MA – SCRIPTWRITING #8

The new third draft of Willem has been received in the seminar session and people are happy with it now. Its structure, characters, setting as well as the themes are working now, and Phil has said how it just needs a little cleaning up in terms of odd minor DIY details such as some little spelling mistakes. So I will redraft it, read it over and it’ll be ready for the submission date.

One thing we were asked is to now start thinking about where this script would go and who would it be aimed at. My response has been to explore the film festival circuit and in particular the hundreds of LGBTQ themed screening events that occur yearly around the globe.

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With Willem being about a real man, who was actually gay himself, added with the themes of acceptance, and Alexander’s parallel awakenings if you will, as well as oppression and the fight for equality, even in a historical context I believe would be fitting for these festivals as well as their audiences, who would respond to these themes, perhaps more so as they themselves can relate to the struggles and values/imagery within it. Some festivals below are but a small sample of those I would like to eventually send the filmed script too.

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International Queer Minorities Film Festival http://www.transitionfilmfestival.com/ – Willem was a minority at the time he lived, and his message is still as powerful today as it was back then.

North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival http://www.carolinatheatre.org/films/festivals/ncglff – again, a dedicated event to LGBTQ films and characters, and with a previous film of mine going here (BRINK), they are a wonderful festival, who do nothing but celebrate and champion queer voices in cinema, and I believe Willem may perhaps find a home here with audiences, especially with its emphasis on a historical context too to add some flavour to proceedings. The event is very interested in worldwide voices too and welcome entries from the world over, so this widens the scope and allows me to be eligible to submit a future film version of Willem.

Fringe Queer Film & Arts Fest  http://fringefilmfest.com/- back on home turf is the London based Fringe fest, which again, like the previously mentioned festivals, welcomes entries with a distinct queer voice or association and I would be very much excited to have an opportunity to submit Willem to this festival as audiences are taken with the themes and characters that Willem does exhibit.

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Willem would exist as a short film, and be broadcast primarily at film festivals, not just the ones above if possible, but as many as we could send it too. That is hopefully where Willem would find its core audience, the LGBTQ community, who like to see films that have themes and associations they can believe in, as well as place an emphasis on because they will also have also experienced a lot of what goes on within the script’s narrative too (prejudice, acceptance, intimacy maybe even forbidden), and thus, have a greater emotional response overall.

MA – SCRIPTWRITING #7

I love watching films, feature length, experimental ones as well as short films. The latter in particular excites me as I love to see how other filmmakers have managed to cram all their own exciting ideas into a product that has a limited running time. I find that a great challenge to do myself, so seeing others do the same and taking on the battle is fantastic.

With the scriptwriting module, I’ve been very invested in returning to view as many as possible, as well as catch up on watching LGBTQ shorts especially to discover what new fresh ways have been released to tell tales from those in the community. With this in mind, I turned to a DVD series of films, a collection of shorts from around the globe usually associated with a different theme for each release – and which come from Pecca Pics entitled Boys on Film. In this instance it was with the subtitle – Cruel Britannia, which specialised in short films coming from the UK – all very different and with equally different sets of characters, some nice, some not so much.

The short I came across and which I had an absolute delight watching in particular was entitled ‘What You Looking At’ which was released in 2012, and is ten minutes long. Synopsis wise, it is very simple, two people get in a lift, it breaks down and the two are forced to communicate until they are released. Sounds pretty simple, but what is different is that one passenger is a young Muslim woman and the other is a drag queen. For society, they are seen as complete opposing opposites!

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However, by the end, the two have chatted, argued, bonded, laughed as well as shared costumes, and it is quite simply beautiful! I love films where the emphasis is on strangers, and how we can have a profound impact on each other. It’s essentially what a lot of my films are about, including Willem. The theme itself is nothing new, and filmmakers have toyed with it for years (Lost In Translation is probably the modern, most masterful take on this theme), but the circumstances can be different, the settings can be different, the genders can be different (or the same), and yet most of these films, still have the ability to leave you on a high, even when the ending isn’t as happy as it could be at times. The fact emotions, words, as well as physical contact has been made, means that the outcome still has the power to overwhelm us an an audience. And What You Looking At succeeds immensely at this.

Initially the characters are coy with one another, societal stipulations have made that happen. They are aware of how they are supposed to feel about each other’s lifestyle choices, but as they are forced to talk because they are stuck together in a situation out of their control, humanity begins to seep in uncontrollably and the two passengers discuss their lives, admit to truths and feelings they never have done, while developing a mutual respect for each other in the process. And despite parting ways at the end and being interrupted by those who find the situation unacceptable and troubling, the feelings and ideals they both experienced have nevertheless changed them radically and for the better.

And it reminds me of how Willem plays out. With a lot of similarities.

SUSTAIN Completes Principal Photography

This past weekend, the crew and cast of Sustain met for the last time to complete principal photography on this very exciting production.

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The Flank Brothers (Brett Dewsbury & Joshua Sewell), prepare for one last scene together on shoot

As with any film project I’m working on, I absolutely hate saying goodbye to such amazing people! An absolutely fantastic cast, all brilliant and bursting with immense acting talent, as well as our equally fantastic crew, all working in their spare time to help make the film the best it can be.

It’s taken me a good few hours to think about what to say here, because I’ve been trying to find the right words. But to be honest, I can’t conjure the appropriate ones to express how magical making Sustain has been. And no sentence could even come close.

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Sustain Memories from the past 7 weeks!

From conception, to writing, to casting, to location scouting, rehearsals and meetings nearly every week, this film has brought me out of my shell a lot more, allowed me to play about with cinematic themes and visuals as well as laugh, smile, facepalm over on set pranks and just watch in awe as this beautiful cast brought our words to life more than I ever could have imagined as a director. You’re all amazing and just so talented!!!! I am in your debt always.

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Even more Sustain Memories!

I love making films, and additionally, this crew, every single one of you, well I’m just so happy that I got to work with some of the best professionals I’ll ever know. Each of you has the same passion, the same energy and the same dedication to make something as special as we can, to make the story as strong as it can be and as best it can look.

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We’ve all laughed, pranked each other, sang to each other, hugged, loved and protected one another (usually from the cold!!!!)….but I’d do that all again in a heartbeat just to be on set with you all one more time.

God Damn, I bloody love you all, you creative nutters! Thank you for everything.

As one adventure comes to a close, here’s to the next many many more!

#TeamSustain 📽🎥🎬

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MA – SCRIPTWRITING #6

THE NARRATIVE STRIKES BACK!

Ask yourself – What are your audience asking always? What should they be asking throughout?

I find this a key point if you look at narrative structure simply because a story has to unravel, it has to keep posing questions to keep an audience engaged. This is not just applied to a core storyline, but can be welcomed through subplots too, how secondary characters are developing, what conflicts they have and how are those interlinking or furthering the plot?

I’d like to think that Willem, as a script, is continually asking the audiences to consider what will happen next, how will the two characters behave around one another, especially when they begin the film as complete opposites. But it is interesting when I place the script next to some of the narrative theories we study in film too and how it adheres to some of their strucutres.

MICHAEL HAUGE’S SIX STAGE STRUCTURE

“…stories for mainstream Hollywood films are all built on only three basic components: character, desire and conflict…in a properly structured movie, the story consists of six basic stages, which are defined by five key turning points in the plot”.

Michael Hauge – The Five Key Turning Points Of All Successful Movie Scripts

According the Hauge, in any movie story, there are turning points, all of which help/hinder a character as their attempt to achieve a “compelling objective”, as he remarks. His ideas can be seen in the diagram below and show a distinct journey that any character takes and how these differing stages all allow their story to unfold and reach their climax.

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Hauge uses this above theory to break down sections within a film, and says that even if audiences don’t realise a similar trend is occurring throughout any film they watch, somehow, there subsconcious does. I propose to see whether Willem adheres to these stages and how.

TURNING POINT 1 – Opportunity – Willem sees a way to express himself upon someone he feels is of similar mind despite allegiances.

Stage 1: SETUP – Alexander is in the cell, in uniform. Shows aspects of his personality and the setting.

Stage 2: NEW SITUATION – Willem is brought into the cell by the guards. Now the cell has two occupants

TURNING POINT 2 – Change of Plans – Alexander begins to help Willem, identify sympathy for the prisoner as well as a neigotation with his own values/insecurities.

Stage 3: PROGRESS – Willem talks with Alexander who starts to help him across the days they spend together. And engages with the prisoner.

TURNING POINT 3 – Point of No Return – Internally, Alexander does not want to see Willem hurt and Willem tells him about his life. Admits to homosexuality which is illegal.

Stage 4 – COMPLICATIONS & HIGHER STAKES – Alexander tries to not admit his own feelings at first. Tries not to identify with Willem. Willem continues to speak about his life, and both of the men could be heard or disocvered at any moment, especially Willem, his life already in the balance. Higher stakes also then come from the note Willem asks Alexander to hide and get out to the world.

TURNING POINT 4 – Major Setback – Alexander finally commits to his sexuality and kisses Willem. But before a happy ending can occur, the guards come to take Willem, who is shot outside off screen, while all Alexander can do is watch in horror, unable to help.

Stage 5 – FINAL PUSH – Alexander reads the note. He knows who he is now, all thanks to Willem.

Turning Point 5 – Climax – Alexander stands in the cell, a metaphorical prison still. But still with the note, and with a sense of loss but ambigious determination. 

Stage 6 – AFTERMATH – Alexander stands at the cell door peering out behind iron bars in it. Will he ‘come out’ the cell, his identity prison and tell the world what Willem said, as well as release himself? History tells us maybe he did?

Does the Hauge theory work for Willem? I think it does. It allows you to break down components as he theorised any story does, allowing a similar structure to be applied. It also allows me to have a 3-ACT STRUCTURE within (Act 1 – Alexander in the cell, Willem brought in. The two men alone/ Act 2 – The days pass and the men grow closer, and talk/ Act 3 – Willem is shot and Alexander has to make a final choice).

MASLOW HIERARCHY

With Willem working within the Hauge structure, I wanted to apply it to another as well, so I looked into the Maslow Hierarchy, as my second candidate.

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Reference Link

This pyramid looks at what we need as humans, to motivate, to survive. This can also help us identify parts of characterisation that filmmakers and writers include in their film narrative, and allows us to identify with characters as they struggle for sometimes the same things we do in our own lives, whether acceptance or more so, shelter, comfort, food.  Let us apply Willem here.

Psychological – Willem knows he will die soon, but continues to fight through language with every last breath he takes.  He also needs to eat/drink and sleep. Both Willem and Alexander exhibit these traits. Both characters are battling for their right to survive whatever the odds.

Safety – another main basic desire. We need to feel safe, and when we aren’t or see character threatened continually, it raises our emotions and tension rises in a story. Both of these men are terrified in reality, Alexander scared of being discovered, his false safe life exposed, while Willem is not so much afraid of death, but feels safe knowing his final words will get out and that Alexander will equally be safe if he escapes after he is gone, onwards to a better life, free from fear. The body is also subjected here to cruelty and we associate our need for safety by projecting wellbeing to the good character experiencing it ie Willem.

Love & Belonging – if Willem fitted into one of these most, it would be this one I beleive. Both men are fightin for this, for love and to somehow belong. While Willem, himself has done this more, his confidence and outspoken personality awarding him some luxury of living the life he wants too, it hasn’t come without cost (family breakup, losing loved ones, losing his freedom, and thus his life). Alexander is a gay man, as we realise by the end, but is in a situation wherein him indulging in his real desires would kill him also. But he does want to belong, and to love…which is for another man somehow one day.  A friendship, and a brief but meaningful sexual intimacy also become part of this story too.

Esteem – Both characters have increased confidence by the climax. Willem is content his message will get out, as well as knowing he did one last good deed by helping Alexander find himself. He faces death with a wry smile at the end as he is taken away. He has achieved one last truimph over his enemies, and has not only developed respect for Alexander by has also earned it from the latter too.  Alexander also grows in subtle confidence, not as much as Willem, but to kiss a man in a setting wherein they could be discovered and killed at any moment is a massive achievement for him too. A bold move, and despite not being able to help his prisoner, he ends the film with an ambigious, but evident increased confidence, despite whatever happens after the end credits. He is changed. As an audience we follow and build our own confidence up through both these characters, even deciding/reflecting upon our own lifestyle choices in the process.

Self- Actualisation – through a lack of prejudice (both men accept one another), spontaneity (Alexander kisses Willem), acceptance of facts (Willem’s accepts his fate, Alexander accepts who he is), and through these rites of passae, both men learn how to reach enlightenment at the climax of the script/story.

I’m glad Willem is adhering to both these narrative theories as I think it helps strengthen them as pieces of art. It hopefully allows the themes, the characters, their ideals, their visions, their world, to come to life as well as allowing an audience to not only easily associate themselves with the struggles displayed, but also to accept others, and those we may have lost through ill-conceived prejudice, both throughout history, and even today still.

These questions are paramount and I hope will make an audience continue to ponder and reflect long after the closing credits.

MA – SCRIPTWRITING #5

This past week I finally began writing the second draft of the WILLEM script. I had to wait for a good comfortable time to begin writing and after getting a cup of tea ready, and with the clock striking the midnight hour, I began.

I followed up on the next day after going to sleep at 3.30am, with being around 10 pages in at that point. And with trusty cup of tea in hand, I began to continue on with this draft eventually reaching a 22 page draft finally. I submitted this draft to the group before the next session and awaited feedback. The major change in this one was transferring the narrative from one day to spread over three instead and whether the emotional core still worked at this point. Personally it works a treat and I’m glad I reworked it for this reason. In the class, we discussed the new draft and came up with more discussion and suggestions;

  • Again, the opening is still wordy and descriptive which I still want to condense down further. I think because this draft is more concerned with getting the three day structure to arrive and set in place, these items I will pay more emphasis on in the next draft. But it is still too wordy and I want to fix that. As Phil comments further, ‘first two pages are still very novelistic. Better to simplify, shorten sentences and leave lots of white on the page’.
  • The use of a bowl of gruel that is thrown into the cell to denote a new day/the next day works as a good indicator too and it allows me to play about with it later in the story with Alexander passes it gently to Willem instead of it being thrown in by a guard. It is an evolving visual display of how the story is progressing as well as how the bond between these two characters has grown. Everyone liked this and how it plays about with audience expectations, because they are looking for a similar throw of the bowl but are instead met with Alexander’s more calmful approach, which will hopefully keep the audience intrigued as to what will happen next and by the end.
  • A few more visual notes, that shot list moment to denote what is going on within the frame instead of overly describing it like a novel. So an example from this draft is to replace ‘he takes another indulgence of food’, with ‘Willem eats quickly using his fingers’.
  • Alexander in this draft engages Willem a lot more now. And while he is asking questions still, it does allow him to express some of his own attitudes and fears in the process more, as well as allowing him to ‘come out’, so to speak, although not entirely, but enough hopefully for an audience to see some further characterisation occurring.
  • Towards the end, I get a bit wordy and descriptive again, so there are some areas there to trim down further, which I agree on for sure.

Overall the response though was that the three day structure works well. And allows the characters to develop even more so than over the shorter afternoon spell that was evident in draft 1. As well as this, I want to work on the metaphorical aspects of the ending, that although Willem has escaped the cell (despite dying), he is free, while Alexander is still trapped in the cell, a metaphorical prison if you will. I want to work on visuals that can bookend the story, so I will have a think about this also, to reinforce the themes and isolation Alexander finds himself in, and which maybe also hint at what he will do next. An ambiguous ending.