Morning Passive - 103/365
An artist needn’t be a clergyman or a churchwarden, but he certainly must have a warm heart for his fellow men.

- Vincent van Gogh

London Screenwriters Festival, sequences & me

Barton FinkThe London Screenwriters Festival may well be the biggest and best conference for screenwriters on Earth right now. There used to be a plethora of L.A.-based writerfests – I’ve been to a lot of them – with William Goldman and Syd Field dropping in for a chat, with pitch fests and panels, with lawyers and agents trying to get you damn kids to wise up and patchoulied practitioners of The Artists Way imploring you not to quit five minutes before the miracle. Last month’s Story Expo in Los Angeles is one of the remainders of that legacy and had some great guests (like Syd Field). But the 21st century home of the screenwriter convocations seems to be London.

Of course I would say that, wouldn’t I?

And not just because I’m a screenwriter living in London.

Or because I’m going to be speaking at the London Screenwriters Festival.

“Oh, Neal, are really you going to be speaking at the London Screenwriters Festival?”

“I am. As you well know.”

I’ll be doing a talk called “8 Sequence Structure: The Screenwriter’s Ultimate Weapon”. I know, I know. It’s a bit flashy, but people are always more likely to attend a talk if they feel like they’re going to get a weapon out of it. You just can’t have too many weapons nowadays.

I’ll be going over the importance of the sequence is story structure – and the 8 sequence paradigm specifically – as taught by Frank Daniel, one of the great screenwriting teachers of the 20th century. Using sequences in screenwriting will get you a lot farther then trying to put together a story with 3 Acts. Relying on a 3 Act Structure to get you through writing a movie is a bit like relying on your knowledge of the alphabet to get you through the writing a novel, or relying on your knowledge of swimming to get you safely back to shore when your boat has capsized in a hurricane, or relying on your knowledge of the Force to hit an exhaust port only two meters wide with your dad trying to kill you. I guess “inadequate” is the word I’m looking for.

I’ll be going into depth – or as much depth as one hour allows – into what a sequence is, how it functions in the story, and the competing theories on why feature films have eight of them. And I’ll try to pass on some of Frank Daniel’s nuggets of wisdom too, as well as some of my own experience using sequence structure to in the Hollywood trenches.

It happens Sunday, 27 October, 2pm in Tuke Hall, Regent’s School of Drama, Film & Media. See you there!

Broadcast Live 2007

You just can’t keep me away from a good media technology trade show.

If you’re this side of the Atlantic this week, feel free to join me at Broadcast Live 2007, starting tomorrow at Earl’s Court 2. Broadcast Live is one of the bigger tv & video technology conventions in the UK. It runs this Tuesday through Thursday, June 19-21, and it is really going to be the shizzle! Why, I tell you, everyone from Apple to Avid will be there!

Keep an eye peeled for me. I’ll be the shifty one in the over-mannered spectacles, bloating up on Press Room coffee and biscuits.

Screenwriting Expo Pt. 3

So I got up to the mike and I said to William Goldman, I said:

“Bill, I just wanted to let you know first of all how much The Lion In Winter means to me. It’s one of my favorite movies. In terms of dialog, I think it’s probably one of the greatest movies ever written. My question is this: Did you find that it was helpful that you wrote it as a play first and were able to work the bugs out before you adapted it to the screen?”

Mr. Goldman took a breath, smiling his kindly, wisely smile, then:

“You’re thinking of my brother.”

“No, I’m not. I’m thinking about how sweaty my upper lip is! You may be a great writer but you don’t have UNCANNY PSYCHIC POWERS!!” I cackled.

“I didn’t write ‘The Lion In Winter’, he continued, “My brother James wrote ‘The Lion in Winter’.”

Such a great talent. And humble too. Was there anything this guy couldn’t do? But I would not be swayed:

“Ha! That’s great! Ha! Yes! Ha!” I ejaculated.

“Now you’re going to ask me about ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, right?”

“No. Actually, my next question was about ‘Lord Of The Flies’. Why did you make it twice?”…

Some other stuff William Goldman said at the panel discussion (also featuring David Koepp, moderated by Den Shewman):

“You’ve got to protect your writing time when you’re starting out. Find out when you can write and protect that time. You have to protect it. If you don’t protect it, nobody will. You can accomplish a lot in two hours.”

And of his differences of opinion with studio executives:

“I believe the movie is the star. And they don’t.”