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"creativeindustry.co.za

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.