Tag Archives: filmmaking

The use of Flashback in Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace (dir. Michael Apted, written by Steven Knight) seems to be the first major film to depict the life and activism of Wilfred Wilberforce. I was reluctant to write any review because I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of Wilberforce’s life. However, from a creative point of view, I find the use of flashback interesting.

Many biopics, from made for tv movies to big budget blockbusters, use flashback as a creative device. At one extreme you have The Iron Lady, where almost every other scene is the elderly Thatcher remembering her rise and fall. Then there’s the TV movie like Coco Chanel, where flashbacks are used intermittently to show a character still in her prime remembering how she got where she was while preparing a show.

The classic, however is a film like Gandhi (Dir: David Attenborough, writer: John Briley, 1982), where we start at the death of the main character, then tell the story in sequence, introducing the protagonist just before that fateful first decision is made. But, all these devices open a story toward the end of the story, not in the middle. Continue reading The use of Flashback in Amazing Grace

It takes more than 100 days

stone cylinder tower
Top of Wellington Monument, Pen Dinas, Penparcau

2 years ago, I witnessed the re-enactment of the battle of Waterloo.  Thousands of talented volunteers from around the world walked through the footsteps of Napoleon, Wellington, and Blücher, and their allies and armies.

Although we didn’t have the best seats on the field, it was wonderful that so many dedicated re-enactors, or living historians, brought history to life for us.  If you missed it, you should have been there. Continue reading It takes more than 100 days

3 ways to work with a writing partner

Ptara logo above wordcloud artwork

Or, “Three Ways to Collaborate on a Screenplay.”

A lot of people offer advice to screenwriters. We don’t. We write scripts in house, produce our own stories, and provide services to film production companies. So, screenwriters are not our target market.

So far, apart from a few student projects where working as part of a team was part of the grade, I tend to write alone.   I’m not looking for a writing partner, and unless I were hired to work as part of a team I don’t know if I’d work with one.

However, if you do write screenplays, and you have found your writing partner, I can tell you what seems to work for others.

1. Taking turns.
I found this one reading Joe Eszterhas’s autobiography. He did this with a friend and said it was a lot of fun. The resulting film wasn’t one of his biggest hits, but oh well. Taking turns is as simple as it sounds: One writer writes one draft, then sends it to the other writer for the next draft, bouncing it back and forth until they’re both happy with the final result.
2. Alternating scenes.
I also read a book by two comedy writers who’s movies I enjoy, called “writing movies for fun and profit.” I laughed at Ben Garrant and Thomas Lennon’s films (the Pacifier, Night at The Museum, even Balls of Fury), but their scripts were much better than that book. Some jokes just have to be performed to make sense, I suppose.

Anyway, since the book is mostly written tongue in cheek (their films grossed a billion worldwide perhaps, but they’ve only seen a tiny fraction of that), I can’t be sure that this is really their working method, but it might work. First, you sit together in a room, and rack your brains until you come up with an outline. Then, each writer writes a scene for part of that outline. They claim the outline is the hard part. After you’ve written the odd scenes and your partner the even scenes, you switch and polish off the other writer’s work.

3. Lyrics and rhythm.
I often hear teacher of music composition express doubt that creative collaboration is possible. When confronted with great collaborators, they assume one artist wrote the lyrics and the other composed the melody, or something like that.
This can work in musicals, as illustrated in Topsy Turvy, and sort of reflects the way the famous 1930s Wizard of Oz was written.With a non-musical script, it’s a little more tricky. But, it can be done. French films have two kinds of writing credits, one for the story line or treatment, and one for the writer who does the dialogue.

Now, before you approach me or anyone else with one of these, consider that all work best if you know your writing partner well, or if you have an existing working relationship with the writers. Do you share the same taste in films and stories? Do you have a story that you both want to tell in the same way? If you’re not on the same page, it probably won’t work.

Also, unless you’re both loaded, you’ll probably need some money to sustain yourselves while writing, or extra patience while your partner tries to find time to write. The reality is multitasking celebrities usually get ghost writers to write for them, and even a full time screenwriters would normally take 3 months, 6 months, even a year to complete a script. The mythical stories about someone writing a draft in three days leave out all the months that went into preparing that first draft and the additional months that went into writing the more careful second draft.

Design of audio-visual creative works.

Ptara logo over historical image of men working at Sevastopol.You might have a great graphic designer, an artist at your company, who can draw anything that you can imagine. You may have someone else who is handy with the camera, and creates videos that look and sound amazing. But, sometimes simply looking good is not enough. Sometimes, you need images that fit a strategic context, that make sense within a whole, and that tell the message you want to convey. Sometimes, you need something that is interesting to watch, and sometimes you need more than that.

You don’t always need to design an audio visual work.  Here’s a video that was unplanned, shot and edited within a day:

It works well enough for footage for a news story, but not much else.

Ptara can help you design a video that does what it’s supposed to do.

The carrot and the stick are for donkeys

A lot of people ask whether it is better to lead with a carrot or a stick.  Well, Mu.  The carrot and the stick are great for leading a jackass, but a person with direction will benefit from knowing where they’re going.

We can sometimes get people to do what we want if we offer enough money, and most of us have had to take a at least one job just because we “needed” the money.  But, unless you’re in sales or banking, you’ve probably been at least partially motivated by something other than money when you chose your profession.  And, even if you work for a hedge fund, you probably can’t do your job if you’re constantly thinking about the financial rewards.

The way to lead people, the simplest way, is through telling them your destination.  We call this the power of Ptara. Continue reading The carrot and the stick are for donkeys

Screenplays

Are you looking to develop an original script?

Ptara’s a script writing services include writing outlines, treatments, and fixing dialogue to a good first draft.  By first draft we don’t mean that we just send you a rough set of words, but we work on the script until we feel it’s ready.

 

Apocalypse Now Redux: review

Walter Murch, yes the Walter Murch, travelled all the way to Aberystwyth to take questions on his film, Apocalypse Now.

Okay, so Murch was only the sound stylist, right? An editor, not a director, star, screenwriter or even a producer. Producers take home the best picture award, directors get to be thought of the auteur, actors get famous, screenwriters can say they thought it all up, but without people working below the line there’s only so much you can do.

Continue reading Apocalypse Now Redux: review

The Disaster Artist (review)

At Ptara, I directed two microbudget feature films. Make that nanobudget.

One had a crew of two (excluding the three actors, who also crewed, and a few kids who helped out on sound one day), the other was basically me editing a large variety of footage to make it coherent. There were challenges in both, and everyone learned a lot.  And, what these films lack in production values is made up for in performance and story line.

By contrast, Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” had a budget that was about 1000 times either of my films.  He worked with much more expensive kit and a more experienced cast and crew. Yet, “The Room” was filled with continuity errors, bad acting, and an incoherent plot.

Continue reading The Disaster Artist (review)

“A short course of nothing” review of “Las Maestras de la República”

I hate to start a review with a spoiler, but knowing your history is always a spoiler.  And, if you don’t know your history, historical films often lack interest.

Spain was backward during Franco’s dictatorship, just as fundamentalists in the middle east are making their own countries backward.  Much of Europe only truly emerged from the dark ages in the past 200 years, some parts have yet to emerge.

This documentary “Las Maestras de la Republica” is a story about education in a time between extremes, not only Franco’s extreme, but the extreme of the other guys.  The Second Spanish Republic was not a bed of roses, and the documentary skims over most of the problems of that regime.  Instead, it focuses on the new found equality of Spanish women through education, especially the role of teaching. Continue reading “A short course of nothing” review of “Las Maestras de la República”