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Collaborative Screen Writing & Story Development

Updated: Feb 6

by Nigel O


Club Meeting 1st February, 2024


We had a healthy turn-out of 20, including 3 guests: Tony, David and Nikita. Not bad for a second meeting back! We then welcomed our newest members, Maxim and country member Tony (who signed up on the spot at the meeting!), and we have since had Deborah sign up. Please make them feel super welcome when you next see them around, and have a chat.

Sadly Stewart, Freddie Lee, and Paul couldn't join us. Stewart's undergoing treatment for a suspicious lump on his head (not just the one between his ears :-)) and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

ANYHOW... .

We had a H-U-G-E night, so if you missed it, I hope that this blog does it justice!


Location call


Justin is looking for a run-down/dilapidated low set home in suburbia to feature in his latest production. If you know of such a property, drop him an email at justinbrentw@hotmail.com


BTS – DV AD

Glenn provided a BTS update on the Domestic Violence Advertisement - for more information, read the blog: DV AD gets BMM up for 2024


West End Film Festival (WEFF)

Glenn and Freddie visited the organisers of the WEFF, which was established in 2009 by a group of local filmmakers as an Australian short film competition held in West End. Now in its 13th year, WEFF has grown to be one of Brisbane's most eclectic, enlightening and empowering film festivals designed to celebrate community, culture and diversity of the film industry through supporting grassroots film making and by encouraging collaborations among artists whilst highlighting the importance of creativity and connection. In 2024, WEFF is looking to establish a potential partnership with BMM, but more in the hosting rather than the creative side of things. The BMM Committee is considering ideas and will take any significant decision to the membership.


Equipment update

Nigel sadly reported that the Go II radio mics that have been missing since August 2023 have not made a re-appearance. The camera kit is now sans radio mics.



Film Bite

Glenn showed us a film bite taken from the movie, Whiplash, that highlighted extreme close-ups, fast paced editing and timed cuts Damien Chazelle's Extreme Close-ups. I don't know about you, but I was exhausted just from watching it! If you want to know more about his approach/technique, watch Why You Should Study Damien Chazelle.


Upcoming Projects

Glenn showcased his latest edition to the web site.Upcoming Projects. If you want to know what projects are underway, this is the place to go, and if you want to participate, reach out to Glenn or a committee member. Please note that Peter's new project 'Together' has been listed on this page.



After the Choices

Our newest member Maxim shared his 5 minute entry for the 2018 Unscene film festival called After The Choices. This competition required entrants to produce a short film (maximum 5 minutes) with the theme “Choices”. The film could have been  a drama, comedy, documentary, mockumentary, experimental or any hybrid of these forms. It was Maxim's first foray into film making.Thanks for sharing, Maxim.




You Are Not Alone, Together

Peter provided an update to his YANA project, which is available on the Vimeo streaming service https://youarenotalone1.vhx.tv/

- Selecting for showing at 6th This Is My Brave International Mental Health Film Festival October 2023



- Black Dog Ride suggestion writing for submission funds (working on this)


Future Plans

- To be part of Queensland Mental Health Week 7-15th October

- Releasing Individual Interviews on YouTube channel (Peter Waterman Storyteller)

- Tell other peoples stories Borrow a Human From the Library eg bi polar person, refugee, homeless person and they tell their story

Peter announced that he is embarking on another project called Together: With all of the bad things that are happening in the world right now, I think we need a message of togetherness and true unity. I believe that starts with personal reflection and then we can find kindness toward each other. - Marielle Heller

The idea of Together is to have a series of stories (or a series of stories as one documentary  each on it’s own with a theme of creating happiness by sharing time, energy and commitment to another person (or animal, organisation, hobby etc). As John Dunne said “no man is an island’ so the stories created in this project will be about discovering that and realising it is better together. Another aspect of this is finding yourself and being happy in your own shoes ie getting your act together. The harmony and comfort of togetherness is perhaps the end point of these films (although it may be shown in a subtle manner). 


Films in Consideration include The Lady Beetles (filming begun) Nigel and Murray assisting and Stuart and Shadow – A Man and his Dog (early February start) Glenn assisting.


Further Ideas can include:

  • The Hub -togetherness in community, 

  • Boy, Man,  Elder - getting yourself together

  • Finding Your Tribe  - Men’s Wellbeing (actors used)

  • Relationships – Couples Journey through a Relationship Workshop (using actors)

  • Handicapped Basketball-  someone telling their story interspersed with action on court

  • Women’s Shelter

  • Stories - Have a few people who are submitting possible short stories on the theme that could be turned in a film. Anyone is welcome to do this. 

The committee has agreed to dedicate 45 minutes at the next meeting on 15 March for BMM to workshop ideas for Together, with Peter facilitating.


UGG Competition

The night saw a record 12 entries for the UGG Competition. They are all worth a 2nd look on the club's Vimeo site. There can only be one winner, and the deserved winner was Heather's 1 Minute Domestic Violence advertisement. 

  1. The Random Videographer - Glenn - 1 Minute Documentary 

  2. Post COVID Brisbane - Nigel - 1 Minute Documentary

  3. Luminous - Peter - 1 Minute Documentary

  4. 7 Days of Creation - Nigel O'Neill 1 Minute Documentary

  5. The Lady Beetles at Doo-Bop - Peter - 1 Minute Advertisement

  6. MGM_Performers - Jenn - 1 Minute Advertisement

  7. Mental Health Ad - Freddie Lee - 1 Minute Advertisement

  8. Lowepro - Murray - 1 Minute Advertisement

  9. DV ad - Heather and Jenn - 1 Minute Advertisement (winner)

  10. BMM - Stewart - 1 Minute Advertisement

  11. Rethink Plastic - Glenn and Jenn - 1 Minute Ad

  12. Inala-Art-Gallery-Art Comp 2024 - MichaelM - Festivities


Special Guest Presentation on 'Collaborative Screen Writing & Story Development: A Global Guide' by Marc Handler.

See link to order his book.


After the break, BMM teleported to Cambodia and joined Marc Handler on Collaborative Screen Writing & Story Development: A Global Guide. His book focuses on the collaborative process of screenwriting from an international perspective. It teaches fundamentals and advanced concepts. Its sources include Hollywood films and TV, but also sources from other countries. In researching the book, He interviewed writers, showrunners, and academics in Brazil, Israel, India, Africa, Thailand, and many other places.  A more detailed summary of his book is:


GLOBAL REACH

For people around the world who want to learn about screenwriting, the most popular guides are American books such as Blake Snyders’ Save the Cat. These are great books that contain much excellent information, but they are Hollywood based and Western-centric. They give primacy to American methods, which creates the impression that story ideas and approaches in other cultures have less validity. Collaborative Screenwriting corrects this. It closely examines the methods of American companies like Pixar and Disney, referencing top American writers and productions, but it also examines the methods of international companies and references top creators and media projects from around the world. This gives international readers a more balanced and accurate sense of contemporary media as a global enterprise in which they can be full participants. The book places special emphasis on China as a leader in global media.


COLLABORATIVE FOCUS

In writers’ rooms, writers are required to do more than write scripts; they work cooperatively with other writers to plan seasons, break stories, create characters, and build series and franchises. To succeed, they need to give and receive feedback effectively; to adapt to the style and constraints of their executives, showrunners, studios, networks and brands; to contribute to the team building that leads to a positive creative environment, effective workflow and ultimately successful projects, and they need to know how to do this on a local and global scale.  Collaborative Screenwriting covers all of these topics from a contemporary professional perspective.


EMPHASIS ON CREATIVITY

If you want to be a mainstream professional writer, this book gives a solid foundation and lots of insights into how Hollywood works. But it also targets writers who color outside the lines; people with their own artistic vision. There’s a lot of focus on core creativity and on unique storytellers that break new ground. It examines blockbusters, indie films, and hit shows that you never heard of because they were made in countries far away. As a writer, this will give you more tools, more lethal weaponry, and more ways to surprise your readers. It’s ninja training for screenwriters. 


Marc then proceeded to provide an EXAMPLE taken from the book, focusing on character development. It includes ideas that were illuminated by Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp who wrote about 15 years before Joseph Campbell using similar research methods. It also uses a real-world example from Pixar.



CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT- So, if you’re asked to describe someone you might say: “This person is smart, but sometimes naive, funny, hates bugs, has a natural talent for music…” etc. This is a list of personality traits. It’s good for common discussion but not for developing a character for a story. In developing a character for a story (film or TV) there are 5 MAIN POINTS to consider. (Note: these are not rules, just a useful way to think about the story). The central points for establishing a character are:


1. Goal


2. Tactics


3. Relationship



Goal (or intention): In Game of Thrones, Arya Stark’s goal is to kill all the people on her kill list. That defines her. She’s all about revenge.


Tactics – Tarzan achieves his goals by using the skills of jungle animals. That defines him. He’s an apeman.


Relationships – In King Lear, everyone is defined by their relationship to Lear. There are the people who are betraying him, and the ones who are loyal to him despite his foolishness.


However…


There is one key point that precedes these: FUNCTION. (This is the point that was illuminated by Vladimir Propp.) General example of Function: You have a story. In the story the protagonist wants to get into the castle (or the city or the corporate HQ) but, you want him to be turned away, because that will lead to other things you want to happen in the story. So… You create a character who turns the hero away. You can call this character a gatekeeper. Their FUNCTION is to keep the hero out. Specific example of Function:


In the Pixar film COCO  Miguel (12) loves music. He’s in the land of the dead. He meets Hector who seems to be a silly pitiable character but we will later learn he is Miguel’s ancestor. ***For this story to work, the viewer and Miguel must understand how the land of the dead works, i.e. people continue to “live” there until they’re forgotten in the real world, then they disappear. The writers must get this across to the viewer or else the story will fail. So the writers create a character to make Miguel and the viewer understand.*** 


CHICHARON 

Chicharon will make the viewer and Miguel understand how this world works. Chicharon will do this by dying, i.e. by experiencing final death. That is his function. Once we know his function, we set up the character’s goal, tactics, and relationship so that they serve the function. Chicharon’s central character points:


Goal – to have a final good moment to experience the sweetness of life


Tactic – Music


Relationship – Hector’s old friend and music buddy


These points grow out of the function and serve the function. How the scene plays out. In the scene Chicharon is starting to fade away so he and Hector sing one last song, then Chicharon dies his final death. His guitar is given to Miguel. Through these events:


1. Miguel realizes what final death is, and so does the viewer. This is not just an explanation, it has an emotional impact on the viewer who now understands – and feels – what is at stake in this story. They know how this world works. So the function has been served, but that’s not all – much more happens in this scene:


2. Miguel realizes what happened to Chicharon could happen to Hector, so Hector is in danger. This is a turning point; it establishes a central story thread: must save Hector.


3. Miguel sees Hector play guitar and sing which changes his view of Hector. He realizes that Hector is a master of Mexican music which is Miguel’s love, so this alters, elevates and advances the relationship between Miguel and Hector which will become the central relationship of the story.


4. Miguel gets the guitar which he will need later, so the scene sets up key points that will come into play later in the story.



All of this is accomplished in a scene that lasts less than 3 min. The character, Chicharon is in the film for less than 3 minutes--- This is skillful story telling in our time. It is dense and impactful.


However, there is something missing…. I started by saying there were 5 key points, but I have only covered 4 points. What is number 5? Personality traits ---- which takes us back to where we started.


In developing the character, the writing team must decide on Chicharon’s personality traits. This is the fun part of character development, but it happens after the function and central character points have been established. In this case, Chicharon could have any kind of personality: he could be funny, grave, courageous, nervous, arrogant, etc. To shape his personality, we ask this key question: what personality will best fit the function and central character points? In this case, the obvious choice would be to make him pitiful. “Poor Chicharon” He is sweet, frail, and delicate. Our heart immediately goes out to him. This would work, but arguably it is too obvious – and this is where the storyteller’s art comes in. Instead of this, the Pixar team took the opposite approach. They made Chicharon cranky, rough and abrasive. When the scene starts, we might not like him. Then as the scene plays out, we come to like and care about him. The key point is this: 


THE CHARACTER’S PERSONALITY IS NOT RANDOM AND IT’S NOT JUST A CLEVER IDEA.


THE CHARACTER’S TRAITS ARE DESIGNED TO SUPPORT HIS FUNCTION AND FIT WITH HIS GOAL, TACTICS, AND RELATIONSHIPS. THEY’RE NOT RANDOM. THEY SERVE THE LARGER STORY. 



The book lays out this approach then goes beyond it, comparing this kind of character development to methods in other cultures. It discusses how Japanese writers approach character; how Brazilian writers integrate Brazilian mythological figures into their stories, etc.


The underlying point is this: If you know the Western approach -- the Hollywood approach -- to story and character, you know a lot, but if you also know the way artists in other cultures approach stories, you know more. You will have broader knowledge, more tools, more moves, more colors on your color palette, more ways to solve story problems and build stories.


The takeaway: Studying story and character in many cultures can make you more resourceful and ultimately a better writer.

Thanks go out to David Wright for organising this very entertaining, educational and informative session.



Drama short

Ross shared a drama short where he was a sound recordist, called Mirror. It's part of his ongoing film studies, where he was part of a mini production with a group of students. I think it was made in just 4-5 days.

NEXT MEETING

What's up next: Gondwana Rainforest of Australia (Paul), Interviewing using messaging apps (Nigel),  variable frame rates (Glenn), 4 minute ad on heel pain (Ross), Together - workshop (Peter)

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