1: Inside the movie business

A quick trio of related posts, starting with…

Although recorded back in 2017, a Ted Talk came into my stream the other day that provided a profound insider’s view of the movie business – and in particular the way scripts get chosen. It’s worth sharing.

Ted Talk pic 1The talk, by Franklin Leonard, is entitled “How I accidentally changed the way movies get made” and the focus is on The Black List that he created.

I found this talk worthwhile (links at the bottom of this post) on several levels.

First and foremost as an insider angle on the script selection process it is truly fascinating. Franklin Leonard is a wise and engaging speaker.

Second level, I found the number of feature scripts swilling around the movie business to be staggering. Is everyone writing feature scripts? I thought it was just me!

Which leads to level number three: Written a script? Sent it off? Waiting for it to be made? Think again.

The Black List puts scripts in front of industry professionals. It’s a clever filter and yet, even filtered, it has more than 3,500 scripts in its system. That’s a lot of quality scripts that’ll never get made.

After watching I had an overwhelming urge to stop writing. What’s the point? It’s impossible to get through to movie makers. There are too many scripts out there. I can’t compete. It’s hopeless.

Well, actually it isn’t hopeless. Peel back the processes of writing a film script and the core is nothing more or less than the strength of an original idea – which admittedly makes it sound all too easy, which it isn’t.

And to help on that front, find out what I discovered (about “The Idea”) in post 2 of this series.

Meanwhile, here are the promised links:

Franklin Leonard: “How I accidentally changed the way movies get made”

About The Black List

2: A good idea is to read this book

Post number two in this mini-series of three is about a book that explores the basic underlying requirement of every movie script.

The Idea book coverThe book is by Erik Borg and is entitled: THE IDEA: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction (links at the bottom of this post).

It’s a must-read.

Initially turning the word PROBLEM into an acronym for Punishing, Relatable, Original, Believable, Life-altering, Entertaining and Meaningful, the book then goes deeper into how and why a neat idea makes a good script great.

I can relate to this in my dim and distant copywriting career. We never had meetings about the mechanics of advertising – we only ever discussed the idea, the concept or concepts that we’d come up with. Everything else followed on from there. And everything else was basically some one else’s responsibility/job role.

In screenwriting terms, Erik Borg’s book takes the discussion of the idea to a whole new level. He’s one of my favourite bloggers on screenwriting (The Flying Wrestler) and his book is a tremendous read.

So, what’s the reality about getting “the big idea”? It’s tough. A twist on this, a play on that. Come on idea. Pop up and tell me your name!  It’s that kind of angst, sweat, toil and tears that can make a writer very unhappy.

Which, coincidentally, links to an article written by another of my favourite writing bloggers, Lucy V Hay. More of that in the third and final post but now to the links as promised for this post:

THE IDEA: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage, or Fiction.

Erik Borg speaking about his book.

3: Good news for unhappy writers

If post one and two got you into an unhappy state (it did me), esteemed blogger on allLucy 3 things writing, Lucy V Hay, puts us absolutely straight.

Her post “How To Stop Being An Unhappy Writer” hits nails on heads. It’s sage advice from someone who knows. And encouragement for us all to continue our writing quest.

I’ve long been an admirer of Lucy and her blog. I don’t think there are many who put so much free time into inspiring writers like us.

And on that note, to conclude these three interconnected posts:

Watch Franklin Leonard’s Ted Talk, buy Erik Borg’s book: The Idea and subscribe to Lucy Hay’s blog.

Les a step nearer stage

A while back I wrote a theatre version of Les The Punter and sent it to Manchester ADP who promised a script appraisal – and that is what popped up in my inbox today.

Here it is:

A few pub friends mourn the loss of Les a fellow pub punter and as a tribute bet on a horse that ends up winning. Only it’s not them who claim the winnings, but Les himself, risen from the dead.

I really liked this piece. At first I didn’t but the dialogue and general weirdness of it won me over.

The characters are funny, although I do feel there may be one too many. However, they’re memorable and the language is fun and has a lot of wit at times. It’s not always witty and there are a few times it feels stilted, so take another proof of it to sharpen it up.

I predicted the twist of the horse winning as will the audience, but I think we’re meant to as it means we don’t predict the final strange twist, which is a really imaginative ending.

I think the audience will really enjoy this. What is also nice is that it’s not a scene from a piece to be extended that’s masquerading as a short play. It works at the length it is and is memorable.

Well done, I look forward to seeing it staged.

Should the script be put forward for a reading at this time? Yes.

I’m super-excited.

Next step? I’m going to give their suggestions a go and see how the script reads then but importantly, Les is now on file and awaiting a possible read through.

*October 2018 Update* I’ve re-jigged the script which now has one character less plus I’ve taken out the dialogue I think my reviewer was alluding to. It’s all far tighter and a copy has been sent to ADP.

About Manchester ADP.
Rather than me paraphrase, find out full details, first hand, here: www.manchesteradp.com

The journey…continues

It’s so easy for us to let our online life become diffracted and I’m no exception. As a point of reference rather than a typical blog post, here’s how I’m getting things simplified:

jpwscreenwriter is now jpwriter.co.uk – in short, everything in one place.

Not subscribed? It would be great to have you hop on board – there’s an email link to the right on the home page if you fancy it.

And if you do…the warmest of welcomes!


Two times interesting

The first link is to a blog post by Erik Bork (Flying Wrestler) entitled “Hollywood Will Find You”. Basically, if your idea and script craft is good enough then the right people will find you. Whilst it doesn’t make the task of writing any easy (potentially harder, in fact), I think this is an absolute truth. The link is:


The second link is to a podcast, written and presented by Paul Bassett Davies – The Writer Type. So much fun and so many truths unveiled. Here’s the link, for your listening pleasure:



The Rose, JB Shorts and Les

Earlier this year I visited The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster, to see an illuminating performance in its Studio. Shortly after, I attended JB Shorts in Manchester with writer friend Pete Spencer; an evening of six short theatre plays which were equally as fascinating.

What caught my imagination was how few props are required to paint a scene, that theatre is an excellent platform because of it and, the light bulb moment, Les The Punter could actually transfer well from screen to stage.

So that’s what I’ve done.

I originally wrote Les The Punter as a poem, which was recorded. I turned the poem into a short screenplay and it was received very well.

Now, having turned it into a theatre play, I feel the story has found its spiritual home.

I’m hoping that the play can get a read through – am beginning to send it off.