Saturday, May 31, 2008

'Celebrate Life' short script contest and SAB Miller have teamed up for a world-wide short script competition. Theme is 'Because Life is what you pour into it' so they want pitches for short films that "Celebrate Life." The competition ends June 11.

They will pick 15 of the best script pitches and give them $1500 (USD) each to make their film! Then 5 of those filmmakers will win $5000!

Full details available by clicking here.


After a mammoth 24 page scripting bing* - the script romped home on friday. Finito. Well not quite.
A short breather before the snicker snack. My typing is so atrocious at that speed - I'm hoping I can work out what I wrote.

So sluurrp!
Now for a glass of pinot g...


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


You know those messages that Mystic Meg always puts in front of her horoscopes; 'Carol from Penzance - please look in the blue spectacle case under your bed' or (less likely) 'Mani en route from the DRC, your brother is happy now and wants you to return the shoes' etc - well blogging seems a little similar sometimes - sending out missives into the universe in the hope that they might be intercepted by an appropriate person or failing that - impart something useful somewhere..

Anyway - just a short catch-up post today - been a bit distracted and the writing goes slow. Well a little bit faster now because they just emailed to ask where is it? Indeed where is it?
Better crack on.

Sharp sharp

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Ok here's my take on Danny's scriptwriting revelations meme (via Kevin).

Not easy to try and pinpoint exactly 'what revelations you've had since taking up your writing career' and many of the things you learn are not to do with scriptwriting - plus Danny has covered most of the ground pretty well in his post.

I'd add that a scriptwriting career path is rarely linear. Although you may have this 5 year or 10 year goal plan mapped out in your head - life pays scant attention to it. Often opportunities come about from left of field - unexpected sources especially when you've not got much invested in them.

I spent several years making short films before I started writing scripts. Things happened easily. Then I wrote my first feature script treatment which broke all rules - it was only 6 pages long, I even drew a family tree on it (!) It came runner up in a newspaper scriptwriting contest, brought me shed loads of meetings, went on to attract in excess of 40K (UKP) in development finance and big producers on board. That script didn't get made. 4 years later I was working on the London Underground. Now I'm over here - mostly getting paid to write and making bits of TV. Still not where I want to be - until the feature(s) is/are made....but moving a bit closer each day. I don't regret any of it.

Along the way, friends, colleagues and people around grow with you and past you - so if you get on well, stay in touch. The actors you did readings with or the scripty types you hung with ten years ago - may end up award winners or Heads of funds.

As a writer - be yourself. Know yourself. If you're not really a fan of TV soaps then it's unlikely you'll ever find yourself writing for them. Find your own path.

As Phil says here you definitely need a life outside scriptwriting (unappealing as this may sound - ha!) - family and or partner support is pretty vital.

In business relationships - follow your instincts - about people. If that little voice says 'yes' - listen - it's always right.

Develop a thick skin and indefatigable self-belief. Take affirmation from your successes. Do your best. Be better. Keep going.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Industry acts against xenophobia

Members of the South African production industry are responding to the horrific xenophobia attacks that have been raging in Gauteng’s informal settlements for more than 10 days by collaborating to make an anti-xenophobia public service announcement (PSA), which they hope will be widely seen in South Africa.

More in Screen Africa here

There is now an organisation FAR (Filmmakers Against Racism) and their blog featuring details of recent activities, images and links to videos can be found here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

words and letters

excerpt from Shalimar: Salman Rushdie

So today - been thinking about words and language and its use. Most times on the blog, I tend to write the way I speak (ha!) and go off at tangents frequently and speak too fast - so I'm told - but then get back on course again - hence the numerous brackets found in one sentence. Someone once used this skiing term; 'linked recoveries' - I've never tried to ski and don't intend to - but apparently there's a way you steer yourself down - zig-zag style to keep yourself on course - well that I think is what happens with the tangental thoughts. Hub on the other hand likes to illustrate a point with a story - a parable really - but only at the end of it all do you realise that the story told has absolutely nothing to do with the topic in hand - but hey - that's communication ...

Anyway where is this all going? Letter writing was going to be my real topic here. There's a film (like Central Station) where the lead character writes letters for other people...

Letter writing for other people seems to have evolved into a sideline for me. In this country, the written word commands a lot of power. Here, firing off an email with the subject header 'notification of intended legal action' can release unpaid funds within a matter of hours. I've no problem with launching into battle via the written word (and fighting to win) - in fact I'd rather write than phone. So I get co-opted to write on various people's behalves (behalfs?); I've fired off accusatory missives, complaints, counter-claims, damning indictments, pleas, declarations of intent, job applications and even drawn up press releases to re-launch jazz musicians. At the moment I'm embroiled in a 4 year long bureaucratic battle to win back someone's house - sold for the price of 2 pints of milk. Yesterday evening, I drew up a family friend's (dream) proposal for a township music school (that is currently being built) and now find myself more deeply involved.. let's see..

So anyway - as in that film (or maybe it's a different one) love letters would make a pleasant change - to have someone come, sit down and tell their story of yearning or betrayal or forgiveness or aging or something.. I'd sit and listen calmly, then craft a simple, perfect letter to work some magic....

This is really getting a bit long but who cares. There was a time when someone who I'd been in love with once, came back into my life and I asked them to leave me the message I'd always wanted to hear - the 'closure' thing and so they picked up the phone and dialled my number and left a message along the lines of 'Far Away I always thought you were a sweetie and it's a shame it never worked out but these things happen xx.' And that was it. And later I went home and played it back a couple of times and listened and smiled. Perfect. An ending.

Just like in the movies.


Adrift in Zimbabwe.

Read journalist/ scriptwriter Farai Sevenzo's fascinating blog posts here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Female directors

From the LA Times - an analysis of why film directing in Hollywood is still a man's world...

'The paucity of female directors seems rooted in a variety of hard-to-define issues, including lifestyle choices, aesthetic interests and personality differences. But one key contrast stands out. While there is a sizable number of women working in indie films (Sofia Coppola, Mira Nair, Nicole Holofcener, to name just a few), when you ask studio chiefs to name women who would be on their list to direct a mainstream summer movie, they offer up Nancy Meyers, Nora Ephron and -- well, then they start to run out of gas.'

Read full article here.

ships that pass in the night

Heartening to see (and a reminder of the need to persevere) is the tremendous critical response to Terence Davies' latest film Of Time and the City. I've long been a fan of his work. Here in another interview from 2 years back - is Davies' damning and passionate assessment of the UK film industry. Interesting to note that much of what he says chimes with what is being articulated elsewhere lately - the need for spiky, original and 'difficult' voices and narratives to be returned to British cinema and television.
Perhaps change is in the air..

In other news: I'm still making headway on the current script - (even better news they just agreed to give me more money - yee haa!) - despite the various shortcomings of the online stuff (I'm now loath to mention any scriptwriting tool by name on the blog now - since it sparks a mass of visits from developers.) Why don't they just put all the functionality of word into an online system - or better still - why not have writers just type in a few key words and let the programme write the script instead?

Locally, the state of affairs at the SABC continues to baffle with yesterday's news that the CEO has now been reinstated after his suspension was ruled unlawful. Watch this space.

And finally an opportunity: Migr@Tions International have put an international call out for short films about immigration. Full details are available by clicking here.

So there you go - bits and pieces today. And where are you by the way?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

global local

Reviving SA's reelpolitik

'Two years after Tsotsi brought home an Oscar, our film industry is still languishing in the doldrums. Ryan Fortune meets the youngsters who might just give it a boost

Earlier this week, a delegation of local film mavens flew off to Cannes to sell South Africa as a player in the international film industry. They might haul out Presley Chweneyagae or Madiba or both, but the disappointing truth is that they have very little to sell beyond our great locations, well-trained crews and cheap equipment, for not a single South African film is in competition on the Croisette this year.'

Read the full article here.


From Stewart McKie - the creator of scriptcloud comes a new ideablog for those who have ideas about improving screenwriting and want to get more involved in online idea sharing. Click here.

Click the big orange New Idea button then signup as a new user to post and track your ideas and vote/comment on the ideas of others. Although in its infancy, it may work as a forum to share opinions on scripped, zhura and other online scriptwriting tools.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Playwriting competition

'Protect the Human' Playwriting competition

“Making real and relevant the impact of human rights on our everyday lives.”

iceandfire and Amnesty International UK launched the 2008 ‘Protect the Human’ playwriting competition on May 6th 2008. By pairing up to create the competition our aim is to harness theatre's ability to make real and relevant the impact of human rights on our everyday lives. To do this we are looking for insightful and engaging plays that imaginatively interpret this aim.

Submission window: July 28th – August 1st 2008

All submissions will be read by a panel of theatre professionals including Olivier award winning actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor. The three finalists will receive rehearsed readings at the Soho Theatre in December 2008 with the winning play receiving a prize of £3000 and readings at The Birmingham Rep; Theatre Royal Plymouth; West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds and a London venue on 10th December 2008 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Full information is available by clicking on their website here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Ok my main news is scripped. I thought it was high time I dragged myself away from word (utterly prehistoric) and tried out one of these new, free online scriptwriting software thingies and yeah I'm already a fan (mmm yes I'm easily pleased) - apart from the fact that I can't magnify the page or cut and paste from other scripts (- hey there's always the possibility you might want to cut and paste whole scenes from previous scripts into your current one - I've done that before.) But I hear they're 'working on it...

So while that's going on, I alerted the producers to a potentially massive script 'issue' - you see - all this treatmenting and this and that really means nothing because when you actually sit down and hammer it all out and read it back and see whether the story 'works' - that's where it clicks. And yes while the final two thirds of the story are positively pulsating with feverish emotional excitement the first third is put to shame. In fact the first third can just be chucked out the window really. Yet probably those 30 pages had to be written just to understand why they needed to thrown out (and this is perhaps why treatments sometimes don't always work too) So yo! I feel like yo yo-ing to day. Yo!

So I've given myself another fortnight. Yo! And I did ask for more money but I don't think they heard me. Yo! Maybe I'll shout.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

development heaven

An article by Barbara Schock on 'intelligent screenplay development.'

just posted this and it is really a great read.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Today's page count: past halfway. Mood: cautious

Saturday, May 10, 2008


There are myriad things I don't blog about for various reasons - which probably creates a huge disparity between what appears here and what I (script)write about - which maybe some blog readers grasp and some don't - but who cares? I don't tend to blog about muti, black psyche/white psyche, AIDS, alcoholism, political shenanigans, bi-polarity or grimy crime - all of which however are intricately and intimately woven into the foreground of (my) life here.

Occasionally significant TV news seeps into the blog - such as the upheavals of the past week - and I start to wonder whether lurching from horoscopes and woolly sweaters to politics makes any sense at all - does it?

Anyhow last week's writing schedule became a little sidetracked (now behind by 10 pages - agh!) but other stuff cranks forward slowly.


Recent page count: catching up. Mood: buoyant

Thursday, May 08, 2008

SASFED statement on SABC crisis

Press Statement 8th May 2008.

In view of the present crisis within the SABC, the South African Screen Federation representing 17 professional bodies in the film and TV industry:

1/ Support the role of the SABC as a public broadcaster committed to quality local programming

2/ Believe political interference has undermined the original public service mandate of the SABC

3/ See the existing crisis as symptom of a long standing operational disfunctionality

4/ We independent filmmakers who make most of South Africa¹s TV programmes, experience daily the ineffective management which has undermined our capacity to produce quality and challenging programmes for the South African public.

We wish to see the SABC fully functioning for the entire public and all key stakeholders who make this possible.

Rehad Desai

growing clothes

My sister once bought a beautiful, grey wool sweater which she wore only once before casting it casually into the washing machine. When she took it out, it had shrunk to the size of a tea cosy. Thinking it might fit my daughter (who at the time was only two) she posted it here airmail - and it was exactly the right size!
The weird thing is over the years the jumper has actually grown with my daughter - so now that she is nearly six - it still fits - with room to spare.
Hmm - maybe I should send this in as a tip somewhere - how to use your children to grow shrunken clothes back to their original size..slowly....

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


The local broadcaster SABC appeared to be in meltdown today after the suspension of the CEO early this morning - following his earlier suspension of the Head of News.

The unfortunate timing coincides with Input2008 currently underway in Johannesburg and attended by a host of international TV commissioners and execs.

Today's page count: 9. Mood: distracted

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Yes these horoscopes for writers again - always good for encouragement.

Here's the link for May. Luckily mine (Aries) tells me:

Your best writing time this month falls between May 2-26, while Mercury is moving in direct motion. Between May 26 and June 19, it’s time to rewrite and revise.

Better crack on

Today's page count: 11. Mood: changeable.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Spoilers: banal post ahead

Not a post about writing or progress but about the pond in the garden getting a bit overgrown. This is what it looked like yesterday morning.

The size of a plunge pool, don't know whether it ever had koi carp in it but I doubt it - it's a bit leaky and when the rains come (anytime soon) it can fill right up to the top. In fact once when it became a little too swampy, the neighbour at the back came round and accused us of breeding mosquitoes (as though anyone actually breeds mosquitoes - although perhaps Pandora did - after she opened the box) Same neighbour called in the environmental health whose advice was to pour in some paraffin - which didn't seem very eco-friendly, but perhaps it worked and anyway a couple of days later, the water all drained away.

So there you have it - a pond or rather a big stone-lined hole in the garden - that probably has imperfect feng shui. Mountain above water is that supposed to be a good hexagram? Wonder whether there's one for mountain above grassy pond...

Yesterday's page count:9 (including title page)


Ok today's the day I get started on a ten page a day x ten (working) day scriptwriting blitz to complete the new script. The final treatment came in at 17 pages after being tweaked and de-pedestrianised (I removed all the zebra crossings) So now the fun starts.
I'm thinking of asking for an increase in my fee - cheeky I know - and a bit late - since I've been paid - but producers like to move the goal posts and often under-estimate the amount of time and work involved in writing and re-writing.
In contracts here I now stipulate the number of drafts and also script revisions I do (usually 2) for the fee as well as page counts for documents like treatments - otherwise it can keep going back and forth. I'll ask anyway - if only to put the wind up them. Just read in several horoscopes that today is a good day (new moon) to ask for money so it would be a shame to waste these astral benefits huh?