Since the Forum's inception in 2000, participants have gone on to award-winning success, including Jack Thorne, James Dormer, AnneMarie Draycott, Thomas Phipps & Peter Bowden, Kayleigh Llewllyn & Matthew Barry, Tony Cooke, Nat Luurstema, Louis Paxton, Jamie Crichton, Claire Wilson and Josh Appignanesi. We give undiscovered writers the rare and potentially career changing opportunity to have their work performed in front of prominent UK and US executives.
Oh So That is How It Works from Ben Blaine's Shooting People Blog.
HALLO PANDA by Ben and Chris Blaine was featured in Nov 2010.
I have been meaning to let both my regular readers know how it went on Monday night at BAFTA but it went well so I have spent the past days nursing a hangover whilst trying to sort out a proposal for iFeatures. So basically I have been just like every other aspiring filmmaker in the UK. (Is there anyone out there not currently researching the history and street layout of Bristol? Show of hands please)
Anyway, on Monday night excerpts of our feature length version of HALLO PANDA were featured as part of the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum. My mate Claire (Wilson) said that the event was brilliant and something that was worth our time submitting stuff to, but I have to admit I did so with a degree of trepidation. Now having been through the process I understand it and it is smarter and harder than you think.
The basic set-up is quite straightforward. Ten minute extracts from three scripts are given a rehearsed reading in front of an audience and an industry figure who then gets to question the author.
Naturally a great deal of attention goes on the reading. Each script is given a director used to working in the Rocliffe way, each is also given a composer, an expert casting director and an artist to create a mood-setting back drop. Though the actors are not expected to be off the page, the extracts are not merely read but acted out. In our case, director Paul Cavanagh also used a couple of chairs as a very flexible piece of scenery which morphed seamlessly from the back of a bus to a tree branch as the story progressed.
But despite all the effort and energy going into the reading I still had my concerns. Could ten pages really give a full insight into the script? Would this semi-theatrical approach obscure the cinematic element of the script? Paul had convinced us to change the extract and though I trusted him, I could not quite shake the feeling that in giving the audience the start of the story we were really just repeating what we'd done with the short and not quite showing off the real depth of the story.
However I had overlooked the impact of the Q&A session with the industry chair. In our case this was the magnificent Gillies MacKinnon who, after all three projects had been given their turn, gave a brilliant and concise run down not only of the twists of his career to date but also of his creative philosophy which feels something like - em>never the mind the bollocks, what is it about?
Having read our extract before the evening started, Gillies had, not being a man to mince his words, crossed out large sections of our dialogue which he felt were redundant. He had even, apparently, toyed with the idea of bringing along his own version of the script to give to the cast instead however, after watching it performed he was magnanimous enough to admit on stage that he would happily eat his words. It worked. It was funny. It has a natural rhythm and flow that the cast really got hold of and, thanks to Paul, the piece leapt off the page.
Gillies did have concerns though and asked us (as usual) a series of painfully searching and accurate questions that got to the heart of what will make this film work or fail. And this was when I realised how Rocliffe really works. Of course the extract is not enough. Of course performing it on a stage with a couple of chairs does not paint the fullest picture. Instead it gives you no hiding place. It forces the audience not to enjoy it but to question it.
It is ordeal by fire, especially as this court marshall is taking place in front of an audience and at BAFTA. However if you have a clear sense of what your story really is, the questions soon stop feeling difficult and just become opportunities to get the film across.
We submitted to Rocliffe a first draft we finished a few months back and we have been working on the second ever since. Already the story has progressed and our thinking about it has clarified. Besides, in one form or another this film has been in our lives for four years or more. We know this story. The rehearsed reading grabbed everyone s attention, made them laugh, made them engage, but it was the Q&A session that then enabled us to really explain the film. Which just shows we were right to trust Paul, not only was direction smart and sympathetic but most of all, his choice of extract set up the Q&A perfectly.