Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review of Running a Creative Company in the Digital Age by Lucy Baxter

This book could not have come at a more fortuitous time for this reviewer. If you’re thinking of starting or restructuring a creative company in the digital age this is the book for you. Extensively researched and compiled with view to Brexit and how that will affect the digital media companies now thriving in the UK, it acts a s a timely reminder that creatives cannot afford to be left behind in a rapidly changing landscape.

All that you need to know is addressed here: from establishing your company, legal documentation, the dreaded tax, managerial structures… All delivered in succinct chapters that tells it how it is. It doesn’t pull any punches but it also delivers the information in a humorous friendly way. True, you could research what you need from the web, but sometimes you need one book to act as a useful reference top take the headache out of the whole process. This is it. Put it with your dictionary. Lucy Baxter has extensive experience in production and you can put your faith in her insights. I particularly enjoyed the case studies from those in the industry who share their own experiences with generosity.

Hopefully, Lucy Baxter (who clearly loves her subject) will be updating this book every year, or at the very least maintaining a blog on changes that occur. I think it's not enough to have the good ideas, you must also have the savvy to put them out there in a world that is flooded with content and subject to rapid digital evolution. Recommended.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

REVIEW: Jaws in Space - Powerful Pitching for Film and TV Screenwriters by Charles Harris

Darling ones,

Kamera have done it again with this practical guide to the dread subject of PITCHING, written by Charles Harris. If you have the good fortune to know Charles through the London Screenwriters' Festival or Euroscript, then you will be familiar with his no-nonsense approach. The great thing about Charles' advice is that it's all actionable. You will also glean a lot from his own experience in the film world. This reviewer was amazed at Charles' indefatigable nature - best to develop it yourself, you're going to need it. Yet, and I think this a salient point, Charles makes the whole process of pitching seem so enjoyable. If nothing else, even if you don't get your work of genius made, you'll meet loads of like-minded people and go to places you never dreamed of.

If you've read anything else in this excellent imprint on screenwriting, you'll know that they're written by people passionate about writing and film, who are working in the industry NOW. Refreshingly free of any 'guru' style pomposity, Jaws in Space tells it like it is, with handy tips at the end of every chapter. But of course, it's not just about tips and advice on the pitch itself, it's all about RELATIONSHIPS in the film world. The allies you nurture will stand you in good stead - the creative act is one of collaboration. As Charles himself says in the intro: 'Pitching will not only help sell your ideas but develop them in the first place. it helps you clarify character and refine plot. it makes it easier to collaborate with others. Every good writer, director and producer I know is excellent at pitching.'

The exercises interspersed throughout this very accessible book will give you insights into every part of the process, from the 'art' of the pitch to when things go wrong (and they will) and beyond. Above all, Charles wants you to succeed at pitching your film, be it mainstream, documentary, short or arthouse, for film or TV. The visual media industry is a monster, they're always looking for good writing that will sell.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Review of An Alex Cox’s Introduction to Film: A Director’s Perspective

Whether you’re already established as a creative in the film world or contemplating a course of study or vocational training, then this book by Alex Cox will give you great insights into the filmmaking process, from idea to production to cinema.
The bonus with this book is that Cox recommends various films and clips for you to watch interspersed through the text, together with his thoughts on the process, drawn from his own career and experience. This is, of course, the perfect film book for the internet age, as there’s never been better availability of the content he signposts. He also provides interesting further reading lists should you wish to explore specific areas more deeply.
That said, this is a highly personal and eclectic journey through film history and the influences and figures in filmmaking that Cox thinks are worth further investigation. Therefore the reader must bear in mind that hardly any female filmmakers are represented here, though this reviewer was pleased to see mention of Marleen Gorris and her marvellous film A Question Of Silence, (certainly a groundbreaking film in terms of gaze for this reviewer). I hardly think this is intentional on Cox’s part – like I say, this is a highly personal account and Cox notes that countries with repressive attitudes towards women often don’t make great art. Not that Cox’s observations are superfluous on the greats like Hitchcock or Kubrick, who, whatever you may feel about their work can only be admitted as iconic filmmakers.
The most interesting section for me was on world cinema with the Latin American canon coming under the spotlight. I do love a film book that teaches me something new. I’ll certainly be checking out some of the Latin American films he suggests, specifically El Angel Exterminador (The Exterminating Angel), cited by Cox as a brilliant use of resources, as the characters are all trapped in one room.
In a way this book serves as a primer for our own reflections on how we are influenced historically and culturally as creatives. It would be interesting to consider, say, ten films that have influenced our own process, but perhaps that’s for another blog post. I think Kamera Books have hit a rich seam here and I look forward to other filmmakers’ perspectives on their craft.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

REVIEW: Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith

Darling ones,

I've been a long-time fan of Highsmith's Ripley books. So when Lucy Hay spotted Those Who Walk Away in a Tiverton charity shop, I couldn't resist.

I've always loved Highsmith's forensic way with her prose. She gets right into the heads of her flawed characters, but, bizarrely, eschews judgment in favour of examination of their motives. That was true of Ripley and it's true of her protagonists in this book. Ray Garrett's young wife Peggy kills herself. Her father Ed Coleman holds his son-in-law very much to blame. The two men seem bound by mutual loathing as they hunt or avoid each other through the streets and canals of Venice, inevitably drawing the people around them into the drama.

Each man throws himself upon the mercy of strangers in the story, as much to escape themselves as each other, yet each man must interrogate himself as to his involvement in Peggy's sad end. Had they failed her in some way? Ed by his lack of involvement in her life, or Ray, by failing to meet his wife's needs. Venice is the perfect backdrop for the story, coming to represent the labyrinthine twists and evasions in Ray and Ed's minds, as well as the ideal place to hide from your enemy in its claustrophobic streets and waterways. These men are deeply flawed but there are no easy classifications of villain and hero here. It's not difficult to identify with their desire to leave lives that have gone so hideously wrong in the wake of a shocking act of self-destruction.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Not enough hours in the day...

Darling ones,

I am happily involved in several projects at the moment:

Reading and editing for the Twisted 50 project. Got a horror story for the next book? Time to get re-writing!

Writing, proofing, editing and frankly, eating and drinking, for new listings magazine SEEN.

Plotting a low-budget horror script with our very own Lucy V Hay.

The Forgotten Women anthology (in which I have a tale) is published this July 1st. If you lke dystopian sci-fi, then this may be for you.

If there's one difference between what I'm doing now compared to this time last year, it's that I am working in COLLABORATION with others. I must say I enjoy it more than I did when trying to get my own projects off the ground. Which is not to say that I DON'T like being alone. I do. I've always been good with my own company; you have to be if you write.

1. Talk to other writers. If you like the same films or books then it's odds on that you can write together.
2. Always be willing to slaughter your darlings if it favours the story.
3. Play to your strengths within the partnership. They'll complement each other.
4. Always give/receive feedback in a constructive manner.
5. Be open to the experience. You'll learn loads.


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Rocliffe Notes - A Professional Approach For Screenwriters

Darling ones,

this excellent book is slightly different to its fellows in the Creative Essentials canon in that Farah Abushwesha has included many words of wisdom from eminent people in the film industry. In this way the book acts (certainly for me) as a go-to manual when I'm stuck on anything. As Farah says in the introduction, her book is a compendium of the many different routes a writer or writer-director might take to get into the film industry.
I also liked reading about Farah's own journey as a writer/producer. Her down to earth, humorous approach to the process of finding yourself as a writer is a million miles away from more mystical tomes on the subject. To say that the book is exhaustive is an understatement! From ideas to creating an online presence to understanding the festival process - it's all here. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting her in her official capacity at the Bafta Rocliffe New Writing Forum will recognise her style. Informal in tone but also bang on the money in terms of the reality of film, what is also clear is her passion for writing and writers. An indispensable addition to the writer's bookshelf.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

London Screenwriters' Festival 2015

Darling ones,

I am live-tweeting as many sessions as I can and catching up with friends. I will be using an iShine Power Bank 5200mAh to aid me in this fell purpose... #LondonSWF

Hopefully see some of you there!