Sunday, 28 April 2013

Scene 55: New Regular Feature - the Weekly Scene

I have decided to create a new, weekly feature for my blog. 

Taking some advice I've had recently from a producer, I am going to be trying to write a scene, or work at a script, every single day. 

To help do this I'm also going to post an original scripted scene on my blog every week, which is an idea not to dissimilar to that of one of my friends actually, who is writing a daily comic script on Facebook in his Comic Book Writing Challenge

All these scenes will be off the cuff and will be self-contained, stand-alone scenes - also in this case, and hopefully in future cases, I will have read the scene's dialogue out loud in an exercise to make the speech more natural. 

And to make it even more interesting you guys can suggest an idea for the scene each week! Just post an idea, a genre or even an object in the comments box below and I'll include it in my next scene! 

So here is scene number one, written after my own annoyed epiphany about Twitter and how it links into our celebrity culture. 


A large, modern student bar full of leather sofas and screeching, chattering students enjoying their Sunday.

At the crowded bar SOPHIE, 21, in short dress and jacket buys a couple of drinks. RACHEL, 22, in clumpy shoes and worn jeans, waits for her, picking at her flaking nail polish.

Together they wander through the tables glancing around - no room.

They head to the glass doors and go outside, into the weak sunshine.


Sophie and Rachel walk over to a picnic bench outside. They sit down.

Sophie's phone buzzes. She picks it up, and tapping the screen. Rachel stirs the ice in her drink with a straw.

So...? You wanted to talk?

Sophie looks up from her phone.

What? Oh yeah, yeah. Sorry. Twitter.

She slurps her drink through a straw quickly.

I love it. Are you on it?




Why not? It's awesome.

It's depressing.

(pulling a face)
Twitter? How? Most of its funny. Did you follow Jimmy Carr? Oh my god, he is hilarious.

I don't think he's that funny.

Well, how about someone else then? You could follow me!

(a bit sharp)
I don't want to follow anybody.

Oh someone's in a mood.

I'm not in a mood. Twitter's just stupid. I mean why do people do it?

So you can follow your favourite celebrities. That what I do.

Exactly! People just think that if they follow a celebrity on Twitter  they're somehow closer to them. That maybe, just maybe, something they post will be replied to. But it won't. Because you know what, everyone's going to to be following them. Because in reality that person doesn't even know you exist. They exist in our lives, we don't exist in theirs.

Sheesh. Are you sure you're not in a mood?

I said I'm not in a mood. (beat) Now say what you were going to say.

I'm dating someone Twitter.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Scene 54: Amazon Originals - Vote For Your Favourite Comedy Pilot!

So, if you haven't heard several online companies such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube are planning too or currently airing, original shows produced or commissioned by them - and now Amazon has joined in.

Amazon has just aired a slate of pilot comedies and kids shows online, includng the television version of the film Zombieland and a stop-motion comedy written by the brains between The Big Bang, which are currently free for anyone in the US and the UK to watch online.

However, unlike traditional television or even like the other online channels Amazon is letting the public decide which of these pilots should be kept and turned into full series. It's doing this by not only letting people vote or rate the shows, according to the Los Angles Times, but by looking at which shows are watched all the way through and which are shared most on social media. 

Some have criticised this as gimmicky, but to be honest I think television shows have always been governed by a loose voting system - the audience viewing figures. If you like a show, you watch it weekly and add your number to the viewing figures, effectively voting for that show.

That doesn't mean however that certain shows don't get pulled because viewing figures are 'considered to low' or in the classic Firefly case, the channel fails to give the series a chance by putting it in the right time slot. 

This is what makes Amazon's idea for greenlight programmes so interesting, because it really has given the audience real decision power - and because all the content is online, there's no fear of missing your audience due to bad scheduling because its always available. 

On Amazon you can not only rate and review a programme in real time, but you can share the content through social media, so a few fans could potentially share and encourage a bigger fanbase through social media - and this would help vote that pilot in. 

Meanwhile programmes on BBC, ITV and 4OD channels may be shared and talked about over social media, but because those channels are still relying on television set audience figures, all that viewing time online does make much of an impression. For the Amazon pilots, social media and sharing is their direct link to gaining more viewers, more voters and a place as a full blown series. 

All in all, it'll be interesting to see what happens to the pilots and whether this system of direct audience participation and voting works or not. 

I shall be reviewing Zombieland the TV series pilot and the pilot for Dark Minions, the stop-animation from The Big Bang writers later this week. In the meantime go and watch and vote for yourself at Amazon and for more on the story, check out the BBC report

Friday, 12 April 2013

Scene 53: Review of the Heartbreaker/ L'arnacouer

I am in an odd mood this week. For some reason I really want to watch rom-coms and wedding films - not that a good old rom-com once in a while isn't good. Fortunately I have a copy of Heartbreaker, which I bought weeks ago and have been meaning to watch. 

Heartbreaker (2010) is a French rom-com starring Romain Duris - who also starred in the films Moliere (2007) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2007) -  as Alex Lippi, a man who's job is to break-up relationships. 

He explains in the titles that in couples there are three types of women: happy, unknowingly unhappy and unhappy but admitting it. He deals with the last kind, seducing them slightly, then letting them down gently by saying its too late for him and ultimately making the woman in question finally admit to herself she's unhappy and can do better. 

Alex does these jobs with his sister Melanie and her husband Marc, who deal with setting up romantic situations, surveillance, research and so forth. 

Then one day Alex is hired by a rich florist and possibly mob boss to break-up the seemingly perfect relationship between his daughter Juliette - played by singer Vanessa Paradis, who voiced Lucille in the rather good French CGI animation A Monster in Paris (2011) - and her fiance before their wedding. 

Alex takes the job, needing the money because the break-up business is not only almost broke but because he owes a lot of money. So he turns up in Monaco, where Juilette is spending a few days alone before the wedding, pretending to be a bodyguard hired for her by her father - and then in the great tradition of rom-com proceeds to fall in love with her. 

I really liked the cinematography of this film. There were some great shots and scenes that seemed more artistically composed or in the style of an action film, than perhaps you'd normally have in the average sort of rom-com/ chick flick, particularly with its wide shots that incorporate alot of sky, sea and sand at the beginning and in the later scenes in Monaco, especially in the lovers dash to meet.

The Monaco setting was also a wonderful choice. The place looks so romantic near the harbour in an exotic,  sun and sea way, but there's also the epic cityscape that lines the coast too.

The leads are both very likable. Romain Duris is definitely worthy of a rom-com lead in looks, but his character also comes across as genuinely charming and honest - despite the fact he's lying most of the time. 

Vanessa Paradis' character is also very good. Her character is rather quiet, but she manages to comes across as independent and capable, yet humanly vulnerable - without having to be ditzy.

Like Romain Duris, she is also a sexy, attractive character, without being obviously so.

I also think wardrobe did a brilliant job making both actors look glamourous and romantic in an understated way - and I know this isn't a very film critic thing to say, but I wouldn't mind owning any one of the dresses she wore in this film! 

I must mention that there is a lot Dirty Dancing thing going on in the film. It is Juliette's favourite film and the two leads do a whole homage in a restaurant by dancing the final dance from the movie. Do not worry however if like me you haven't seen Dirty Dancing, as the aforementioned dance scene is great anyway. 

Obviously the film is not perfect, and there are several things I did not enjoy. First of all, the initial idea seemed alright when I first read the blurb, but after watching the film I found it more silly than I had expected. 

The break-up operations both felt rather ludicrous. Especially the lengths the team went to creating these romantic situations, and how easily they seem to be able to do it - how do three normal people manage to access street cameras for starters, did Marc hack them? What about Melanie dressing up as all these hotel staff? The whole thing is like a big spy operation, but as far as we know this is just a little business set-up by them. 

Then Melanie mentions they are not breaking-even, even though such a service would obviously cost a lot, and Alex manages to demand £50,000 for the five days he works with Juliette. 

That was another problem I had with the plot, Alex's apparent debt to the mob. Perhaps I missed a few subtitles, but I never understood exactly how he'd ended up borrowing so much money - he lives with his sister after all. Though she does complain he buys expensive suits, so maybe that's what he's been spending it all on. 

The addition of the debt also felt unnecessary. It may have had an ironic purpose later, but I think if I had been the script editor I would have cut it.  It just makes the film feel less real, and even sillier. The film would've have worked just as well if it had merely been another job for Alex, except this time he actually falls in love. Even just the risk to the business would have been enough. 

Anyway, I've realised how much I've written and despite having more opinions about Heartbreaker and rom-coms in general, I think I'll stop here and save those for another day. 

So in summary, a visually enjoyable film with an excellent leading pair of characters and actors that is fun to watch, however I would have personally preferred a slightly more grounded, realistic plot. 


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Scene 52: First Impressions of Sony Vegas Movie Studio

I've missed  a week of blogging, so this week I'm going to be posting two entries to make-up for the one I missed last Tuesday. 

Anyway, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I have recently acquired the new Sony Vegas Movie Studio version 11 editing software for a PC I am going to use just for editing.

Yesterday was the first time I've ever used the software, to edit a short film, and I have to say I picked up the basics pretty easily and Sony Vegas has a clear layout and a set of useful tutorials that can get you started and point out the important features -  and as a BBC editor once said to me, once you know how to edit you can use any software. Its just a case of re-learning which command key or tool does what.

That was the only problem I had, re-learning how to use the keys and shortcuts after having been used to Final Cut's style.

Final Cut is the software I've used for the last few years, ever since  I started using it at media college. I have used Windows Movie Maker, but that was when I was young and creating fanvids with still images. I've also used iMovie, but only to the extent of importing footage off my camera into it, and then exporting it as QuickTimes to use in Final Cut Express - the slimmed down version of FCP I have on my Mac. 

Anyway, so I had re-learn how to do everything, and most of it was straight forward. There was one rather irritating thing though - in FCP you hit the spacebar to start and stop playing the footage on the timeline or in the preview windows - in Sony Vegas you hit the spacebar to start the footage, but when you hit it again, it goes back to where you last left off - if you want to pause the footage you have to either mouse click the playback controls or press Ctrl+F12.

So of course, there I was hitting the space bar automatically all the time, or I'd click the mouse and not actually manage to click pause and the footage would continue to ramble on. It may take another couple of edits before I remember not to keep hitting the spacebar subconsciously.

Then again I managed to find out how to close a gap between tracks on the timeline and how separate audio  from footage through a couple of handy YouTube videos - and they are both straight forward to do. 

Now I've done the basic editing, the next step is titles, credits and exporting - all of which I've had a quick go at so far, but I really need to look at some more tutorials and get more comfortable with the programme. 

I am looking forward to finding all the FX effects and copyright free soundtracks Sony Vegas is meant to have somewhere in the programme, as it would be fun to add some explosions into something - at least I hope that's what the box means by FX! 

Anyway, I'll see how it goes. I think its very clearly laid out and has some nice features so far - for example being able to watch footage on your computer before importing - and I'm hoping to have plenty of editing jobs to do soon, so with practise, tutorials and a few good YouTube videos I should be an expert in it pretty quickly! 

In the meantime, does anyone use or have Sony Vegas Movie Studio? Any thoughts?