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My screenwriting workshops stimulate fresh and exciting storytelling, and show how genres can be used creatively and intelligently in ways that attract audiences.
The workshops focus on specific genres - Science or Speculative Fiction, Horror, Neo Noir - as well as related topics like Creating Fear in Films and Mixing Genres.
Students are encouraged to ask questions, give opinions and interact as they explore the workshop's ideas.
Carefully-edited film clips illustrate each of the workshop's topics, giving students a strong sense of their practical application on screen.
Most importantly of all, fun and interesting exercises encourage students to apply the ideas on the spot, leaving them with detailed and varied notes towards new projects, which can be developed later.
Dedicated Facebook groups allow students to meet each other before the workshop and carry on communicating afterwards, sharing links, images and documents - and hopefully finding creative partners and collaborators.
Creating Fear in Films
Fear is a fundamental emotion. Almost all genres require a level of fear - and almost all audiences also demand from films (even if they may pretend otherwise).
Some of our best-loved cinema memories involve frightening characters, scary moods and shocking moments.
At some level, it seems, we need cinema to terrify us.
So it follows that many genres - not just horror, but also thrillers, crime stories, war films, and others - must deliver fear in a variety of convincing ways.
But what is fear, exactly?
Why do people want (or need) to be scared?
And how can we successfully weave fear into powerful stories?
The workshop answers these questions, illustrating its concepts with some carefully-chosen clips.
Meanwhile, stimulating exercises will help you to master the ideas and apply them to your own work.
Suspense in Stories
Suspense is all about manipulating information within narratives – revealing and withholding it; the principles of suspense can enrich most forms of drama, and can be applied in numerous forms, from the extreme to the subtle.
As well as creating unforgettable scenes and sequences, it can lead audiences through long narratives, keeping them glued to the screen for season after season.
Many shows like BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, DEXTER and HANNIBAL wouldn’t have worked at all if they hadn’t incorporated the principles of long-term suspense.
But there are many ways of doing this, and it isn’t a static concept; it’s constantly evolving. This workshop examines the changing forms of suspense as they apply to numerous genres.
Anatomising the twisted and divided side of the human heart
Do you find antiheroes and flawed, conflicted or damaged protagonists intriguing?
Are you attracted to stories that resist the easy certainty of happy endings and neat resolutions?
Do you suspect that human psychology and motivations are more twisted and disturbed than many people are willing to admit?
Then the Dark Thriller/Neo-Noir is probably the genre you should be writing - and you need to know more about it.
Ne Noir incorporates stories of addiction and obsession, doomed love, deluded detectives and corrupt institutions.
This workshop unpacks the genre to find the ideas that make it tick, and shows how these can be applied to make great new stories.
Creating new story worlds by boldly extending ideas
A perennial favourite with audiences, Science Fiction is a huge genre - in some ways, more a way of framing narratives - which can inform many kinds of story.
One major reason for its popularity is its inherently cinematic quality.
Science Fiction gives writers the exciting opportunity to construct entire worlds in which to test their ideas.
It can be poetic (Tarkovsky's STALKER), satirical (Woody Allen's SLEEPER), horrific (Ridley Scott's ALIEN), or romantic (Spike Jonze's HER)..
In essence, SF can act as a "modifier", putting a fresh, interesting spin on a myriad of genres and giving them a new lease of life.
Whether you're new to Science Fiction or have already worked in the genre, this workshop will send your thoughts in new, creative directions.
Exploring and providing outlets for deep, primal fears
Horror gives writers and filmmakers enormous creative potential.
We can cut to the chase, dealing with deep, primal issues that other types of story merely skate around.
Now is a good time to write in this demanding genre, as it has recently embraced new audiences by emphasiding its more 'artistic' aspects.
A 'horror' aspect can greatly intensify the cinematic interest of stories, increasing their stakes, heightening their emotions and opening up exciting visual possibilities.
It enables us to create living metaphors, embodiments of deep, dark emotions like anger and grief.
The workshop will help you think through the horror genre in new and creative ways, and open up your work to fresh possibilities.
Script Reading and Assessment
Writing Very Short Films
Scripts are the blueprints of filmmaking ... and they're not just the business of writers.
Everyone who works in film - actors, producers, technicians and financiers - needs to know how to read and assess them.
Scripts are the 'bibles' of location scouts, art directors, and costume people.
Read correctly, they reveal every element of a film's eventual appearance on the screen, so they must be assessed in detail.
They are also the major indicator of whether a project is viable or worthwhile.
Films often take years to make, and represent a real investment of time, emotion and creativity.
This workshop takes
“A film can never be too short” – Paul Bassett Davies
There's an increasing number of outlets for very short films (less than five minutes). There are even festivals for them, like the Extremely Shorts Film Festival. Adverts and commercials are themselves short films, as are movie trailers.
But what can be done in this format, and how best to approach it?
Arguably, all art works best when operating under some kind of constraint: a totalitarian political system which demands symbolism and subterfuge to get a message across; a self-imposed set of rules like those contained in the Dogme 95 Manifesto; or a rigorous structure like a haiku or a sonnet.
Time is another powerful constraint, and one that can produce memorable work when looked at in the right way – as an asset, rather than the opposite.
This workshop opens up ways to think about very short films from a writing and concept point of view.
What works well in the form? What doesn’t work at all? How can a very short film be really original and memorable?