Posts Tagged ‘Script Reading’

new eden pilot update

26, February 2012

Those playing along at home will know that as of February I have been in London for three years.

What you may not know is that March 2012 will mark one year that Freek and I have been working on the New Eden pilot and hopefully the date, fingers crossed, we finish it.

Actually to be accurate, we’ve been working the New Eden series for over fifteen months now. Freek and I first teamed up four months prior to officially working on the pilot in November 2010. These first several months were spent fine tuning the script and working on the character designs plus the look and feel for the series. March 2011 marked when we first started working on the storyboards for the pilot episode.

When you’re working on something part-time around jobs, life and families things take time, especially animation. Despite this Freek and I have stayed the course and I have to say it’s been a ball. It’s still early days but we think we’ve got something very special on our hands.

Being new to animation it’s been a great learning curve for me as well. Yes it takes time but it also gives you the freedom to try and fail at various shots and even entire sequences before you succeed. I read an interview recently with WALL-E director Andrew Stanton in response to questions about reshoot on his live-action movie John Carter, which sums this up beautifully:

“You draw it, you put your own voice on it, you cut it, and you don’t like it, and you do it again. You do it every six months over three to four years. Every time you do that, that’s the equivalent of a reshoot, so I’ve been taught how to make a movie with four reshoots built in every time. And you wonder why our movies are good? It’s not because we’re smarter, it’s not because we’re better, it’s because we are in a system that recognizes that you don’t go, ‘Oh my god, okay, I’m going to paint this, but I can only touch the brush once and I’m only going to make one stroke’.”

Recently we went back and did some pick-ups with the actors and after some final tweaking I’m proud to say that we’ve locked off the vision for the pilot. We’re now working with a very talented sound designer Justin Bryant of Timesquared Audio on the sound and music. Meanwhile Freek is going back and redoing the opening titles to add some shots that will help set up the series premise a bit better.

Last weekend I hosted a script reading with the actors and Freek, who came across from The Netherlands to be there. It was exciting for Freek and I, not only to hear the entire series read, but also to show off an early cut of the pilot to the actors.

Anyone who’s follows my blog knows I’m a big fan of script readings because you finally get to separate yourself from your work, hear how it sounds and take on some constructive criticism. I’m happy to say that things went well at the reading and we’re more excited than ever.

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So what does the future hold for New Eden?

We have several international events that we’re hoping to be accepted to where we will get a chance to pitch New Eden to a room full of people who have the ability to help us get the series made – namely brands/sponsors, TV and online commissioners and production partners. We will also be doing a certain amount of pitching around the traps as well to see if we can drum up some interest.

Being an animated series this is not something we can just pull together over a couple of long weekends. That said, we have a production plan in place that will allow us to produce the entire series in less time it took us to produce the pilot, a reasonable budget plus a marketing and social media plan all ready to go.

As March gets closer you can expect to hear more on New Eden’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as right here on my blog, so stay tuned.

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dealing with feedback after a script reading

17, July 2010

So Wednesday was the last Script Tank meeting for this term (they resume in Sept) and also the reading of my 60 min comedy/drama pilot that I have been preparing for the Red Planet Prize.

As I outlined in my previous post about sounding boards, a script reading should be a safe environment where you can test out new work in front of your peers.

But what do you do if you are confronted by the feedback you get?

Here’s the thing, script readings can be deceiving. In my case the read went great. The actors dug it and I got lots of laughs and reactions from the audience. Sounds likes everyone’s in agreement right?

Well they also all agreed that there was some core issues to be addressed within the story and central character to make it work as a 60 min TV drama. Entertaining in a room full of supportive peers doesn’t automatically mean it will hold together once it’s on screen in front of an uncaring audience with one finger on the remote. A good script reading isn’t just about the reading, it’s about the feedback afterwards as well.

What can also be confronting is individual feedback. I got a lot of mixed responses, which was hard to collate initially but after some thought here is what I have come up as some guidelines:

  1. People’s initial reactions are often off the cuff and so naturally coloured by their agendas, prejudices or personal tastes – they are just human after all. So listen closely in the moment and think deeply afterwards to extrapolate the core problem they are trying to identify rather than get caught up in your own knee-jerk reaction to their reaction
  2. Don’t waste time trying to please everyone. At the end of the day it’s still your script and your creative voice. Work out how the feedback helps you hone both.  This goes equally for people you hold in high esteem as well as your harshest critics, trying to please either is a trap that is more about your insecurity than your work
  3. Don’t forget your own opinion in the process. Give yourself time to mull over the feedback and your thoughts before making any decisions
  4. Have follow up chats with people who’s opinion you trust to help sift through the feedback and to delve deeper into the problem areas you are wrestling with
  5. And remember that you asked for feedback, so take it all on board graciously and say thank you

Initially I felt quite battered by my feedback but upon reflection and by applying the above approach I was able to figure it out and move forward.

Hopefully this advice can help you too.

who is your sounding board?

3, July 2010

For as long as I can remember there has been one person who has always read my material. I’d say he’s read everything I’ve ever written as well as heard a million stories that never made it to the page. He’s my best mate since our amateur theatre days and is the first person I go to when I have written something new.

Why? He’s a sounding board I can trust. He’s someone I know I can talk honestly with, he’s someone who understands story, he gets me and my writing and sometimes he has moments of brilliance that he lets me steal!

Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted, Black Books, Big Train) recently said:

“Writing with a partner is paid socialising. Writing on your own is work.” Chorltle.co.uk

This is what bouncing stuff off my mate is like; a great opportunity to not only hang out together but also do what we love – discuss and pick apart stories. And after countless months bashing something out on my lonesome it’s a great reward and has now become an invaluable part of my process.

Now your sounding board may be a co-writer, an editor, a dramaturg, a script assessor, a director, a producer or even your mum. But what makes someone a good sounding board?

  1. As I said before they have to be someone you trust to share new and often raw work with.
  2. Someone who knows what they’re talking about. Anyone can give an opinion but not everyone can give constructive criticism.
  3. But make sure you pick someone you respect. There’s no point bouncing stuff off some lauded genius if you don’t respect their opinion.
  4. Same goes for having someone who gets you and your writing. You need someone who can challenge you but ultimately is on your side.
  5. Oh and get someone who makes you smarter. Two brains are always better than one but they have to be the right two brains.
  6. And finally, someone you want to hang out with and can be comfortable with. Not just over a beer but someone who is as equally willing to share personal truths, embarrassing memories and human observations as you are.

I recently finished a session with my mate reviewing my latest work, a 60 minute comedy/drama pilot (writing sample + competition fodder) called ‘Mad Love’. I have a script reading in about a week and I needed someone to go over it with one last time before spending a small fortune in photocopying and shooting it off to the actors. So naturally my mate was the first person I turned to.

What was meant to be just a couple hours turned into a six hour session. We read, discussed, pulled apart scenes, put them back together and general had a great day with a cheeky break in the middle for kebabs from up the high street. The script is now all the better for it. All my niggly little bits of dialogues and moments got duly addressed plus some other ones I didn’t realise needed hammering out as well. Six hours may sound like an eternity but for me to potentially achieve the same result by myself whilst dealing with being way too familiar with the material could have taken six days, so in my mind it was incredibly efficient.

Thanks mate.

So, who is your sounding board?

another upcoming reading of ‘tessa & adam’

29, May 2010

This coming Wednesday I’m having another couple episodes of my web sitcom ‘Tessa & Adam‘ read, this time at Script Tank, as part of a night of short works:

This week’s reading is a Shorts Night, featuring our usual cornucopia of short pieces, extracts, ideas and pitches, headlined by ‘My Belarussian Wife’ (probably)’ by Terry Squibb.

Toby is about to collect his new Belarussian fiancee Masha and her son Kolya from the airport. She thinks he lives in the large house of which he showed her a picture when he met her in Minsk. In fact he is only the lodger of his uncle Ted. Toby did not intend to deceive her – he showed her the photo over a romantic meal, and pointed out his room, but he has now an uneasy feeling that she did not quite grasp the fact that it was not his house.

Toby is determined to make a success of his relationship with Masha, but worried about her initial reaction when she arrives. He persuades his uncle Ted to allow him to pose as the owner for a while, but how to explain Ted’s presence? Ted, keen amateur actor, fishes out a  butler’s costume, and lends Toby his Mercedes to go to the airport.

All this plus a new short play from Ben Francis, two more episodes of Brett Snelgrove’s web-sitcom, and an eight-minute sketch.  There may be some space for more short pieces, so please contact me if you’ve got anything.

The reading starts at 6:45 for 7:00, above the Blue Posts pub, Rupert Street, nearest tube Leicester Square.  There’s a £3 charge per session.

The last reading I had was with the London Comedy Writers back in January. Since then I’ve had plenty of time to solidify the style and format for the project and have been bashing out re-writes and new episodes like a crazy man.

I’m looking forward to hearing how my new pilot episode plays as well as a new ep that I’ve recently put together. For me this whole script reading process has been instrumental in the development of ‘Tessa & Adam’ and my writing in general. It’s a wonderful safe environment where you can hear what hits the mark, what falls flat and get well considered constructive criticism all for the price of a couple of quid and a beer! What’s not to love about that?

reflections on ‘Tessa & Adam’ script reading

28, January 2010

For those just catching up, ‘Tessa & Adam’ is a project that I am currently developing:

‘Tessa & Adam’ is a comedy web series that captures the idiosyncratic moments between born-and-bred British lad Adam and his Dutch expat partner Tessa. Told in short self-contained episodes and set in their modest but well appointed London flat, each episode revolves around a small intimate moment or quirky observation that parallels into a story that any couple can relate to.

I recently had five episodes read and critiqued at the London Comedy Writers group.

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After a reading I always take some time to digest the feedback as well as my own thoughts.

It’s hard to judge by the reading alone if something is working. I’m not too attached to whether people laugh or not as it’s often a cold read for everyone concerned. That said I had plenty of smiles, a few giggles and some hearty chuckles, which is more than enough for me.

What you can tell from a solid reading though is whether the rhythm and pace is working and what jokes really land and what ones don’t and end up broken and dying in the dirt.

I never know what is going to work. Often I find the simplest things end up playing well, whereas some of my more crafted comedic moments get no love at all.

For me, it’s the feedback after the read that really counts. That’s where I get the little pearls of wisdom and sparks of inspiration that help me identify what needs working on so I can move forward.

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So the consensus was that it is indeed funny and entertaining. Phew. I had a few comments like “I wasn’t bored”, which is a bit of a backhanded criticism, and “I don’t like them” or “I didn’t get it” but I can take that. They’re just opinions at the end of the day and there’s nothing I can do to change them.

I picked up a few simple things that I can fix, such as don’t put the punchline in the episode title, a true Brit would never eat tinned peas and there’s great comic potential in subtle racism.

Everyone liked the characters, especially Tessa. Adam could do with a bit of work. I need to make him commit more to his point-of-view and heighten his traits and characteristics – in short I need to give him some balls. After a long period of writing ineffectual emasculated male leads I’m more than happy to oblige on this front.

There was a great deal of discussion about what is the series hook and whether the characters are “likable” or “interesting” enough. With more discussion though this clarified down to, what is unique and interesting about Tessa and Adam’s relationship that unites them? Why are they together and why should we care?

And you know what, the group hit upon a really valid point. Now, I know why they are together and what makes their relationship interesting but I haven’t communicated that well enough in any of the episodes that I have written thus far.

Out of this reading there are four key things I now realise I need to do:

  1. I need to write a new pilot episode that sets up the characters and their relationship and also welcomes the audience into their world.
  2. I can use all the questions that people had about their relationship as subjects for future episodes to reveal more about them as the series progresses.
  3. I need to clarify the kind of character moments and story beats unique to this series that each episode will turn on.
  4. And I need to let my characters commit 110% to who they are because that is where comedy gold lies.

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For me, ‘Tessa & Adam’ is about finding comedy in the smallness of things within a relationship – little observations, intimate moments or things that couples don’t normally talk about.

It’s never going to be high-concept or big and broad. At this point I have very little interest in what their lives are like in the outside world. There are plenty of other comedies out there that tackle families, work, politics, mates and society beautifully. I don’t need to compete with them. I just need to stay the course and hone what I am trying to achieve to the best of my ability.

That being said, the very last episode that was read and also the latest episode that I wrote (in a day I think) got the best response. People really connected with it and could see themselves in it, which is not something I would have expected.

It just goes to show that we all share more common experiences than we realise and that is what I’m betting will make ‘Tessa & Adam’ work.

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