Wednesday, March 7, 2007


TRANSITION – a character who is on the threshold of a new life but not yet able to let go of the previous stage of their life. Eg adolescence to adulthood (Y Tu Mamma). Moments where a character is facing a different kind of adulthood – eg. The Good Girl is about giving up freedom, and About Shmidt is about to retire from his job, and Stand By Me is about a girl who is going to high school. All of the main characters here are facing a new bit of life and are reluctant to leave their old bit of life.

CHARACTERS. Rites of Passage characters have to face change that is inevitable – often it’s ‘time’ or ‘age’ bringing a new situation into your life that you aren’t ready yet to live. The characters ATTITUDE has to change.They have to learn what it is they want. They might not achieve moving on or have to accept they can’t have what they used to have. These characters are often taken away in order to learn what it is that they need to learn.There is often a section in a ROP they term ‘creating a space to learn’ – eg Y Tu Mamma – they go to the beach, About Shmidt – goes to Denver.

Rites of Passage characters are ‘incomplete,’ and active – they want to do things and are restless, searching.They are stuck at a moment in their lives but aren’t conscious and search around for something to do. They find somewhere to go, which is an actual journey. ROP characters make active choices but do something completely different. They usually do a form of ‘distraction’ which in some way connects. They are trying to hold on to something. They are heading towards a moment of understanding.

They don’t know what’s wrong – so they don’t know how to tell anyone what’s wrong.


The stakes matter to the audience more than the character. We can see what’s really wrong. We care about them because we recognise something about them. We have to care. Not a surprise ending – we have to see where this character needs to get to.

Often take characters away from normal life – that is away from their usual reality (eg in The Good Girl she has an affair).

Often literal sometimes metaphorical. ROP is as much about letting go as it is about moving on.

CATALYST – death is a way of allowing themselves to face up to what they need to face up to. Stand By Me – finding the body he needs to accept his brother is dead and that’s the way he is going to live – he is then able to stand upto Keifer Sutherland character. About Shmidt – finally he has to accept his daughter is going to marry and the death of his idea of what his daughter was. He has to face the fact that his relationship as it was, is dead. This is what allows him to face up to his wife’s death.
Death is often what most of us are trying to come to terms with and another (sort of) death is often a way they come to terms with it.


ROP often need a voiceover when they don’t have a confidant. Eg. About Shmidt letters.

Drama and Rites of Passage 'Shapes"

At the one-day genre course at The Scriptfactory Kate Leys talked about how there are no tick boxes or formula etc to write in either of these dramas. However she suggests what can be useful, is to look at what 'shape' these genres take.

Is characterised by …
group of people facing a crucial pivotal moment in their life. Change needs to happen, could happen, might happen.
Multiple protagonists (which spreads the goal across the range). Varied goals, several different people will have varying goals eg Little Miss Sunshine.
Conflict. Comes from part of the situation, not a bad guy. Comes from whatever it is that happened or is happening. Change. Some of the characters change and some don’t. There are a range of possible reactions. We can see that they've changed (or not).
Goal. People don’t usually begin with a goal – the goal comes along. The goals are met across a range. (often leaving an awful lot of room for what is going to happen after the credits).
Acceptance’ is often the ending. Resolution is often left with us. Eg. Little Miss Sunshine we can see how far they have come even if they can’t.


Will generally have a single protagonist.
Goal – The goal is with us (we have a goal for the characters). They will typically have a goal but it will be nothing to do with what they really need ( their goal is usually a displacement activity, and this activity is usually related to the theme in some way). We can see the character needs something but they can’t.
Conflict. Is internal, generated by themselves.
Change. Will change by going through some kind of rites of passage. They reach a new part of their lives and let go of an old part.
Resolution. We see they’ve achieved their goal. Doesn't have to be a good end - somebody has gone through a rites of passage and now feel whole. They often know they have changed.
Rites of Passage – are usually set in the past, as the characters do not understand their situations and selves immediately. So for eg Stand By Me is a memory, About Shmitd told in letters.

* DISCLAIMER. I'm not the world's best note taker, but I wanted to make these notes available to folk who couldn't make the class or couldn't afford it etc, in the hope someone may find them useful. So if I've got anything wrong, TUFF.


(general notes)
Stories have to be…

Organized (structured)

Usually into a continuous narrative and they have an ending

About CHANGE – the impact of one thing on another.

Need characters for us to follow.

The journey a character takes is how we follow the story

Kate argues that there aren’t “7”, or “8” or “13” stories, but ONE. And that is “A stranger comes to town.”

You may need to kill this stranger, absorb it, deal with it, etc.

The stranger brings conflict, change, that the character will have to deal with in some way, usually by achieving some kind of maturity. Or the character deals with it by using skills they already have (but didn’t realise).

Drama and Rites of Passage examples

Starting to type my notes from the scriptfactory...

The Godfather
Little Miss Sunshine
The Ice Storm
Little Children
All About Eve
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
American Beauty
The Queen
It’s a Wonderful Life
Breakfast Club
American Grafitti
Big Chill
Notes on a Scandal
21 Grams
In the Bedroom
12 Angry Young Men
You Me and Everyone We Know


Stand by Me

Tu Mamma Tambien
My Summer of Love
About Shmitt
The Good Girl
(The Virgin Suicides)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

British Films

According to some survey (think somewhere on UKFC site) we, as British audiences
New talent
‘our voice’

Up North drama
Working class reality
Films that look too much like TV

Monday, March 5, 2007

NewWriting NeWorlds festival – call for submissions

The NewWriting NewWorlds Festival in Glasgow is currently accepting script submissions for this year's new writing festival at Gilmorehill G12 in June, which will be part of the Glasgow West End Festival.
Plays selected will receive development with the festival dramaturgical team and a full production at the NewWriting NewWorlds Festival, said the organizers.
Performances should be less than 30minutes in length, require no more than six performers and have minimal set and staging.
All submissions should have a cover letter with the title, author's name and contacts. Post three copies with a cover letter by March 15th 2007 to: Suzi Simpson, Artistic Director, New Writing, NewWorlds 2007 Flat 0/1, 25 Belmont Street, Glasgow, G12 8ER or

Brand Literary Magazine- Call for submissions

Brand is a new literary magazine edited by Guild Member Nina Rapi and published by the Creative Writing Programme, University of Greenwich. Poetry editor is Cherry Smyth. Contributing editors include Ali Smith, Yang Lian, Shaun Levin, Caroline Smith, Amarjit Chandan, Ersi Sotiropoulou, Alev Adil, Nina Steiger. Brand is bi-annual and the first issue comes out in June 2007.

Brand is looking for writing that takes risks formally and/or thematically; has a strong voice/is engaged and challenging; is culturally diverse. We welcome international work and translations. We are focusing on the short form and are looking for high quality writing in any of the following: short stories (max. 2.500 words); short plays or performance texts (max. 10 minutes); micro-fiction (up to five pieces and/or a total of 500 words); poetry (you can submit up to three poems and max of 40 lines each); creative non-fiction (e.g. memoir and literary essays, max. 2000 words).

Please submit work (2 copies) to: Managing Editor Michael Langan, Creative Writing Programme, EPS, School of Humanities, King William Building, University of Greenwich, Old Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9LS. Please email further information .The deadline is: 19TH of March 2007.

In Conversation with John Finch - (North Yorkshire)

Writers Guild and Script Yorkshire member John Finch didn't just write TV drama - he was one of just a handful of pioneering TV writers who defined the genre. Part of the original Coronation Street writing team; author of Family at War and Sam, John Finch's towering achievements in the medium of television drama have never been exceeded. Now he will be sharing some of his insights with us at the Victoria Theatre in the lovely Dales town of Settle.
Date: 17th March

Time: 3pm - 5pm

Venue: Castleberg Room, Victoria Theatre, Settle. 

Cost: Script Yorkshire and WGGB members £8. Non-members £12 (includes light refreshments from 2.45pm) Places are limited so booking is essential. 

To book contact Caroline Small: members@scriptyorkshire,
For further information about John Finch's work please log on to:

Script Yorkshire workshops

Gwyneth Hughes: The Writing of 'Five Days' – (Leeds)
Writers’ Guild and Script Yorkshire member, Gwyneth Hughes, comes to the Playhouse to talk about the writing of her recent BBC TV drama, Five Days. Gwyneth has written extensively for television. Her recent credits include Cherished and Mysterious Creature, both of which are dramatisations of real-life stories.
Date: 10th March
Time: 11.30am – 1.00pm
Venue: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Cost: Free to WGGB and Script Yorkshire members. Non-members: £4.00. No need to book.

Writing for Film and Television

Jim Eldridge is an award-winning scriptwriter with 35 years experience and 260 TV scripts and 260 Radio scripts broadcast all over the world, with 3 of his TV movies having theatrical releases. He has also had 60 books published internationally. He has also been a BAFTA judge 3 times. Twice a year in spring and autumn) Jim runs writing workshops in Bowness on Solway in Cumbria .
Each workshop is limited to 10 people and costs £29 for the day (incl VAT). All aspects of the business are dealt with, not just the art of writing but the business of writing for film, TV, radio and books, including how to break into the business.
For full details go to Jim's website at
or contact him at 016973-52246, or by post at: Pear Tree Farm, Bowness on Solway , Cumbria CA7 5AF .

Bradford Film Festival

The Bradford film festival will be held from March 9th to 24th and covers a wide variety of different aspects of getting your film from conception to distribution with guidance and advice on funding, distribution, post production and working with actors and how they interact with a film crew.

The festival will also offer the opportunity to attend the networking
event which promises to be a lively and energetic evening, devoted to getting
filmmakers in the region meeting and exchanging ideas.

For more information log on to

Adventures in Fiction

Adventures in Fiction are offering five subsidized placements for first-time novelists of commercial and literary fiction. The placements, which have an individual value of £2.000, will take the form of an apprenticeship with a professional writer working in a similar genre. The five apprentices will be selected from open competition.
The deadline is 20th March 2007. Apprenticeships in Fiction aim to encourage diversity, excellence and originality. For further information go to:
Tel: Marion Urch on 020 7354 2598

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Thriller Workshop

Went to another genre day at the scriptfactory last week.

My favourite moment of the day (ok I exaggerate) was where writers got the chance to workshop a one page outline, should they choose. "Let's break for a cup of tea" said the tutor, "and then we'll look at your problems - I mean PROJECTS."


The most disappointing thing about this day was that we didn't learn the Thriller dance, which I've always wanted to do. Waste of time going in wet gel.

(er, can you smell cheese?)

Notes to follow.


Interesting how I used the word "interesting" three times in about the first three lines of that last post. I thought it might be interesting to try and understand the subtext of that.

After thinking about it in the bath I realised I often use it when someone is saying something I don't quite understand.

"Oh really? That's interesting!" (meaning "eh?")

Conclusion: I don't know what half of the notes I got back on the first cut actually mean.

Too fick innit.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

First cut

Had first lot of feedback from execs. They say it is a strong first cut and heading in the right direction. Made some interesting comments such as the pov has changed from the scripted characters pov, to another characters. This was an interesting note, and we did observe that there was one character who seemed to be telling the story from a more interesting angle, and so went with it. Happy to change it back to the original pov, but if it's not as strong when we do we will have to think again. From sitting in on some of the edit of the last feature my boss made, I learnt that sometimes the rushes dictate the film you make, and not the script.

Got a whole page of other comments. Some I agree with and others I am more than happy to try out. And a few that made me want to deck the wall. Talked to the editor and we agreed that we should go away and think about the comments for a few days, then come back to it and make all our decisions based on what is best for the film.