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Showing posts from 2007

Working with a Composer on a Film Score

You don't have the money for the London Philharmonic and you can't afford the rights to Air's Walkie Talkie - but you do have a small budget (or grant, or sponsor) and you've decided you want someone to score music specifically for your film.

There are several ways to go about this.

Approach a professional composer

Composers who do really good work are often good because they are very particular about their compositions. They may be used to working in isolation and, in effect, are already directing music in the same way as a director is directing a film - or a novel writer their book. It's possible that a musician will frown upon the idea of sitting in the same room with Herr Direcktor whilst seeking audience with their muse.

So how do two brilliant and yet temperamental animals work together? Well - the director has two choices; Show them the finished film or don't show the film.

The first choice can often result in the musician re-writing the director's work i…

Script development on a budget

Most people abhor criticism and nobody likes to open their wallet. If you are either, don’t - whatever you do - write a feature film screenplay. I almost guarantee that nobody will read it without being paid.

More importantly never go into production on a script that hasn’t been very heavily criticised, rewritten, analysed, rewritten gain, ripped apart, gutted and finally ... rewritten. I'm sure you can name a thousand movies with huge plot holes or character problems. Problems which could have easily been patched up with just a few bucks investment. Criticism is not the same as rejection.
While Mum will happily read your screenplay, getting constructive feedback from industry professionals costs money. Constructive criticism is the key to morphing an ailing screenplay into a great feature film. Nothing else will do this. Unfortunately, getting anyone who’s not your mother to read your screenplay (or read beyond your synopsis and director's notes) costs money. Even if you don&#…

The AWG / ScreenWest "Pre-VIZ" Australian Feature Film Marketing and Distribution meetings

Behind the beautiful Australian Writers' Guild (WA location)

Some interesting facts:
The average Australian film needs to take $1m at the box office in order to cover a distributor's Promotion and Advertising (P&A) expenses.Most Australian films (about 16) released over the last year or so took around $200,000 at the box office. Only Kenny, 10 Canoes and Happy Feet recouped these expenses and made money.An additional 10 or so credit card films that were made did not see the light of day or attract distribution partners (probably due to poor screenplays).
When a distributor invests in an Australian film, they are taking a huge risk. A risk which is as much about passion and commitment to an idea as it is for the production team (writer, director, producer).
Phil (w), Carmelo (p) and I (d) are in the middle of the AWG / ScreenWest's (weirdly titled) pre-VIZ consultation program with Beware the Stingray.

The current screenplay has already been blasted by Victoria Treole (ex A…

Questions for the Editor

In my 25 years as an emerging filmmaker, I've worked with many film editors - some experienced, some not so. Some newbies who would rather be directing and others born with a burning desire to cut film. One thing is for sure - all editors approach editing differently.

As a director, I think it's polite to ask how a person likes to work - whether they have a tried and true process or not. "How do you like to work?" I ask. In many cases, the question is met with a blank or even perplexed stare. "I usually get the footage and start cutting," comes the (often embarrassingly predictable) reply. "What other way is there?"

Obvious? ... Maybe. But we directors have to listen carefully to our creative accomplices, which often means learning to read between the lines.

Here are a few other responses an editor might give you.

1. Process? Just give me the script and the original footage.

This always works well with very experienced editors. Hand the script and the …

Working with Children

So far, I have directed three short documentaries for DADAA's the Lost Generation Project and apart from some minor technical hitches, everything is going really well. The sound and images are great and the personalities of our talent is coming over well. I'm lucky to be working with such fascinating characters - disabilities aside.

This week we start editing the films and, while that is happening, I'm hoping to get the odd pick-up. We've already happily picked up a couple of shots which didn't work out in the original shoot - but we may have to get more in editing. Luckily all our subjects are in the one location, so it's pretty easy to run off and get a shot of someone while shooting someone else.

Being filmed for the entire day - with a camera right up your nose - is irksome to say the least and already patiences have been tried and tested. I have asked the producer if we can shoot two films over two consecutive days - with each subject being shot in two half …

A Lovely Filmmaking Experience

I directed a 5 minute film for DADAA on Tuesday. We are documenting the lives of mentally challenged and disabled people living in WA for the Lost Generation Project. I must say, it was a very lovely, humbling experience and the finished film should be amazing to watch.

I originally wrote a narrative screenplay - but actually sticking to it for the doco format - was tricky. We really had to go with other things that happened on the day (as one might expect). We managed to capture the essence of the screenplay, however, and some of the scenes are very moving and emotional.


I shot 1.5 hours of HD with a Sony HDV camera throughout one day. What a lovely, easy-to-use camera. We literally switched it on and started shooting. I had to ride the exposure and focus a little, but the automatic functions allowed me to, literally, interrupt what the camera was doing by touching a dial and going manual - something like cruise control on a car. I was worried about sound (we used a simple ROD…

My First Real Documentary

Tomorrow I start filming the first Lost Generation project film for DADAA and I'm really looking forward to it. We're filming in a pool, in a bus, in the streets, in houses. And we're not quite sure how comfortable our subject will be. Hmmm.

Not Waiting By The Phone


As Edwin saith, he will not wait by the 'phone. Well, nor am I; I'm doing bunches of other writing, for other people. Some of whome will pay me cash money. I am attempting this in the four days that I do not work for a salary.

So my weekly financial set up is this: three days working for wages, four days freelancing as a script writer with the occasional magazine article thrown in.

I don't even think about film funding in between times, I leave that to the director and the producer. Concentrating on what might be is quite pointless. And a waste of energy.

The downside of my 3/4 weekly split is that sometimes the projects pile up. Hence,my being awake at 3.45am writing this blog when I need to be up by 6.30am. Deadline stress just adds to my unnatural insomnia. And I've got a paying project really pressing in right after I shuck the present monkey on my back (a short film script).

This is actually a typical dilemma for any freelancer. Suddenly you have too ma…

Really good idea for a film (part 3)

Well. I'll eat my hat!
After submitting BTS to the AFC and Bluecat, I started struggling with a sci-fi no-budget screenplay, Yellow. I was scheduled to shoot in Feb / March, but the script wasn't exactly writing itself.

Then. Life took hold.

Cancer in the family and a new job writing screenplaysfor DADAA saw Old Father Time disappear.

Last week, I had coffee with a mate of mine who says, "I've got a really good idea for a film". He saw the irritated look in my eye and backed down. But I needed the distraction and, two sips into a strong long machiatto, heard myself say "Go on."

It was a beauty. Story, character, locations - everything. He told me a riveting story about something that happened to a friend of a friend. It had a complete screenplay structure - turning points, mid-points, Voglerian call to adventures - everything! On a plate.

I wrote an outline with my mate in about two hours and we're shooting it at the end of the year. I'm alread…

Beware the Stingray

It's in! Or at least - the screenplay is finished and we've submitted it to the AFC's Indivision initiative (strand I) asking for $750K towards the $1.8m budget.

I can hardly believe it's over. To some degree. Phil and I are happy with it, but we've yet to involve distributors, actors etc.

I recently saw some notes for this script dated 1992 and almost none of the same characters were in it. I dunno what to say. Fifteen years.

After the Fall

It's been hot here in Perth, Western Australia. 104 degrees in the old money. With no aircon and the damp, sultry weather, I'm amazed I got another good pass in on Beware the Stingray.

A pass?

A pass is when a writer goes right through the screenplay again. It's not a spell-checking session. Usually it's a fine tooth comb looking for; structural problems, character inconsistencies and other believability issues.

Phil read my pass and we're going to podcast about it next week. Once we're totally happy with the script, it goes off to our producer (who has already targeted actors and possible financiers etc.) and the rolling stone tries to gather some moss.

So - barring a few minor fixes - Beware the Stingray (final draft) is finished and shoot-ready. Carmelo (of CM Films fame) just gotta raise the $2m now . . . Easy ;)

Which leaves a great vacuum. Y'know the one. You're all apace and then ... nothing but the sound of wind whistling through the trees. The antic…

Fantasists and Bull Artists

Hi, this is Phil Jeng Kane,
I asked Mr Trivia (now M. Le Trivia for some reason) for a bit of space on this blog to provide a lightning sketch of Edwin Lynch.

Yes, true to his last posting, Edwin is indeed a jock-wearing, shut-in weirdo who constantly peers through peepholes looking for a Godot-like postie. But he’s also a writer-director who studies performance and screenwriting; he networks with actors and filmmakers and has always kept up with filmmaking technology; he has a strong grasp on filmmaking skills, like how to break down and choreograph a scene.

Why the resume? Because it occurred to me that his self-portrait was an ATOMISED version of Edwin Lynch the writer and director. I probably wouldn’t work with Underpants Man and yet, in reality, I have worked with Ed for more than a decade.

Filmmakers are great storytellers. I realised recently that I’ve learnt to take most of what film people say, with a grain of salt. Not because they have lax moral or ethical standards, but bec…

Making Movies In Your Underpants

Throughout my life, when I'm lucky enough to get a film into a festival, a certificate like this arrives in the mail. A participation certificate, an award or receipt of in-competition selection into this or that international film festival.

I'm usually indoors when it comes - working on a screenplay. Sometimes it's arrives in a quiet email. Sometimes it's a letter which comes with great pizza deals and white good sales. Other times it's registered mail and I don't hear the knock (I check my peep-hole regularly but always seem to miss the knock).

This particular certificate is from Germany. It's nice. Maybe it's worth a frame. It arrived with a well-produced booklet, stills from A Stone Throw and a short synopsis. I always have to haul out myWorld Atlas to see where the city is. Sometimes I get the country wrong. It's always interesting to read how other cultures summarise a film you've been working on for years. I'm probably in bed - or writi…

The Bluecat Screenplay Competition

Just uploaded a podcast with Gordy Hoffman - director of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition. Rather than putting my efforts into this BLOG this weekend, his talk was so inspiring, that I've decided to write my screenplay. I hope you don't mind.

Also, I put up a rough site for our feature film, Beware the Stingray. Not quite sure what to do with it yet, but I guess I'll use it as a repository for all things related to the movie. It's a good year away from being shot, so I'm taking my queue from Richard E. Grant's Wah Wah Diaries : the making of a film, and I'm self-publishing the diary before the film is made.

Had technical difficulties You-Tubing Indy Nile Investigates the other day. So stay tuned for that fun, 7 minute cartoon pilot (which screened on ABC TV in 2004).

Chennai International Film Festival

This week, A Stone Throw was awarded Best Short Film at the Chennai International Film Festival in India.

Chennai is home to the international headquarters of The Theosophical Society.

The Theosophical Society (emblem pictured), founded in 1875, is a worldwide body whose primary object is Universal Brotherhood based on the realization that life, and all its diverse forms, human and non-human, is indivisibly One. The Society imposes no belief on its members, who are united by a common search for Truth and desire to learn the meaning and purpose of existence by engaging themselves in study, reflection, purity of life and loving service.

While my stuff has sold and been shortlisted internationally, I have never actually won an award (other than encouragement awards and special mentions) outside of Australia.

I'm very pleased about this particular win for two reasons:
After making films since I was but a wee child, I can finally replace "has sold and screend his short films internati…