If men could see us as we really are …

I was searching for a quotation to add some colour to a pitch I’m putting together for a highway woman drama I’ve written. Well … I really lucked out with this one.

When I read the quote it actually sent a shiver down my spine: not least because it’s as relevant today as it was when it was written 170 years ago and that’s actually really bloody depressing when you think about it.

Enough – here it is.

“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend”

Charlotte Bronte, Shirley, 1849

What would she have made of the film industry I wonder…

Writers are surrogates

Here’s a definition of surrogacy …

Surrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman (the surrogate mother) agrees to become pregnant and give birth to a child for another person(s) who is or will become the parent(s) of the child.

Which is pretty much what it means to be a scriptwriter…

Scriptwriting is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman (but usually a man) agrees to bring a script into the world for a Producer(s) who is or will become the parent(s) of the project.

Because being a scriptwriter means giving away your babies … and it’s so damn hard!  At the heart of it, a writer – just like any creative – has their own creative integrity.  And we have to hold on to it, defend it, but also let it go.   How am I supposed to defend it and simultaneously let it go?

OK so I could wrangle more control and become a writer/director … but then my actors will veer from the exact line of my script. And once the editor gets their hands on it …

The bottom line is … collaborating is a good thing.  My feature script has reached new height thanks to my producers and Ffilm Cymru’s feedback.  It would never be so rich and pacey and diverse if it wasn’t for their input.   I guess the secret to success is you just need to choose your collaborators with care – so when your script takes its first steps without you, it’s in safe hands.

Save the world: write

I love surveys, and I love BAFTA, so the news that the two have combined just made me very happy last week.  LINK HERE

In a report they’ve titled Subtitles to Save the World the academy – and Deloitte – analysed the subtitles of non-news programmes across the major broadcasteers over year and found (surprise!) Brexit is one of the most mentioned terms … and way down the list, after cats, cake, Shakespeare and picnic (!) came climate change.

Is it really so side-lined?

BAFTA went further, with the chairwoman urging the industry to tell powerful, human stories to connect audiences with the world around them.  If we write about it, our audience will think about it, and if they’ll think about it … well maybe they can make a difference.

And the very, super, wonderful best thing about the whole thing is that my current spec children’s TV script is just about that: a family saving the world in an everyday way.  Hurrah!

Reduce, reuse, recycle, rewrite…

“Well you’ve nailed the title”: surviving script editing

It was the funniest thing … I’d been so looking forward to my script editing session with industry heavyweight Kate Leys (Churchill, Lady Macbeth) that I’d completely failed to consider …  what if she thinks my script sucks???

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So there I was, pootling along Piccadilly on my way to BAFTA HQ to meet her, now absolutely terrified.  Like going to the Headmaster’s office when you’ve broken a window.

I’d met Kate before, she’d been with me on stage at BAFTA when I’d won the Rocliffe award.  At that time – many, many drafts ago – she’d spelt out exactly what was wrong with the early draft script (“not enough goes wrong, Claire!”) and I’d built in her criticism but … what was now in store for me?

Well, truth be told, it was fantastic.  She didn’t talk scenes or dialogue or pace, she went right to the heart of story and everything came out from there.  The producers, Kate and I refined exactly what’s at the heart of the story (and thank God I’ve nailed the title!) and all the work from now on – and there’s plenty – should come out of that.

The session highlighted for me the fact that the initial stage of script development, that thinking, considering, developing of the idea is crucial to the success of the finished piece.  If you haven’t thought through your concept well enough at the first hurdle then you’re setting yourself up for all  kinds of trouble later on.  And that’s a stage I do find hard because often there’s hardly anything to show for it.  A few post-it notes, scribbled notepad pages, much desk research.  Far better to be typing away furiously at a script.  But It’s definitely encouraged me to slow down and make that first stage count.

 

Memories are liars

In the news today, a topic I’m playing with for a short film.  And it’s something I find so completely disturbing and utterly fascinating … our memories are NOT SET IN STONE.

I’d thought our memory was like computer memory.  You create the “file”, store it, and open it up when you need it.  But no – after taking part in a Behavioural Economics event a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that every time you call on it, the slippery memory can change.  Big changes, small changes …it’s not fixed.  It’s not real.  It changes depending on what we’re thinking at the time, what’s happened since the memory…

So if what makes us is our memories, if it informs what we do and who we are … what does it mean when we can edit those memories?

 

A date with my film

Claire_Peate_InsoleCourt_2

Last night I gave a talk at Insole Court, Cardiff, as part of the Brilliant Books literary festival.

To a packed (yay!) room I talked about Clarice Cliff for the first time to non-film folks.  I brought along plates, cups and original prints for people to look at and even Clarice’s favourite cologne so they could smell the woman herself (for the record it’s 4711 Eau de Cologne … mixes lovely with the smell of turpentine).

It was a great exercise in learning what will sell my film.  What I decided – in the blind heat of terror – to talk about, and what to drop was good indication of what I unconsciously think about aspects of the Clarice Cliff story.  And I also picked up on my audience’s reactions to elements of the screenplay: the affair, the politics, the business, the family tension.  It was fascinating what got a laugh, what didn’t, what shocked, and what intrigued.

The evening proved to be a valuable testing ground and – as I embark on another draft – a timely reminder of what a brilliant untold story is waiting to get to the big screen.  And what a privilege I have in being a part of it.

Wannabe scriptwriters proceed to checkout

Want to be a scriptwriter? Well you’re in luck! There are HUNDREDS of ways you could pay for the privilege.

OK first I need to admit … I have parted with money to get where I am. I got my MA in Scriptwriting and it was super useful. But what’s surprised me since embarking on my career – and what I’m writing about here – is just how many people there are out there who dangle success and opportunity in your face and then want your Visa card details.

I was at a Film & TV event day recently – a writer was giving a talk about their experiences in the industry. Except they weren’t. They were giving an hour long sales pitch, selling their services as a career coach, script reader and networker. All of which I could enjoy. If I paid. This was a Government-funded event to help people working in the industry … I took the leaflets, we swapped cards and I dropped it all in the waste basket.

Industry magazines offer lists of production companies that are taking unsolicited scripts … yours for £20. Organisations arrange script competitions (which are designed to give the judging panel access to new talent) that you pay to enter. Websites charge a premium for special access … pay to read more …

When you’re starting out as a writer you’re probably not going to be over-wealthy. Maybe you’re working part time so you can write, or you’ve dropped your job completely. You’re starting from the bottom up. So having to fork out regular sums to try to catch that elusive break is a cruel step and one that’s going to hit the least well off the hardest. Will only the wealthy, privileged few afford to get the breaks?

Full marks to competitions like BAFTA Rocliffe – which gave me my break – BBC Writersroom and others who give everyone an opportunity at no cost. We need to raise awareness of these and encourage more outlets to showcase and develop talent. Everyone should get access to opportunities, regardless of how much they can afford to pay.

1927 Paramount Studio map of California

I love film, I love maps… and here’s what happens when they come together.  It’s a 90 year old map of filming locations that can pass for other locations across the world.

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I love the fact Sherwood Forest borders South Africa and the Red Sea and that Wales is neighbour to Venice and Spain.  That’s the magic of Hollywood …