ordinated via 'From the Heart Productions' a non-profit 501(c)(3) organisation dedicated to funding films that are “unique and make a contribution to society”. This writing grant is open to anyone around the world. The Roy W. Dean Writing Grant takes writers to New Zealand for one month to write anything, book, play film script, etc. Writers stay in a quiet country cottage and airline ticket and funds weekly for food and pub are covered. Full info is available on the website

To receive regular scriptwriting 'work alerts' for current South African TV and other jobs, it is worth joining SASWU (for info click on name in sidebar). For beginner scriptwriters as well as those who want to increase their knowledge, their twin organisation SA Scriptwriting Institute (see sidebar) will be running various interesting courses and master classes over the coming year. Visit the website for information.

Mnet are currently looking for 13 x prime time stand alone 'made for TV 60 minute dramas.' The information is available
here. The deadline is actually 28th February (not March as stated previously)

SABC are also looking for various stand alone dramas, mini series and comedies. Full details are in the latest RFP book downloadable from their
website. There's still plenty of time to submit proposals for many of the briefs. Development finance is available for certain proposals.

There's still plenty of time to submit for the BBC's 10th International Radio Playwriting Competition launched to find the next Pinter, Brecht or Soyinka. Details are available
The deadline is April 30th 2007

Finally for those who may be interested, here's one for documentary filmmakers: ITVS have launched an INTERNATIONAL production initiative. 'This fund is designed to showcase international documentaries that tell powerful global stories that will inform, inspire and connect US audiences to unfamiliar lives, experiences and new perspectives from across the world.' There is one funding round for the IMDF International Call per year, and the deadline will typically be in February. The deadline for the 2007 International Call is February 9, 2007. Please refer to ITVS's website for further information . Click


Yes I've succumbed and added bells and whistles to my blog. Thanks to OR's information there's now a cloud of labels (though I still don't quite know how to change the font colour or the header).

Lower down there's a map where visitors - virtual, real or otherwise can place a pin and leave a message. Please do.


Thursday, January 25, 2007


Film Flam's hilarious view of The Last King of Scotland can be read here.

Still, I can't wait to see Forest in this role.


The course is going well despite taking up a massive chunk (all?) of my writing time each day. This is 'accelerated learning' and there's a constant switch of tempo and activities. Won't be able to gauge how much I've retained until afterwards I suppose.

Once upon a long time ago, I studied Italian in Leeds. There was a linguistics lecturer who - at the start of the lesson - hit the desk with a tuning fork, then waited until the reverb completely died away before he started speaking. Hmm I dropped out after one year and went to art college which was a whole lot more fun.

The fascinating bit of this course is seeing how everyone starts to speak a new tongue in precisely the same manner as they would their own - very hard to 'shake off' the self. There's a fair amount of acting needed to learn a language methinks.

Anyway will be posting the regular round up of local and international script and film opportunities and reminders soon.


Saturday, January 20, 2007


I joined the crowds of comet watchers up on Chapman's Peak yesterday evening. This is what comet McNaught looked like at about 7 o' clock local time.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007


uxolo ndigxamile, ndifunda isixhosa...

small prize for first correct translation. Back soon.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Trying to meet a flurry of deadlines - finishing a short (inspired by a parent's question to my daughter's doll in the park) - plus working out a tricky feature treatment.

Another (TV) deadline wanted a couple of scenes written up from a vague paragraph. Knocked out 5 pages, read it aloud, quick revision then pressed 'send'. 3 hours later the company thoughtfully circulated a wad of additional information for writers. Agggh.



"When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception."

Great article from Zadie Smith in yesterday's Guardian here.

Part 2 can be read here.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Schools are still out, so is the sun. And since it's the long 'builders holiday' here no one's really in a rush to get back to work, just yet.

Blog posts might be a bit sparse from next week, as I'm learning another language - crash course - three hours a morning, for three weeks! Hopefully by Feb I may even be able to sing along to

Or let's see if I can get this youtube link right.

There's a better live recording here too but I can't put it up.

My mum says it was one of my father's favourites.

Miriam Makeba. Pitanga cherries. Red dusty feet. Kenema. Eish I can almost remember


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Scriptwriting Feng Shui (i)

To make a change from the scriptwriting information (found all over the web) I thought I'd start an occasional series of unorthodox tips for scriptwriters. A kind of fun scriptwriting Feng Shui.

One of the things that scriptwriters struggle with - particularly in the early stages of writing (or sometimes when writing the treatment) is structure. The overall. The big picture. That's why everyone wants loglines and pitches so they can tell straight away if the idea 'works'.

Scriptwriting is often piecemeal, bitty - and, caught up in the writing, it's easy to lose sight of the whole - particularly if it hasn't been resolved from the outset. Or sometimes the difficult part is actually 'writing out' the way the story fits together - even after it has been 'resolved' in the mind. Maybe the film's central metaphor is there and for the writer, that's enough to be going on with. As Paul Schrader said 'metaphor is the structure'

Design and scriptwriting are not necessarily mutually exclusive disciplines. Script manuals talk of 'thinking pictures' or 'painting pictures for the blind' They don't often discuss 'space' (apart from white space on the script's page) or 'symmetry' or 'chi'.

So here's a straight forward approach to script structure for those who want to try it - using pictograms. Yes that's it. So what is a pictogram? Well it's a kind of simple diagram that represents something more complex. Here I'm suggesting using a pictogram to represent the structure of the script.

Ok first to get the idea - here are a few examples. These films may seem a bit dated or random - but other folk out there can always come up with (and even email me) more recent ones.

This one is for SHALLOW GRAVE
'Three friends discover their new flatmate dead but loaded with cash'
Look again - see how the pictogram is a visual reference for the whole story

Triangular-type diagrams tend to be good for working out stories centred on three characters and triangular relationships:

The same pictogram could maybe be used for the classic RASHOMON. But the one below would probably be more suitable. 'A heinous crime and its aftermath are recalled from differing points of view' (the one below also references illusion/deceit)

Or perhaps even this one?

I'm sure you've got the idea.
Ok now what about this?
JOY LUCK CLUB - perhaps.
Circular linking narratives told round a dinner table. See it? Well perhaps the petals need to overlap a little more - but pretty near. Try your own

And if you want to have a really complex story structure there's always something like...

So what do you do with the pictogram? Use it as a reminder or a prod. You can stick it to the top corner of your PC or Mac before you start writing - see the structure as you write.


The use of pictograms is not for everybody and, as an aid to scriptwriting may not always be appropriate, useful or possible.