10 tips for screenwriting

39a-Older-Dalton-Trumbo-photoScreenwriting can be tough. I should know – I haven’t completed a screenplay in 2 years, even a short one. Following conversations with a number of local screenwriters, I’ve complied a list of 10 tips for screenwriting.

1. Get your writing conditions right.

Know yourself and the conditions in which you are most productive: be that writing in a home office shrouded in complete silence; writing in a library where it is quiet but there are still people around to watch; writing in a noisy cafe where you barista is regularly interrupting you. Your preferred conditions might change with your mood – if that is the case know and recognise your moods and where you should head to write.

2. Know your audience.

Cinema is, more often than not, entertaining. When you sit down to write a screenplay you should know exactly who you want to engage and entertain for a good two hours. The writing process is so solitary that is easy to forget that you are writing for an audience.

3. Practice dialogue regularly.

Screenplays tend to be pretty dialogue heavy in the sound age of cinema and it is trickiest part of writing. Best to do writing exercises on dialogue, going for the natural and engaging flow, not falling into traps of clunky exposition or an overuse of quips (see Marvel Movies).

4. Read, read and read.

Writers should read. Soak up stories, turns of phases, character traits, and more. The more you read, the wider the breadth of the world and storytelling you have to draw on. This isn’t about ripping off or even inspiration – it is about having that acute understanding of storytelling and characters when you set about writing.

5. Observe, observe, and observe.

Writers should watch and listen. In most cases you are going to be writing about human beings, and there is no better source for character and behaviour than the people around you.Pay attention to them and you will find a wealth of material on the human character to draw for your screenplay.

6. Know where you are going.

It is important to know where your story is going before you begin – that is have a good idea of how your story is going to end and then start taking the steps to get to that ending. How you get there may change on redrafting but you will still know where each new step is taking you.

7. Get to know your characters.

Write out character profiles, know exactly who they are and where they have been. Screenplays often tip over because there seems to be little thought of motivation to what a character says or decides. Another great way to get to know your characters is put them in different scenarios, write short screenplays on other episodes of their lives. This will help them fill fully fleshed out in your proper screenplay.

8. Don’t be afraid to get feedback.

Too many writers will sit on something, refuse to show their writing to anyone and maybe one day make a film of it with never getting feedback. Make sure you show your screenplay to a lot of different people, especially people from your intended audience and especially other writers. Their feedback will be invaluable in turning your screenplay into something great. It will also prepare you for the harder feedback you will get in the professional.

9. Don’t hang on a screenplay for too long.

If a screenplay or a story isn’t working, let it go and move onto your next story. If it is just a scene or a character or a line that isn’t working, drop it and do something else. It is usually wrong because it is just wrong, and your next idea might be the very right one.

10. Be ready for your screenplay to change.

Films rarely turn out how you envisioned them when writing the screenplay. Often they come out better. Be ready to amend your screenplay as production chugs along and be ready to see parts of your screenplay on the cutting room floor. Flexibility in this process will make it smooth and help you to see the best version of your writing.

Kino #99: Open-Screen Film Night

Kino Sydney returns on Monday 12 October, chock full of: local short films; filmmaker Q&As; featured filmmaker for Q&A session; live music; pizza; baked goods; lucky door prizes; and more. Everything kicks off from 6pm at 107 Projects. Tickets are $10 and strictly limited.

Come cheer on as first time filmmakers, local favourites, and seasoned pros strut their stuff and premiere new short films. Tickets are only $10 AND includes food. Buy online and save your seat. Please note that Kino Sydney is an 18+ event.

FILMMAKERS: Kino Sydney is city’s only open-screen film night. We will screen your film no matter style, genre or level of expertise. Just book a slot and receive FREE access to the screening party. Register now.

Want to be part of a filmmaking team working on a project for Kino #99? Come along to Kino Creates #2: our new networking night on Wednesday 16 September.

Kino #99- (2)

10 tips for casting your next short film

10959597_948777428466731_7462286224999387591_nAre you ready to leave behind casts made up by your family and friends? Take the next step in casting your short film with our tips below: based on years of facilitating local filmmaking. We prepared this in response to the lack of casting advice elsewhere.

1. Come to the next Kino Sydney screening and spend the pre-show, intermission, and post-show time to meet actors.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course we were going to plug our own activities but Kino Sydney Open Screen Film Nights are a great place to meet actors.

I say this from the years I spent as a regular punter of Kino Sydney. I’ve met and worked with actors who became something of muse and we shared long lasting creative relationships.

Kino Sydney attracts plenty of actors who want to meet filmmakers for experience and footage for their show reels. The actors from the films screening that night are often in attendance. You have the advantage of seeing their work on the big screen before approaching them to take on heroine role in your next epic. Just come ready to chat.

2. Sign up for an online casting forum

StarNow is an amazing resource that keeps its talent directory full of profiles and headshots. Have a browse around see who might suit your script. It does cost to contact them so make sure you watch some their clips before you do. You can also post an audition call out.

10959611_948774308467043_2941366848879759203_n3. Post a call out on Facebook and acting schools.

On Facebook: You might be surprised whom your non-actor friends and family know. Doing a call out even to your network may deliver some recommendations and results. Like any call out, just make sure it sounds like a fun and collaborative experience. Kino Sydney has a Filmmakers Guild group on which a call out may produce some results.

Acting Schools: Acting schools want to feed opportunities to their students. It is one of the reasons the students pay them money. That might have a notice board or send out weekly e-mails. Just have a poke around and find the appropriate contact.

4. Go to the local theatre.

Attend local theatre and familiarise yourself with the local talent that is around. Go up and chat to the actors after the show and form a connection before you start talking about your own work. Actors are looking for all the experience they can get and you might be surprised who is interested. We aren’t talking about Sydney Theatre – but The Old Fitz, Old 505 Theatre, and Rock Surfers.

1378579_948778318466642_5652276984617956977_n5. Make the experience of acting for you attractive and beneficial.

Directors want to work with actors who can act. Actors want to work with directors who can direct. If you want to attract actors to your film, link to your previous work and be ready to pitch the project to them. Form a relationship and keep it going, giving them updates on what is happening with the film at all stages.

If you are hoping they will do it for free, make sure you offer them everything you can: travel costs and access to all the footage for show reels.

6. Make sure the actors you cast can do what you want them to do.

Auditions are a great way to do this. That is assuming you have a choice of actors and the resources to do auditions. Either way make sure you have a conversation with the potential actors about what they will be required to do in an honest way. I’ve had problems where only half way through a shoot I realised my actor could not turn on the waterworks. I’ve heard horror stories from actors who have been confronted with requests for a sexualised delivery of a scene they were not expecting.10311857_948773821800425_7378790325062835903_n

7. Hire a casting agent.

Enlist an agent to work with you on casting. They will already have a talent portfolio on hand and make informed suggestions for the role. They do cost money though.

8. Cast the right non-actors10175986_948773981800409_3494799502174566669_n

We’ve all heard the success stories of award winning feature films with non-actors. This works when non-actors live and breath experiences similar to the character. It also helps to find the ones who ooze personality.

9. Build relationships with your actors.

Found a great actor who thinks you’re a great director? Keep casting them. Actor-Director relationships can be incredibly rewarding for both parties for ease of work and managing to draw out the best in each other.

396460_358231987521281_1597367194_n10. Screen your work at Kino Sydney (or other short film screenings).

We’ve already mentioned that plenty of actors come to our screenings and they are out at other film screenings. Actors are professional networkers and they are there looking to meet filmmakers.

Screen your best film at Kino Sydney and if it is really up to scratch you won’t have to be introducing yourself to everyone you can. The actors will be lining up to talk to you. Register to screen at Kino here.

Kino #97: Open-Screen Film Night

529066_414666908544455_1447300502_nKino Sydney returns chook full of colourful, sometimes gonzo, and always-inventive short films on Monday 3rd August. Join us from 6pm at 107 Projects in Redfern for short films, filmmaker Q&As, live music, pizza and giveaways.

Come cheer on as first time filmmakers, local favourites, and seasoned pros strut their stuff and premiere new short films.

Tickets are only $10 and can be bought online in advance or at the door dependent on availability. RSVP and invite friends on Facebook.

Filmmakers: Kino Sydney is city’s only open-screen film night. We will screen your film no matter style, genre or level of expertise. Just book a slot and receive free access to the screening party. Register now.

Join a filmmaking team: Want to be part of a filmmaking team working on a project for Kino #97? Introduce yourself and your talent on the Kino Sydney Filmmakers Guild: https://www.facebook.com/groups/433864663307412/

Kino #97: Open-Screen Film Night, Monday 3rd August, 6pm.

107 Projects, 107 Redfern Street, Redfern, 2016.

Tickets are $10. Buy now.

The Kino Reviews

Kino Sydney has just launched ‘The Kino Reviews’ – a new website that provides reviews by filmmakers, for filmmakers.

kinoreview1 (1)Home to sharp and succinct reviews of new and old films with a focus on what a filmmaker can learn from each film for their own craft.

The website will also be home to interviews with filmmakers and commentary on filmmaker news.