Wednesday, 16 November 2011

NaNoWriMo - satisfying but tough to do!

Back on target. Edging towards the 26,000 word mark on this the 16th day of National Novel Writing Month.

It's hard. Harder than I expected, but easier too. Harder to keep going but more enjoyable when you do. It has reminded me of why I write - because I love words!

Having a meter ticking over helps. I love calculating my new daily 'score' of words - I think I do it every few pars on some days. In 'stats', you can calculate your wordage by day and see what day, if you continue at that pace, you will finish; also how many words you need to write every day to reach the goal of 50,000 words by November 30th. (I think we may have a few extra crucial hours too, it being calculated in American time!)

Probably it appeals to the geek in me that needs numbers going upwards to feel the progress. Unless it's a Visa bill. Not so good when it keeps getting higher.

I took for my template a first draft screenplay that isn't working. Without really referring to the script except for snatches of dialogue that I then rewrite completely, I have just gone with the flow and I type up whatever seems to present itself. Chain of consciousness. A conscience suddenly talking. A monologue on why people fall in love. A foray into the background of a character and questions he asked that weren't answered when he was four and a half.

It's one of the most refreshing, tiring and satisfying exercises in that my other projects are also getting the benefit because my brain is being forced to create without worrying about whether it is any good. I find the words are flowing more freely on the other work I have to do, that I'm editing more clearly, that I get through work that has to be done without agonising over how long it will take.

But of course I have a sneaky hope it might be okay... if not in this draft (no, definitely not in this draft) then in the future. At least I will have the bones of a novel to pick over.

As for the screenplay, part of me is thinking the novel is better for the story while another part is seriously hoping that by writing it up as a novel, I can force the structure of the story to heal itself...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival/ Untitled

What a mouthful!

Okay, we have till Monday to submit a one page synopsis, a logline and CV for a new feature idea to the Irish Film Board/ JDIFF for their UNTITLED competition. The theme this year is 1916, which really stymied me for a while but I have pulled an idea roughly together that would be such FUN to write. They want lateral thinking, but it has to be historically accurate - tell that to Neil Jordan re Michael Collins!

But here's my problem - they lure you in with this competition called UNTITLED. But then you have to give it a title. Is that a carrot/ stick thing? As I am woefully disastrous with titles,it would be so nice if they didn't need one...

Anyone want to swop synopses before the weekend and give mutual feedback???

Here's the link to the information too:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

NEW dedicated PUNKY blog...

I have so many files of articles and pictures and feedback from around the world that I've decided to make a home for it all. Also, she's out there now, knocking on receptive doors and looking for international homes so it's a way of celebrating her progress as she goes.

Please comment - and let me know your own personal story - if you have one - of PUNKY.

And if you're looking for another animation series, let me know cos I may just have the perfect one for you!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Serendipity - grab hold and don't let go.

Well, the haze has shifted and the revised ARCHANGEL script has travelled cyberly to a producer in New York who knows Dick Wolf (Miami Vice, Law and Order etc) and has contacts in CBS etc. He was at the reading on Monday 26th September and really liked the writing.

Who knows where it might lead? There's a portfolio of other material ready to trail in its wake if anything does. And I have a feeling it will, in some form.

After all, he only came to the reading because an actor, Con Horgan, invited him along. I met Con at a party on the 52nd floor of an apartment block on 39th Street the night before (Sunday). (What a view!)

It was a party for the First Irish Festival in New York hosted by the Irish Consul and I was only there because I went to a series of readings the day before run by Origin Theatre Company and met George Heslin - who heads that company and created First Irish five years ago. He invited me along. (I'll be sending him scripts too, theatre this time, that he might pass on to other companies.)

But I was only there because a friend of mine (Suzanne Geraghty) was performing part of her piece at this event and introduced us.

And this only happened because I arrived in New York on the Friday - torrential rain - for the reading of my script on Monday at the Irish Rep Theatre. This event was occurring only because an actress called Anna Nugent had liked the script enough to set it all up...

And she only saw the script because I met another actor for coffee in Galway in July - Gary Hetzler - who voiced my first animation character, WULFIE, in 2008. I'd made contact again with a Cork director who wants to make Archangel the week before and mentioned the frustration on having a producer and a director and yet being unable to move it forward.

Gary had a (greyhound, apparently they sleep 18 hours a day) and a good friend in New York who was campaigning to get her own Detective series...

So I sent it off as soon as I got home.

I didn't know anything would happen in this chain of events before I booked. It all fell into place once I had.

And I nearly didn't make it to Galway for the Fleadh - to pitch feature scripts - at all.

So chin up, these waves of serendipity are out there waiting to pick you up. Enjoy the ride!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Punky's producer is European Producer of the Year

Gerard O'Rourke, the producer of the series I created, PUNKY, has just, in the last half hour been awarded European Producer of the Year at Cartoon Forum in Poland on the back of Punky! RTE got the Broadcaster of the Year award for young people's programming - I'm sure I have the terms wrong - and Punky's part of that too.

But fantastic news for Gerard - he pushed so hard to make this series and it wasn't easy!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

ARCHANGEL to Visit New York City

In less than two weeks, on September 26th, in New York City, there will be a table read by some fantastic Irish actors of my feature-length pilot script for a series I developed called ARCHANGEL back in 2002. It is being hosted by the Irish Rep Theatre in Manhattan and I'm heading over because this was one of my favourite projects and still has more than enough legs and originality to run and run. It nearly made it into production back in the early days but someone lost out.

In recent years a NI producer has been trying to get it made, a Cork director has tried and is still trying, and now, thanks to actress Anna Olson Olson Nugent (, this event is happening. And in the last place on earth I imagined it would!

Maybe now all the pieces will come together and it will get made?

Originally billed as a 'female Cracker', Archangel features a detective inspector called Rebecca Gabriel who is sent from the PSNI in Belfast to swop places with a colleague in Dublin. She manages to pick up a goose along route, based on an aggressive 'guard-goose' my Aunt Joan had for years. The whole twist on it was that Rebecca relates to the crims rather than the victims because of an incident in her past, but she would never allow herself to admit this -- at least not yet. Her partner is a hot lawyer representing the scum of Dublin whose sixteen year old daughter is about to turn up unexpectedly and stay....

I've set up a separate page to try and talk about writing, starting with this at

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Tips From a Master - Gill Dennis

Just added a page with some of the tips handed out by Gill Dennis, the scriptwriter of Walk The Line, who worked on Apocalypse now, who has a long and esteemed history as a screenwriter, tutor and mentor in the film industry...

Thought they might be of use.

Also, typing them up has reminded me of the very many useful notes within each tip... Makes me want to start all over on so many scripts, sob!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Archangel in New York City!

On September 26th a group of enterprising and talented actors are getting together to read through the feature-length pilot script for my series ARCHANGEL at the Irish Rep Theatre in Manhattan.

It's called The Changling. Over the years it was shortlisted for the Tony Doyle Bursary by BBC NI, it was being considered for production by first ITV and then the BBC. There is a director who has wanted to do it for years, at least one producer who loves the socks off it; another director who gave great advice but I couldn't really shrink it down to fit RTE's Storyland pitch.

Thing is, I love the characters and the world; there's a detailed treatment of the whole shebang that I think, mostly, works... but I wrote it in 2003. I have no idea how it will sound in 2011. So, it's exhilarating and slightly nerve-wracking and I am so curious to see how it goes...

Monday, 11 July 2011

On being Compared to Coppola ... sort of!

Two of my scripts - PIA and PIGPEN just got into Round Two of the Page 2011 Awards! There were nearly 4,500 scripts entered so it's fantastic news .

Also just back from teh Galway Film Fleadh and Fair where I had an hour's consultation on PIGPEN with Gill Dennis (veteran screenwriter of Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash movie; worked on Apocalypse Now etc) at the Galway Film Fleadh.

His first comment : "You've led a baaaaad life!"

It's a pretty violent script in parts! Be more worrying if the comment was about a fluffy flick!

Anyway, it was a great hour going through the script; good tangible comments that are easy to implement and I'm looking forward to the rewrite. In terms of my habit of packing action into paragraphs, he referenced Coppola on Apocalypse Now. Apparently, Coppola had kept the script short so it would look less expensive to make. Therefore you had:-

Bombs fall

The temple collapses.

How many weeks, he asked Coppola, do you think that will take to shoot?!

His screenwriting masterclass was great too. He has 12 questions he asks, primarily of himself and then of characters, which can not only provide the energy to give emotional power to a story but will provide you with your character arc for every project, be it a series or a feature script...

Full blog on those questions once I've followed up on all my meetings at the Fair but it was a good week - starting when one producer said they could give me 2 million !!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Justification of all the Hard Work!

After a few weeks of negatives, a glowing report back from a UK producer on that script I wrestled with earlier this year, Monkey Puzzle Tree:

“It’s lovely; really, really lovely. It was a delight to read. The difference between this and your last draft is stunning. I thought, ‘My God! This is the writer I know’. It’s huge. The changes are so strong – it’s grown leaps and bounds --it was really exciting to read... . You should be thrilled with it. It’s so nice when you’ve done two hours of something and thought, that was a fantastic use of my time. You’ve made my week. I cried. I laughed.”

See, it is possible!

Now to get it made!!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Food for Thought...

Read an article a while back that has been brewing in the background. Basically the writer* said that all great scripts boil down to the relationship between two characters. Get that right and you have a chance of the story working emotionally.

It got me thinking about my more successful scripts. And some of the feedback on others.

If you pull back on everything and everyone else, pull out those scenes featuring your two main characters and really work on that central relationship, the one that holds up your story, drives it forward or fatally flaws your main character... might it make your story stronger?

*Of course, when I go to dig the article out, I can't find it. I have a feeling it came via the Raindance site but I'll give you the url when I find it.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Day 9: The NIPper is done!

In the words of one of the greatest: If 'tis done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly.

Nine days, 56,000 words, 26 chapters edited, plus a prologue and an epilogue.

And look, it's still daylight!

Rewriting is a strange beast. Some writers love it; most writers love to have done it but it's never an easy or especially comfortable process. It can be wonderfully energising or utterly deflating but when a chapter or a scene that hadn't worked suddenly comes together, it's worth all the effort.

But it is soooooooooo nice to have finished.

I want to start something new!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Day 7: Distracted by Dog, Daughter and the Addams Family

Three chapters done but it's not enough. So why am I reading The Addams Family script. 'Cos it's brilliant and funny. (I'm choosing to stick my head in the sand about the fact that this script is the 11th revision because that tells me how much pain, heartache, frustration has gone into this great script.)

Take this for a line:

MORTICIA, to Gomez
Last night, you were... unhinged.
You were like some desperate,
howling demon. You frightened me.
Do it again.

I need to get three more chaps at least marked up before I finish. The backdrop is a child dressing a dog like a pirate/ belly dancer/ Turkish horse trader... Which means odd dressing up garments all over the house, a little cinnamon dog fleeing under my chair for protection and a frustrated artist chasing her with a golden camera.

Three more chapters. Three. More. Chapters.

Then I can join in the chaos.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lindsay Jane Sedgwick; writer, script ed, tutor: Day 6: On time and writing

Lindsay Jane Sedgwick; writer, script ed, tutor: Day 6: On time and writing: "What is it with time and writing? No matter how long you think a piece of work will take, it inevitably takes longer and while this piece ..."

Day 6: On time and writing

What is it with time and writing?

No matter how long you think a piece of work will take, it inevitably takes longer and while this piece of work waits for you to finish, it will make snarling noises, poo on the carpet and shred your curtains. Just to see how you'll react. And it will drink lots of lukewarm coffee, ideally with chocolate and King crisps.

If you take a conservative guess and give yourself heaps of time, then nothing gets done; if you try to restrict yourself to the minimum time + coffee break you think it needs, it will run over into every other part of your life. And you will end up finishing something else instead.

Today chapters 14-19 got a going over. None of them are fully edited but they are all re-modelled so I know, at least, they work chronologically, are cut back where they ran over-long and most of the dull bits have been buried in the back garden under the weeds. All the other chapters took a gentle hammering too - I now have 25 chapters, not 23 - but it was satisfying work.

And I have found out that you don't leave line spaces between separate sections, you centre a 'hash'... This is in case the editor doesn't realise there is meant to be a line space because of the configuration of the print out.

Oh yes, it's coming together--just more slowly than I'd like!

Writing for Children

Came across this via a LinkedIn group. Lots of useful stuff if you're interested in writing for children: C:\Users\PB\Desktop\WRITING FOR CHILDREN\Resources For Children's Writers.htm

Monday, 23 May 2011

Day 5: the NIPper bites back

Okay, I was probably being unrealistic thinking I could work at the weekend. If I wasn't a mother, if I had more discipline, if I didn't mind shutting the world out for swathes of time... then maybe. I got some extra work done on Friday night but then it was more a case of wanting to than of doing.

If I was worth my salt as a writer, I'd suggest the ideas I would need this week were brimming away while we were at the Red Bull Flug Tag or shopping in town or while I was cooking or drinking red wine...

Today, I managed to get three chapters done. So I'm not quite on target but I'm only slightly horrendously off. They were difficult ones. The ones that worked when they were part of a screenplay just didn't come up to scratch when they were put down in prose and problems I'd turned a blind eye to were lying in wait with teeth bared.

Four more days to go.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Chapter Two on the NIPper

Day 2: Chapters 8-10 edited/ rewritten/ polished...Not sure what to call this process. Some need drastic work, others that I think are really problematic turn out to be solved by a tweak here and there, removal of a few pars or addition of a little exchange...

Late at night seems to be one of my most focussed times for editing. If I can make myself read through the print outs, I seem to be able to do the cuts, find the phrases, work out the structure best after 10 pm. After 11 is even better but by then my eyes are drooping. It helps if your social life is on hold and your partner abroad! (A way of filling the void -- or freeing up more time when he returns!?)

Five down after two days. 18 chapters/ 7 days to go. It helps to have an end date - I know I don't have to keep this pace up forever.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Aimee & I take Punky onto City Channel

My first ever sofa-interview! Aimee was as calm as anything; I was a bag of nerves!

Chapter One of the Novel in Progress (aka The New Nipper)

I have given myself nine days, including today, to rewrite 23 chapters, an epilogue and a prologue. Actually, I like the prologue... but I'm just not sure I need it. Or that maybe I only need it 'cos the start of Chapter One is weak? In which case, it needs more than a rewrite, it needs a re-think. Maybe I need to start later, keep something back, add a bomb disposal squad or and earthquake... (I'm thinking back now to Sam Goldwyn's advice, "Start with an earthquake and build up to a climax".)

But then I have to be careful what I do. Too much action and it wouldn't be the story of a girl who is about to turn 13 and whose family cause her enough problems to make earthquakes seem benign. The prologue is very much an introduction to her and the most important relationship, at least for now, but it's good to question everything.

In Chapter Three there's a character I'm thinking of jettisoning completely. Around Chapter 12 there's a major problem with the span of time. There are other characters - and a cat - that I haven't used enough. Various chapters seem to work wonderfully well but aspects in them need more research. Others feel clunky and overwritten. I have three Mondays in a row in one, which is ridiculous. And many of these stem from issues that were not issues in the film script on which it is based. Now, instead of lying down quietly and rolling a rug over themselves, these self-same issues are wearing pink neon striped tights on their heads and jumping up and down.

The only elements that are not up for question are the piranha Ponchinello and the plot.

But can I do it all in nine days when it's already nearly three pm on Day 1?

Monday, 9 May 2011

A New Proverb...

"A man sitting in the stars has nothing to reach..."

Yup, my daughter, newly-12 is coining proverbs. This is her favourite though.

I'm thinking it connects back to the verse my mother used to quote at me if I ever moaned - and which I have therefore levied on my poor daughter from time to time - and which is so, so true:

Two men looked out through prison bars
One saw mud, the other saw stars.

Not that you're ever able to always control or avoid those days when the mud seeps in between your toes and splatters down your neck from a height but it gives hope that those days will pass; that if you can look for the bright yellow of a dandelion growing through a crack in the pavement, then everything will level out again and even become good.

Friday, 29 April 2011

RTE to lead the global market with Punkyy???

Sooooo many links, so much time chasing them, so so much fun!

Here's the RTE one:

And, even better, here's what Sheila de Courcy, Commissioning Editor, Young People's Programmes, had to say at the launch yesterday:

"And when the proposal for PUNKY first came to me several years ago I was immediately struck by the fresh perspectives on life which it offered. I was very excited by the point of view which had neither ever seen on RTÉ screens nor, to my knowledge, seen on Childrens TV internationally, and how honest and truthful it was.

In the character PUNKY we see a wholly original narrator who has her own unique perspective on the world. Just like every other kid in Ireland she has a lot to put up with …… between friends and family, and the various obstacles that the daily routine throws up – but PUNKY gets on with it and finds a lot of fun in life. And this is what I believe our audience will enjoy – a fun series about life.

It’s in these kinds of stories that a Public Service broadcaster can lead the way, and I am proud that RTÉ has been a global leader in commissioning this series.

Series like this are made by big teams, and many people help along the way. Everyone should share in our collective delight today. My particular congratulations go out to Lindsay and Gerard in creating this series, and in fighting for it, to bring it to 1000’s of people across the world. And to Aimee [Richardson, who plays the voice of Punky] and Simon [Crane, director], and all the other people who animated PUNKY’s world. "

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Punky is in The News!!!

Tune in to tonight's Six-One News on RTE1 to see Punky officially launched.

Put together a packed room of adults, children and adults who are still children at heart; add a few short speeches, a blue rabbit called Oggie; present with a couple of episodes of what we believe is the world's first mainstream cartoon with a central character who is not only fun and loveable but also has Down syndrome - and stir gently ... The result: a wonderful, quite fantastic celebration of what can happen if you are lucky enough to get that germ of an idea before anyone else, to be pushy enough to create the world around that idea and believe it has to be made, to get support when you need it - (Irish Film Board Development Loan, such a lovely pre-Christmas bit of news in 2007) - and a producer - Gerard O'Rourke of Monster Animation who truly believed it had to be made ...

It was a fantastic event, so much absolute and happy positivity in one room!!! It was on Radio 1's lunchtime news too - don't think I'll ever get used to hearing my own voice on radio though but this is such a wonderful whirl and I could get used to that!!!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Where Punky came from, on the Tubridy Show today!

The first time I've spoken in this country about where Punky actually came from. Dave Fanning was genuinely interested and gave it tons of time in radio terms.

A scary experience - but a wonderful one... You have no idea how little sleep I got last night, thinking of phrases and things I wanted to mention... I think I got most of it in but I've also eliminated all nerves and can now sit back and enjoy tomorrow's launch....


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Punky due for launch...

On the 28th of April, courtesy of the Dublin Lord Mayor, Down Syndrome Ireland and RTE will launch the series I created, PUNKY.

No idea which celebrity will be cajoled into doing the honours but it will be an historic affair. The first mainstream animation series, as far as all my research could uncover, that has ever given the main role to a lovely little character who happens to have special needs. And the episodes are gorgeous... with Aimee Richardson bringing Punky beautifully to life.

The series will begin its airing on May 2nd on RTE Jnr. I have the champagne ready and the bottle of Jameson primed -- though seems a little odd to be celebrating the arrival of a pre-school series with hard liquor!

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Frustrating Profession...

I have had to accept that a project I spent four years developing will never see the light of day. After four years in development, now that it is mine again, the advice is to let it go. I'm finding it a little bit hard, but there there's a tiny part of me that's relieved I don't have to find a new way into it, a new way of selling it to new producers.

We all have shelves full of material that would be brilliant if it was made. Too many other people have to believe in it too, so much money needs to be invested, and then there's the old shoehorn Luck...

It's all very well telling a writer to dump a project and move one but sometimes it's not the old stuff that's blocking us; it's that we need to see something happen with even one of our brilliant older projects so that we can move on positively and not feel we've abandoned countless prams at the roadside.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

May 2nd, 2011 ... Punky begins on RTE

Yup, the series that bloomed as the germ of an unusual idea in 2007 has finally come to fruition and we have a date for the series to begin. The feedback from everyone that has 'tested' an episode with their kids has been fantastic and uplifting...

It was brought to Kidscreen recently by producer Gerard O'Rourke and the interest is pretty much across the board... The most interesting snippet, I thought was that the Swedish broadcaster SVT has already been getting email enquiries asking when it will be aired there! The word of mouth has begun... pass it on!!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The perils of bad language

According to my daughter, I used a lot of inappropriate language in this poster (see right panel). Still made her stand underneath it for a pic though!

The UpStart campaign, of which this was just one of hundreds of posters, was a wonderful one to be part of. Everywhere you looked in Dublin, you could come across a piece of writing or a piece of art, all of them stimulating and/ or intriguing. You can see them all at

A bit of background. We were allowed around 122 characters and if accepted, we became part of a campaign comprising some 500 writers andvisual artists, with work reproduced on boards around Dublin that were the same size and shape as election posters and in the same places. It was a way of saying, as loud as we can, that art is part of our lives. It's not a luxury. It's part of the air we breath and the water we drink and we need it, especially now.

My offering came from my play A FRESH GALE AND COLD CHICKEN about the life of George Farquhar.

But the election is over now so they all have to come down. I believe they'll be auctioning all the posters off to pay for campaign costs, and also putting together a night in which actors will read the written works, while the images will be projected on screen.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Testing Your Script, the Raindance Way...

Just came across this interesting article in the Raindance newsletter ( Couldn't work out how to put in the link to the particular article for some reason so I've enclosed it below.

Tested the script I was writing and was feeling pretty cocky - no 'we are's', no slugs other than night or day, no exceptionally long descriptions etc - until it came to adding 2 points for every parenthesis - I had 49 in total throughout the 98 pages...

And I advocate against them really strongly. If the character works, I spout, generally there's no need for them. Most of these were directions as to who they were talking to but I've got rid of every single one now. None of them were really necessary.

Then there were four points for each dialogue that was longer than 5 lines. I had about nine of them. And again, when I broke them up with actions and reactions, the script became so much richer.

So have a go, and subscribe (it's free) to the newsletter. Every so often there are gems!

How to Rate The First ten Pages of Your Script by James Burbidge

You keep hearing everyone banging on about how important the first 10 pages of your script are. In those few minutes of reading, you are told, whoever is holding your script in their grubby paws will have already made up their mind. Now matter what happens in the 2nd act, no matter how wow-ing your finale, if your first 10 pages aren’t mustard-cutters then your script has already been rejected.

Now you can either bitch about the shallowness of the industry, how your work can’t possibly be judged on such a small sample, and probably never sell your script. OR, you can accept that those rules might be harsh but they’re fair, endeavour to make your first 10 pages flawless thus giving the rest of your script a fighting chance.

As a caveat: a lot of people are looking for things like “a strong, original, writer’s voice” and of course those things are very important. But we can’t help you with that. What we can help you to do is avoid all the mistakes that instantly flag your script up as amateurish and get it chucked straight into the circular file under the desk.

What we have here is a scoring system – run through the questions below and answer honestly. Better yet, get a friend with fresh eyes to run through and answer honestly on your behalf. Tot up your score and find out where you came on our scale of crapness.

0-7: You’re doing pretty damn well.
7-15: Not too shabby, but a polish should improve your chances.
15-25: Better hope you have a forgiving reader.
25-40: Time to dig out those formatting and screenwriting guides.
40+: Erm, you have a lot of work to do.
The basics
+4 points if the font isn’t Courier 12pt
+1 point for capitalizing character’s names on their 2nd use and beyond
+3 points for any slugline that refers to anything other than “Day” or “Night”
+2 points for any slugline that contains excessive location detail
+3 points for any spelling error.
+6 points for any tippex and pen
+6 points for any pictures or diagrams
+3 points for each camera direction
+3 points for each unfilmmable action line (e.g. the room smells of lilacs)
Character introduction
+6 points if it isn’t clear who the protagonist is by p.10
+3 points if the introduction of your protagonist isn’t something slightly special
+4 point for introducing your protagonist only by name
+2 points for a name and purely physical description
+4 points for an over-the-top description, biography or totally garbled untranslatable nonsense
+2 points for each named character that doesn’t appear after the first 10 pages
+2 points for the 7th speaking character and each one after
+4 points if there are not any contractions
+4 points if not a single character has a distinctive pattern of speech
+2 points for every character who speaks in full, grammatically correct sentences
+2 points for any parenthetical direction to the actor
+4 points for each instance of clunky exposition
+3 points for each instance of on-the-nose dialogue
Style issues
+4 points for any paragraph over 5 lines long
+3 points for each instance of excessive scene-setting
+2 points for utterly gratuitous sex or violence
+2 points for each “we see”
+6 points if a non-modern-day set time period isn’t established
+3 points if a clear location isn’t established
+2 points for the 8th and every extra scene
+4 points if there isn’t conflict in the first 2 pages
+3 points if by p.10 the genre remains unknown
+2 points for each cliché either in dialogue or action

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Green Light Award

Just came across this competition via Lucy Vee on LinkedIn called Green Light. It's for ten minute scripts, max 5 characters, one location and they guarantee production of the winner, after they've optioned it for £500. The Early Bird deadline is May 1st and entry by then is £15.

I hadn't come across it before but it might be worth a shot? Apparently it is an annual writers award - I think they changed their name this year - which is hosted by the London Screenwriters’ Festival and open to all writers across the globe.

They say the primary goal of the award "is to assist writers by guaranteeing that their work is produced. We do this by purchasing the option on the winning script (£500 / $800 approx) and actually making it with an award winning team of professional film makers and actors".

They also provide professional script development prior to production as well as setting up a lunch with the winner and a top industry literary agent (UK based so if you can't make it, you can do it by phone). The winner also receives a free ticket to the London Screenwriters Festival 2011 (valued at £300).

Might be worth a shot?

The url is, and yes I know it's massive!!:

Monday, 31 January 2011

How to Sit While Writing the Masterpiece

Since we have no choice but to spend hours with our heads bent over notebooks and scripts that we need to edit, or on the computer, this might be a useful site to look at. After years of miscellaneous treatment for my right shoulder, I came across it after my osteopath suggested I look up office ergonomics online.

The site I found was

Some of it I knew, as will you - the feet flat on the floor bit for example - but other bits, I didn't. Apparently the top of the monitor should be higher than eye level. I have never managed this, given my desk has been in many rooms, the desk itself has been many sizes and shapes and the computer keeps changing. But it seems obvious.

Now I just need to find something to sit it on!

I can't influence how well the work I do on the computer will be received, or how fantastic it will be (!?) but at least I can try to set the computer up right so I don't exacerbate existing muscle damage!

How to sit:
Home office set-up:

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

All Hale to the Scots...

Happy Rabbie Burns' Night everyone.

I dare you to print out one of his poems and make everyone you share a meal with tonight recite a verse in turn. Much whiskey permitted for older participants! (It helps!)

To get you started, the first verse of To a Mouse, written in 1785 when he was 26.

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Aimee Richardson: Punky Down syndrome media star...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Aimee and Punky on RTE 1 tonight!

Aimee Richardson, the voice of 'Punky', the central character of my series, is going to be interviewed on the Saturday Night Show on RTE tonight.

Aimee has done a fantastic job and is also an ambassador for Down Syndrome Ireland, who have been behind the idea from the series since I first approached them in 2008/9 after I'd got some Irish Film Board development money.

At that stage, I wanted to make sure I was hitting the right tone with the series and they set up meetings for me with lots of Mums and their children. You have no idea how much research goes into a series like this!!!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Now it feels real...

The first three episodes of PUNKY are finished their sound edits beautifully; the title sequence is perfect, and now all the other episodes - at different stages of completion/ development are all falling into line behind.

They look fantastic, so congrats to all involved, especially to Monster Animation and the fantastic animators, and very especially to producer Gerard O'Rourke who had the vision to know this series would work...

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A Writer's Skillset - part 2: Time Management

If the first skill is the Art of Making Time/ Making Do with Time, the second is managing it.

This is my task for 2011. I'm productive enough but I know I waste time and that's frustrating. I'd like to do other things and there never seems time. I'd like to finish projects I've put on hold for ever and see if they work. I'd like to get the projects that nearly there over the edge and furrowing out success for me in their different fields...

Time Management. Nobody mentioned un-sexy beast this when we dreamed of writing, did they?

I used to be great at it. Scarily great.

I blamed it on 13 years as a freelance journalist taking on far too much work for a whole range of very different people. I think I was pretty fantastic at it right up until I got pregnant. Even then it hung on, this wonderful skill I never fully appreciated, until my daughter was about six.

Since then, as life has become more full and interesting, my work schedule has become increasingly erratic. Heavy working periods when I achieve a phenomenal amount - I recognise them because my daughter wonders aloud why I've suddenly turned into a workaholic - and the scatty periods when not nearly enough seems to get done and time passes too quickly.

So 2011 is where I take control again. I will will check emails twice during my working day. I will keep the tasks that don't require all my brain or that are fun for when I have finished a body of work in another area, such as script-editing, story development, writing. I will make sure I have time to do mad brainstorming so my new idea will grow, and that I get projects finished ahead of deadlines without neglecting everything else. And I will have a new body of work to start sending out.

I will designate pockets of time each day/ week for
1. research, networking, reading scripts and blogs and websites full of tips (except the ones on procrastination!);
2. for chasing work and hounding my agent;
3. to read the projects I completed last year and do what needs to be done so they can be send off demanding respect and production/ publication!
4. And I will write every time there are five or ten minutes when I can without finding reasons why there isn't any point because five or ten minutes isn't enough.

And when the allotted spans of time are up in each area, I will switch, and switch again. The idea is that variety will ensure that when i return to each segment, I am hungry for the work.

And since part of this 'new me' is to do a blog once a week, you'll be able to see if it works!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A Writers Skillset...

Two skills are essential if you really want to write.

One is that you will find time to write.

You will cancel an assortment of fun/ kind/ thoughtful things to do with/ for other people in order to write. The house will fall apart, your child will watch too much tv occasionally but you will write. You will step away from sitting with your family to watch meaningless - but comforting - tv to write and yet, somehow, keep time to eat together, walk together, talk somehow about all the important and unimportant things, and check homework!

Taking time for your writing takes courage and strength of character. Most of all, it takes self belief and somehow, from the experience of writing all my life, I know men tend to be far better at this. How many writer's life stories have you read where the (male) writer locks himself away, ignoring every demand for his attention until his writing day is done. Are there women - mothers - who can do this?!

At one point it seemed that every male writer I knew also had a wife who worked in a high power financial job and supported her husband. But I'm not sure I could cope with that either. And it doesn't seem to be true of Irish male writers.

So if you want to write, find five muinutes while waiting for a bus/a dentist/ life to get exciting again. Go to bed an hour early and script a few scenes just to get to the next stage. Brainstorm characters/ plot/ visuals while you walk.

Don't you love it when you HAVE to stop to scribble something down?! Here's my latest: Sweetmeat was a very misshapen dragon.

I guess you had to be there.

And because I've been told blogs should be short, I'll save the second half of this till my next one. So stop reading and go write for five minutes instead! About the colour blue. Your first childhood memory of feeling fear. Or just how you're feeling now...

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Competition deadlines...

And yes, competitions are a pain in the neck but they make useful deadlines, and once a script is ready then your choices are greater. More competitions, if it doesn't get shortlisted/ win the first; contacting producers to convince them it's their next big thing; or a rewrite to make it even better. At least it will be done.

Came across this site that might be useful: He has a 'calendar' panel on the right of the page listing all competition deadlines. The next two I've already mentioned but they're so close you can smell the sulphur: 15th Jan - Page International - and Blue Cat Fellini - 20th.

Could be useful, but check the rules. I've found a few I'm not eligible for because of I have about four hours of screened material. (In short, one feature, five non-verbal children's films of 15 mins, two episodes of soap and three shorts - one I've never seen and didn't know existed until I saw it on IMdB. I think they culled it from the feature and gave it the name of the leading character. If I could track down the producer, I could ask. Maybe that's a background task for this year!)

Let's all have a productive and satisfying writing year!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Tentpoles and quadrants

Where have I been hiding? I've never come across either of these phrases in relation to scripts so I did a bit of a trawl and apparently, between them, they are exactly what everyone wants in a script:

Four quadrant: a movie that appeals to all four main demographic groups — young and old, male and female;

Tentpole : a film that ‘supports’ the other films on a studio’s slate financially and will be an almost guaranteed success;

Easy, huh?