• Create 50

    What is Create 50?

    Create 50, www.create50.com is the brainchild of Chris Jones who runs the London Screenwriters’ Festival www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com

    I first came across the concept of Create 50 when Chris launched the ’50 Kisses’ competition in 2012. If you submit a story you are expected to critique at 3 others. I wrote a story for it and duly critiqued a minimum of 3 other stories. In reality I critiqued many more as once I started I really enjoyed the reading process. I received several critiques for my story too which bearing in mind the comments and suggestions I received and using these for the re-writes greatly helped to improve it.

    My short script ‘Love Across Time’ I think was long listed but was not chosen for the film. However, I re-wrote it and entered it in to a script writing competition organised by Film Expo South 2017 which took place in February this year and I was one of 10 finalists. It goes to show, nothing is wasted.

    When Create 50 Twisted was launched I relished the idea of trying to write for the horror genre, something I had never done before. My short ‘The Small Print’ received some encouraging feedback but was not chosen for the book. Again I critiqued more than the required amount of stories and learnt so much from reading the work of different people.

    Due to the popularity of the first Twisted volume it was decided to have a Create 50 Volume 2. I wrote and entered two stories, ‘The Way He Walks’ and ‘Dead Ringer’ in to Vol 2. The deadline for this was 28th February. Now I have tried writing for this genre I really enjoy it.

    A different type of story was needed for Create 50 The Singularity. They wanted 50 science fiction stories exploring the moment when technology overtakes us. The deadline for this was 31st March this year. I submitted two stories for this, 'The Emperor’s New Clothes' and 'With a Little Help from A.I.' Again this was a genre I had never written for before but I enjoyed the experience.

    These writing opportunities that Chris has created are both challenging and liberating. I have gained much from reading other peoples’ short stories and scripts, some good some not as good but all adding to my writing knowledge.

    A big thank you to Chris for your enthusiasm and creativity.

    Watch out for www.create50.com and the books when they come online as well as other writing opportunities.

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  • THREE COUNTIES CHALLENGE SCRIPT COMPETITION 2017

    THREE COUNTIES CHALLENGE SCRIPT COMPETITION.

    On Friday 3rd Feb I was at Film Expo South held in the Ageas Stadium, Southampton. I had entered the Three Counties Challenge script competition. The brief was for an original script of maximum 5 minutes (i.e. 5 pages) which could be filmed in two days.

    I was one of the 10 finalists and so received a complimentary ticket to the event.

    Film Expo South is the brainchild of Gillian Tully. Now in its second year, Gillian has done a remarkable job of organising this event.

    The finalists were met, videoed and introduced to each other.

    At 10.30 we had a Pitching session with Sam Snape, screenwriter, tutor and script doctor.

    At 1.00 it was time for us to give a 2 minute pitch to 6 judges.

    Then at 7.00 pm the three winners were announced.

    Sadly my script was not one of them – boo hoo! However, I really enjoyed the day, benefitted from Sam’s pitching session and enjoyed meeting the other writers.

    Look out for Film Expo South in February 2018.

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  • Screenplay or novel - or both

    I really enjoyed reading this article by Robert Gately which appeared on Stage 32. Robert said to share it if we liked it, so here it is:

    I don’t believe that jumping genres should be avoided simply because someone out there in cyberspace said you shouldn’t do it. I converted novels into screenplays, and screenplays into stage plays, with pretty good contest results and, if nothing else, it was a lesson and … fun.

    I say, if you have the passion to write, then write. If it’s a screenplay I would opt for simplicity and consistency over complexity and inconsistency. In a novel, stick with plot and structure and do whatever the hell you want. In either case, Picasso had good advice: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

    “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” - Picasso

    For me, I try to follow a couple of rules. First, it’s paramount for me to illicit emotion from the reader or viewer. I’ll try my best to make the reader fall in love with a character. In novel writing I can take my time. I’m not restricted to a page length. In a screenplay I am.

    And, second, I try to create a tangible goal for the hero and set him or her on an edge-of-your-seat journey where we can measure the success or failure of that goal at the climax point.

    I learned early on, whether writing a screenplay, novel, or stage play, I needed to follow a process, and some rules. This idea of storytelling was taught many years ago, not by a writer, but by a philosopher, physician, scientist, and a student of Plato. Aristotle said, and I believe it to be true, that ‘The first essential, the life and soul, so to speak, of a story, is the Plot.'

    "The first essential, the life and soul, so to speak, of a story, is the Plot." - Aristotle

    I struggled with this notion for a long time. Not to dwarf other important tools of writing such as, dialogue, format, character arcs, and inner journey versus outer journey, etc., structure is what makes a story, a story. If we could master it in our fables, I believe the fear of jumping genres would be just that, a fear that we could overcome with education and go on our own inner journey and just plunge into the belly of storytelling. Of course, it’s not as easy as that.

    Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s I always had that hankering to write ‘the great American novel’. Today, when I talk to writers, I usually hear their desire to write ‘the great American screenplay’. So, if you decide not to ‘jump’ from screenplay to novel, fear not. Very few are taking the plunge these days. But if you do it, take comfort in knowing you are among the few who are.

    Nevertheless, the passion to write for any genre, whether it be for novels, screenplays or stage plays, requires the same dedication of knowing the craft of writing; it’s just the nuances of each method that needs to be studied and mastered. It’s like going from algebra to calculus. Both require a solid knowledge of basic math, but each has its own format or disciplines, which are not hard to master. But without the basics, you’ll struggle with both.

    Even though some pundits tells us to stick with one genre – the one we know or like the best – I broke away from that advice. I wrote my first novel in 1977 with a profound passion to tell a story, but I harbored a secret. I believed that movies provided the greatest power to move the spirit than all other writing mediums.

    Screenplay or Novel or Both

    My life was never the same after seeing “Inherit the Wind”, which was first published as a stage play in 1955, and “12 Angry Men”, which was first a television play in 1954, and “I Accuse”, which was a book before Jose Ferrer made it a movie, and “One Flew Over the Coo-Coos Nest”, which was a novel before Jack Nicolson decide to shine in it.

    Even my favorite love story, “Somewhere in Time”, was released five years after its source novel titled "Bid Time Return". That title, by the way, was borrowed from a line in William Shakespeare's play "Richard II", which reads: "O call back yesterday, bid time return."

    It’s not surprising that after I wrote that first novel I tried transferring that story to a screenplay, and I couldn’t understand why I had such a difficult time in crowding my 300 page (double-spaced) novel into a properly formatted screenplay.

    I wasn’t restricted by format or page length when I wrote the notorious Beginning (Act I), Middle (Act II) and End (Act III) of my first novel. Each has its virtues, but let’s just say I could take my time getting the reader excited and thirsting for more, or maybe even crying at the end – happy tears, of course - but in the end the tears were for someone the reader has grown to love because (spoiler alert) … he died.

    In a screenplay I had to fit that story-line into a 120 page screenplay, and with a lot of ‘white space’. I couldn’t do it effectively.

    Screenplay or Novel or Both

    The novel was painless in a way because I worked for AT&T and the story was about two guys who worked for a fictitious phone company during the midnight tour and who wreaked havoc on those unsuspecting people who happened to talk on their phones at night. Knowing the nuances of the phone company, and having worked the midnight tour for a few years, I knew what I was writing about, and creating the story line was relatively easy - for the book, that is.

    I was told that writing a screenplay was even easier, and all I needed to know was the basics of writing a sentence, or action lines. I wasn’t aware I had to write dialogue more like Hemingway than Charles Dickens. Well, having finished my last semester of college where I collected a BA in English at FDU, I felt I had all the tools I needed to write my first screenplay. Wow. I was in for a rude awakening.

    I became aware of my inadequacies as a writer when I took a two-day seminar given by a guru in the industry. I learned about ‘the new situation’ that should happen 10% into the story. Each turning point had its influence on me as I learned about the ‘change of plans’, ‘the goal setting’, and ‘the Point of No Return’. A major setback occurs at the 75% mark where the hero goes on a fast-paced journey to the ‘climax’ and wraps things up to the feel-good point of that journey.

    This pundit had an influence on me, and after the seminar I tried my hand at writing the screenplay that I had such a difficult time with, and the once-difficult-task became effortless.

    I also had to manage a family during this time, so it’s not surprising I waited until I retired in 1998 to write full-time. I became much more prolific than I anticipated, using that structure I had learned, applying it to 2 other novels, 3 stage plays, 11 screenplays, and a non-fiction work that was a memoir of a Pakistani freedom fighter. There was only one non-fiction book that I didn’t use this method because it required a chronological approach rather than a thematic one.

    Feedback became an important element to my writing. Professional readers are one way to get that feedback, but it’s expensive, as is contests. Still, I don’t think I would’ve finished finalist or better in over 150 writing competitions since retiring if I hadn’t gone to that seminar. In fact, I’ve won 23 writing competitions since the year 2000, mostly for my screenplays and stage plays.

    I had the winningest screenplay on moviebytes.com for the longest time. I taught screenwriting at the local community college and I was a screenplay judge for the Temple University senior film project for a few years. Again, I hang the idea that learning plot or structure was the key to the little success I have attained as a writer.

    Once I realized I could only dazzle some of the people some of the time in writing contests, I began reading other scribes’ work more regularly. I wasn’t surprised to find out there were plenty of screenwriters who were better than I. But I’m reminded by what Derek Jeter the famous Yankee baseball player once said: “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

    “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” - Derek Jeter

    So, I continued writing, and I found ways to get noticed. I found my niche and jumped genres, even though the advice from the experts was to stick with one, the one that you’re passionate about. If nothing else, I learned it was critical to understanding the nuances of other mediums.

    I also learned if I wrote with the knowledge of structure I could mount a credible story in any medium, and be a good writer regardless if I had credible run-on sentences (Charles Dickens), or lean dialogue (Ernest Hemingway), or romantically inclined characters (Jane Austen), or converted novels into screenplays (and stage plays), or screenplays into novels (me), or ended sentences with a prepositions (also me).

    My first attempt in writing “South of Main Street” was a decade ago, and it was with a subsidy press that went bankrupt before any marketing muscle could be flexed. I sat on the pity-pot for about ten minutes, and then I began writing a screenplay version by the same name and theme, which won the very first contest I entered it in.

    Recently, I re-wrote the novel “South of Main Street”, and now in 2016 a trade publisher has provided an e-book and paperback version of the novel on amazon.com. Soon, hopefully, it will be in B&N bookstores. I consider that a measure of success.

    I’m reminded, occasionally, what Michael Jordon once said. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed 26 times. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

    “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed 26 times. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan

    Taking encouragement from the best of the best, I continue searching for new ways to write better. My passion to write, of course, is probably the key. And, if Sheldon Cooper’s mother was here, she would say, ‘And that’s your opinion’.

    Screenplay or Novel or Both

    About Robert Gately

    I retired early from AT&T in 1998 to do what I always promised myself I would when retiring; that is, write. Since then I've written 2 novels, a non-fiction book about a South Asian freedom fighter, 10 screenplays and 3 stage plays – all since 1998. As a body of work, I have been recognized as finalist or better in over 100 theatre, book and screenplay competitions around the world which include novel successes in Norumbego Fiction Award, Dana Awards, Frontiers in Writing, SFWP (Santa Fe), First Coast (Jack’ville), etc. The screenplays alone have won 16 contests (Woodshole/Garden State/Queens/Telluride/Spirit Quest Film Festivals, Fade In Magazine, etc.). Also, these scripts came in second place – first runner up - in 14 other competitions (Breckenridge, Pocono and Phoenix Film Festivals, etc). My stage plays won a reading series at Abingdon Theatre in NYC and Ohio State University and, more recently, a play I co-wrote with Drew Keil has won the stage play category in both the London Film Awards and the American Movie Awards. I taught adult education at Northampton County Community College in screenwriting, and I was Temple University screenplay judge in their undergraduate program (Freese Award).

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  • 2017

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

    What will 2017 bring? Interesting times I’m sure.

    Politically whatever happens will be discussed, analysed, speculated upon and interpreted by whoever the ‘expert’ is whether left, right or centre. So we have the Donald Trump effect to look forward to and also the after effects of Brexit. Several European countries have elections this year so the results of those will be interesting.

    It appears to be a time for radical political change. Whatever happens in America, England and Europe, let’s hope that Syria’s troubles are over and the long suffering Syrians can start to get their lives back together again.

    Creatively there is much to look forward to. Take a look at the Competitions page – there is something for everyone.

    Whether you have success this year or are still making your way, don’t give up. Remember, it is a marathon not a sprint and another thing to remember – re-write, re-write, re-write!

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  • Halloween

    Halloween – 31st October 2016

    As it is Halloween it is only appropriate to promote the Create 50 – Twisted initiative.

    I entered but sadly my story was not one of the 50 chosen, out of several hundred.

    Here is the link if you fancy a good read: Book… http://getbook.at/Twisted50vol1

    Here is the other link if you are interested in finding out more about Create 50:

    Site… http://www.twisted50.com

    They do have other initiatives that are still current.

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  • After seven months the course I’ve been doing on a daily basis since April is coming to an end. Only it’s not really the end because now I intend to re-write the script so that it reaches a necessary standard for me to submit it to producers and/or enter in to competitions. This is the Pro Series course run by Hal Croasman at ScreenwritingU: www.screenwritingu.com Just because this course suited me, it isn’t for everyone.

    ‘Jaws in Space’ is the latest book from Charles Harris. This is what Charles has to say about it: “Pitching is the great accelerator. The ability to pitch well will accelerate almost every aspect of your career. It will help you sell your scripts, of course. (And not just scripts, but also novels, plays, etc).

    But it will also help you write better in the first place. Almost everyone who comes to my workshops with a finished screenplay finds themselves rewriting it afterwards, because a good pitch helps you see the story more clearly, focus more effectively on themes, develop stronger characters, even improve your dialogue and style.

    Now, after a year's hard work, I've managed to put much of what I teach into a book. It also has a great deal of new material. If you already have my Teach Yourself: Complete Screenwriting Course - Jaws builds on the premise and pitching chapters but has room to go much deeper.

    I’ve known Charles for years and can vouch for his knowledge of screenwriting and the filmmaking industry.

    Keep on writing.

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  • September 2016

    It has been some time since I have posted anything here. My time has been consumed by a writing course, holidays and the London Screenwriters’ Festival.

    The writing course began last April and almost each day we have had exercises or critiques to prepare.

    So if you are away for a day or so, there is much catching up to do. Having said that this is one of the best courses I have done, and I have done a lot. I have learnt more about different writing techniques on this course than any other. As with anything, a course is a personal choice and because it has worked for me, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you. In case your curiosity has been peaked I am currently on the Pro Series course run by Hal Croasman from ScreenwritingU. www.screenwritingu.com If you are a beginner you would be better trying a shorter course. If you have been writing for some time and want to improve, I would recommend the Pro Series. Incidentally, I won’t get anything if you choose to do this course, I am just recommending it.

    The London Screenwriters’ Festival 2016. Even better than before. I admire Chris Jones so much. Without his vision, enthusiasm and energy this would not be the event that it is. A big thank you to the many volunteers who are always there with a smile. This year there were writers from Australia, South Africa, Europe and a few from the States, as well as Britain, of course. Each year I wrench myself away from my comfort zone and take myself up to London. Each year I have sleepless nights worrying about the PitchFest, but I do it anyway because it is good to practice pitching.

    This year was my best year ever. Perhaps I have improved? Perhaps I was pitching a better concept? Now I have to get those 1 pagers just right and follow up.

    I love writing!

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  • Inspiration

    I've just read this post from the Stage 32 site and as Joleene has given permission to share it, I have.

    You Suck at Writing. Now What?

    By Joleene Moody

    Thursday, April 28th, 2016

    When I was in college, I wrote a farce for the stage. It was weak, at best, because I couldn’t come up with a decent ending. I don’t want to destroy my reputation here, but the first ending had an alien kidnapping the protagonist during Christmas Eve dinner. (Please don’t delete me from your network. I was only 21 and likely under the influence.)

    Knowing it was a bullshit ending, I threw my stage play in a box with some other scribblings where it sat for 15 years. In that time I worked as a television reporter and anchor in the city of Syracuse, chasing criminals and crooked politicians, all the while pretending that writing two-minute news stories twice a day was enough to satisfy my muse.

    It was not.

    I should tell you that since I boxed my play up in 1997, I’d been thinking of an ending to bring my play full circle. For 15 years, I pondered it. I’m not even kidding. I mean, I wasn’t obsessed with it, but when the holidays would roll around I would look for the magical ending. I even went so far as to ask people, “What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had happen to you during a family holiday meal?”

    The most I got was someone’s aunt falling down the stairs. Pfft.

    Then one day during a zumba class, the ending came to me. I don’t know why, it wasn’t even Christmas. I don’t think I was even thinking about the script as I bounced around that room, but I will tell you I couldn’t get out of there fast enough to write it down. I keep paper and pen in my car, so the second I got behind the wheel, I wrote it down.

    That was in 2012.

    In November of that year, I spent all of Thanksgiving break rewriting the entire script, new ending included.

    In January of 2013, I submitted my play to five theatres: two in New York, two in Buffalo and one in Syracuse.

    In the summer of 2013, the head director of the CNY Playhouse in Syracuse sent me a message to tell me one of the other directors wanted to direct my play Christmas of 2014.

    I nearly died.

    One of the greatest things we experience as writers of stage and screen is the moment we are able to watch our work unfold. That’s why we write, right?

    (I’ve been dying to put those two words together like that.)

    Well, I got that opportunity. VISITING BAMMY LEWIS: A SILLY LITTLE CHRISTMAS STORY only ran two weekends (six shows), but to date, it is one of the highest selling shows the Playhouse has produced. It also got a standing ovation on two of those six nights and I’m proud of that. I consider that a win. That means people liked it.

    Some people didn’t like it. I mean, there was that one night you couldn’t have moved that audience with a string of live firecrackers. No one laughed. That killed me, but that’s par for the course. Some will love your work, some will not.

    Now, I will tell you that I was sick to my stomach just about every show. I chose to watch everyone, taking notes as all 11 actors tumbled about on the stage, either delivering my puns with perfection or dumping lines like good actors do.

    When the show closed, I rewrote it. Then I submitted the updated version to contests and more theatres. Soon thereafter I was offered the opportunity to join a local playwriting group. The caveat was that the current members had to do a cold reading of my play (with me present) and critique it. I was wide open to this, after all, I wanted my play to be the best it could be.

    They ripped it to shreds.

    They didn’t even start off with what they liked about it which is, typically, in my humble opinion, how one should begin a critique. I heard things like:

    “There is no solid story line.”

    “It’s too loose.”

    You insult your characters a lot. Why, do you really need to?”

    “I’m left with too many questions.”

    "Why do you leave the children in the car the whole time?”

    Why are they almost always all on stage together?”

    “The story arc is lacking completely.”

    “What is the point of this?”

    I sat there and listened. I took notes, but all the while I wanted to say, “If this sucks so bad, why did the Playhouse choose to produce it? Why did people stand and applaud? How did it come to be that it is one of the highest selling shows at that theatre?”, but I didn’t. I ate the carrot cake and grapes in front of me instead and when it was over I smiled, shook their hands and left.

    I share this story with you because you will, undoubtedly, get punched in the gut and face things like this over and over again as you write. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit. After I published my first book, I took the editor to dinner and before the appetizers even came she said, “About your book… I would stick to speaking for a living if I were you. Writing isn’t your thing.”

    That’s nice. It was already published and on shelves in bookstores. (Sigh.)

    But it didn’t matter. I knew what I wanted. I still know what I want. I want to write. I want to meet the challenge of the words and engage the reader until the end. I want them to laugh. To cry. To remember or forget.

    I’m good at this writing gig, too. Every word I write makes me better. It makes someone else better. I am happiest when I’m writing. It’s friggin’ magical, considering how many years I denied myself the right to write.

    (See that? I did it again.)

    I’m not too old and I’m not in the wrong place.

    My head isn’t in a cloud and it’s not a fallacy that I can make money as a writer.

    I was born to write and I know, I KNOW you were too. That’s why you’re here. That’s why we gather and share at Stage32.

    Please don’t give up.

    If you already did, don’t. You can’t. Pick it back up.

    You weren’t given the fire to write just to ignore it because someone ripped you to shreds, or told you that you sucked. Like it or not, criticism is part of this gig. That’s how we grow and improve. Any good writer knows that, but the best of writers don’t care about the punches, they write anyway. Be that kind of writer and write anyway.

    There is a goldmine in you. Keep digging until you reach it and when someone rips you to shreds and punches you in the gut, take it like the kick-ass writer you are, then stand up, hit the keys and finish that masterpiece, even if it’s taken you 15 years to finish it.

    Some will love your work, some will not.

    Write anyway.

    About Joleene Moody

    I am a writer, through and through. I'm one of those people that denied myself (for the LONGEST time) the luxury to make my prose my work. I am fully immersed in it now and am grateful I can be. I am a screenwriter, produced playwright, published author, magazine journalist, an actress and a blogger. My blog, 'Take Your Voice Back' (www.takeyourvoiceback.com) is for creative entrepreneurs looking to make their passion their payroll.

    Before that, I was a television reporter and anchor. Go figure.

    No talent should ever be wasted. Check out more about me at: www.joleenemoody.com or connect here on Stage 32.

    Psst! Check out my highly acclaimed eBook, How To Find and Create PAID Speaking Opportunities! Also, check out my second and newest eBook to accompany the first, How To Write a Talk That Sells.

    ________________________________________

    Like this blog post? Please share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email etc) by using social media buttons at the top of the blog. Or post to your personal blog and anywhere else you feel appropriate. Thank you.

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