In 1986, a major distributor deemed the script for Crocodile Dundee ‘not funny’ and cast it aside. What that distributor did was effectively ‘turn down The Beatles’, since Paul Hogan went on to make one of the biggest movies of the decade, bagging a fortune for his investors.
All producers dream of a ‘break out’ success and thanks to ever-evolving technology, indie film makers have more opportunity to realise their dreams. And investors, ever the opportunists, are sitting up and taking notice.
A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a finance contact of mine, and he illustrated how film has become one of the safer investments to make in the current climate. For a quick turnaround on investment, it is often prudent to opt for lower budget productions. As long as the project has good distribution options and an aggressive marketing campaign, investors can recoup the production budget and enter profit more swiftly than bigger budget films.
In recent years, there has been a revolution in film distribution. Digital distribution such as streaming, downloading, or video-on-demand (VOD) services are utilised by both independents and studios. Such revenue streams include iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon VOD. Then there is digital cinema, which has grown by 79%. Over half of the world’s screens are now digital… and they all need content to show.
I attended a film finance forum a few months ago where representatives from distribution companies and sales agents had the same message: they are crying out for content. They want – need – films to sell to an increasingly hungry audience.
Now, more than ever, is the time to be making movies since this technological revolution benefits not only film makers and their audiences, but investors as well.
Caroline Spence, Raya Films
There is much happening at Raya Films this spring, and most of it is to do with screenplay development.
As well as our own slate of features, we have recently been working on a fascinating script adaptation with a writer from Louisiana whose memoir reads like an action thriller. The story spans a period of the author’s life from his teenage years when he became involved with the wrong crowd: criminals and local drug traffickers. Initially drugs were trafficked across the Mexican border, and then between Spain and America. It’s an incredible story, but I’m afraid we cannot reveal any more here for the moment! We’ll just have to leave it to the producers to get the job done so that we can all see it on the big screen. When we have news of that, we will of course post it here.
We continue to make good progress on our comedy-thriller set in Mexico. This one, we’re very excited about, as it’s had such a positive response from industry professionals. We hope to go into production 2013/2014. In addition, we have two other projects: a comedy crime-thriller set in England for which we have an exciting young director involved; and a Puerto Rico drama-thriller that we’re talking to financiers about now.
So, that’s enough to keep us busy for the moment, and we shall be posting progress here more regularly than ever, so please keep checking by.
On a final note, if Twitter is your thing, here are some useful handles to follow:
This is a funny and intelligent guide to the techniques of film making… well worth a look!
Well it seems to be conference and meeting time again, and London certainly is a great place to be based in that respect. Recently we attended a seminar in the Fleet Street area – strangely not an area we often visit – but very agreeable it was too, especially the obligatory soiree beforehand at The Blackfriar pub.
We’re a sociable bunch at Raya Films, so if you want to talk business, be sure to book up an appointment and meet us in London.
Calling all Welsh film directors. We are seeking a talented and ambitious Welsh film director for a feature crime/comedy. Please contact Caroline Spence by way of introduction (not too long, please!)
We have a lot going on this year, especially in the feature film and screenplay areas, so be sure to connect with us on all of the social networking sites. Here’s a reminder of our Twitter, Facebook and Blog links:
This article was published in 2008 in an industry magazine, and thought I’d give it another airing. So here’s an abridged version:
Of all the pieces needed to fit into the jigsaw puzzle that eventually becomes a film, the script can be one of the most difficult processes to get right. The skill of the scriptwriter, however, is crucial: no script, no film – one cannot exist without the other.
So what makes a good scriptwriter and what makes a good script? I have often read how important the quality of a script is to the success of the latest Ridley Scott feature or how Tom Cruise has been ‘blown away’ by an amazing script, but I am yet to discover what specific criteria combine to produce this ‘wow’ factor or whether it is just a way of hyping their latest film. And the importance of a good script doesn’t only lie in the movies- it’s as important to producers of documentaries and short films.
Even the simplest five-minute film must have the basics of a storyline: a beginning, middle and an end – the traditional three-act structure – or else it will be a jumble of images and dialogue that will confuse the target audience. It must flow, it must have a central message, and every word must project the story forward.
The ‘art’ of scriptwriting is not only about the written word, but also about communication. A writer who disappears in his bedroom for six months is not going to cut it as a screenwriter as there has to be an exchange of ideas between producers, directors and other people involved in the project. This is quite different as compared to a novelist, for instance, who can work in isolation.
I have been writing screenplays for many years now, and people seem to like what I do, but my education in the craft is by no means complete. Education is an ongoing process, and with new film and television formats being developed, the writer must keep up-to-date with new styles of writing and popular trends.
Many of the rules for writing a novel apply (I believe) to the creation of a screenplay. First, take your script then cut out all surplus words and unnecessary direction. Then cut it down some more. Every sentence, every word must move the story onwards and if it doesn’t, cut it out – it must progress positively to your conclusion. In the early days, one of the factors that I had to constantly check myself for was over-directing the actors; actors know the drill – let them bring their own inspiration to the role and let them do their job.
Additionally, as a scriptwriter you might not be a ‘techie’ but you must appreciate that a director has to talk about camera angles and direction and will embellish the script accordingly, so it’s handy to know the basics of his language.
At the heart of every screenplay is a central question and a good central question involves us emotionally in the story. I have seen many badly penned movies where I don’t give a jot whether the central character achieves his goal/fails or lives/dies – I am often unable to watch to the end due to acute boredom. This is not what the filmmaker wants in his audience. We have to care about the characters and they have to be interesting enough that we want to hang out with them for two hours.
Writing within a range of disciplines brings different challenges. For documentary, it’s a creative means of bringing real life into the living room and educating with visually stimulating media. Good documentary writing, however, is tightly structured to follow a particular ‘story’ in order to keep the viewer captivated. For me, feature film is a form of expression, putting ideas and stories on paper with the ultimate aim of seeing that vision on the big screen. According to American screenwriter and author Antwone Fisher, “Writing gives you power. Writing gives you immortality”. In the last five years, the film industry has changed and evolved thanks to the rise of independent film. If the winds of change continue to blow, the scriptwriter and indie filmmaker could well be on the cusp of a new and very interesting story.
Copyright © 2012 Caroline Spence