SWANZ and BSS 2018

The weekend was kicked off by the New Zealand Writers Guild SWANZ Awards. The ever effervescent Nick Ward MCed the event while I did my best Vanna White impression handing him the awards as required. It was a great turn out — my evening ensemble was admired (21st century Miami Vice, courtesy of various op shops), the food was good and plentiful, and it’s always nice to see so many writerly faces in one place.

The symposium was a more formal affair — collegial rather than fraternal — and was rampant with speakers and attendees, some of them I knew from one thing or another, and some I met for the first time.

Over the three days, I caught up with:

  • Alice, Mel, Alan, Allan, Kathryn and Rachel from the guild represented;
  • three from the class of 2016 — the unstoppable Maraea Rakuraku, the inquisitive William Duignan, and the observant Myfanwy Fanning-Randall;
  • former guild ED Steve Gannaway and his partner Alex Cole-Baker; One Thousand Ropes‘ Tusi Tamasese and Catherine Fitzgerald; PIFT stalwarts Aaron Taouma, Arnette Arapai and Sandra Kailahi; South Pacific Pictures’ Tim Balme and James Griffin; and Waru‘s Chelsea Cohen, Ainsley Gardiner, Paula Jones, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu and Katie Wolfe;
  • Chantelle Burgoyne; South Seas’ Gerben Cath; the indefatigable Tony Forster; Paula Jones (no, the other one); Roseanne LiangChristina Milligan; producing titan Robin Scholes; Riverside Kings‘ Sarita So; and the redoubtable Louise Tu’u.

Speaker highlights of the symposium were:

  • an small-group Q-and-A with David Michôd;
  • a refreshing and irreverent talk by Neil Cross;
  • filmmaker So Yong Kim‘s oeuvre is a fascinating thing I need to look into;
  • agent Bec Smith‘s talk was a confirmation of how talent always finds a way;
  • and Oz drama commissioners Kyle Du Fresne and Penny Win, was an interesting session on how things happen across the ditch.

A bit of a blur but I’m glad I attended.

(I’ve done it again: even though I name-checked the Screenwriting Research Network Conference in August, I’ve neglected to write about this year’s Arts Market in Auckland. Next year. Promise.)

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BSS

Late last month I attended the 2016 Big Screen Symposium in Auckland. It was the second network-y thing I’ve done this year (ah yes, I neglected to mention I attended the 2016 PANNZ Arts Market in Wellington in March).

Cue shameless name-dropping as I saw:

As for the speakers, highlights were:

  • creative couple Cate Shortland (SomersaultThe Slap) and Tony Krawitz (Devil’s PlaygroundThe Kettering Incident) on writing and directing Australian television drama;
  • Jonathon Raymond on screenwriting for Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) and Todd Haynes (Far From HeavenMildred Pierce); and
  • producer and BSS keynote speaker Heather Rae (Frozen River) on decolonising the screen.

Nice work, all around.

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FIREBUG: another pilot script

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Writers Guild added a new category to the SWANZ Awards for 2016: unproduced scripts for film and television.

I had a pilot script called Firebug that’d been kicking around the cave for a few years so when I heard about the new category I thought, What the hell.

It went on to win best unproduced television script.

I am rather chuffed.

Suppose I should shop it around now.

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Meet and Greet

The past few days’ burning question has been: Would I still write this post if I hadn’t been an award recipient?  Close behind it has been this Schrodinger follow-up: Would I still be an award recipient if I hadn’t decided the day before to attend the event?  (Employees and families of employees of the organisers are not allowed to answer the second question.)

So, yeah, wow. Last Thursday I went along to the SWANZ awards, cheering for the competition because that was the only way I could deal with the pressure… and Goodbye My Feleni won.  And the night itself, viewed in the preceding fortnight with dread and anxiety, turned out to be a very pleasant evening indeed.

I got to meet and talk with:

Ahh, networking. Not always as painful and dreadful as I imagine.

* I know they’re more than playwrights.

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Lunch

Last week, The Goddess and I had lunch with Sean Molloy and Helen Rickerby. It was a great get-together: even though I’d met Sean only one time earlier, the atmosphere was very congenial. A fellow screenwriter and Guild board member, the conviviality was due largely to his being a fellow blogger and Guild forum loiterer. Oh, his taste in comics can’t be faulted; well, except for his Marvel bias. Anyway, we sat around a table and talked and talked and talked, and all of a sudden two hours had just gone.

I’ve tried to post about the very pleasant experience but, despite five false starts, have been unable to satisfactorily tie it in to the business of this blog. I knew what I wanted to say but was unable to execute it in such a way as to be a). appropriate, b). informative, c). entertaining, and d). easy on the reading eye.

Yes, meeting fellow scribes is b). informative and c). entertaining, and the lunchtable conversation was a). blog-appropriate – but you, Gentle Reader, don’t want a transcript of the conversation that accompanied our repast.

You want something to take away from this post, some nugget of wisdom observation, some kind of distinct perspective on an everyday occurrence (having lunch, not meeting fellow scribes).

… Nope. Still don’t have it.

But I got a lot farther with this post than the others.

– No, wait, I have it: if after [PICK A NUMBER] attempts, you lose heart and focus, remember: Every time God closes one door, He opens another.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Motivation

Over at the Guild forums, Ben Reid has listed the various motivation styles of he and his fellow Wellington writing group members. I was surprised to realise that I’ve tried all of them.

Was each style a kind of stage in my development as a writer? Or a flailing about in search of One True Way to Write? Answer is currently in the Too Hard basket.

Meantime, some arbitrary categories:

Inspiration as Motivation

Watching films and television are equal parts inspiration and motivation… and de-motivation. Being motivated by a film or television programme is dead easy. The line between inspiration and de-motivation is fiendishly fine: Wow, that was soo freaking cool, I wanna do that! can oh-so-easily become I have nothing to offer, I am a hack, I am nothing.

When it comes to making up character backstories or synopsising, my first response is almost always that if I – that is, The Audience – can’t see it or hear it, why the hell do I have to write that shit? What I forget though is that once I’ve done the above bios or treatments, I find myself newly enthused – inspired, even – as I rediscover why I want to write the story in the first place.

Sharing as Motivation

I used to talk over various stages of my script with friends and family. If I wasn’t careful – and I certainly wasn’t in those early heady days – I discovered that their indulgent or polite smiles of heyyy, he’s a writer would eventually morph into looks of if he tells me about his script, I will stab him in the eye-socket with my teaspoon.

Co-writing is something I’d like to do although very probably for the wrong reason: I think all I really want is for someone else to do the heavy lifting. (There might be a future post in this.)

I don’t tell anyone about being competitive with my writing and career. It’s a secret.

Discipline

No matter how enthused – or sick to the back teeth – I am with a script, those ninety-plus pages and I need a time-out. It’s true: absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Thinking ahead to the next project is more of an occupational hazard than a motivator.

And ooh, I just live for deadlines. Especially if I’ve been wreaking havoc with my mouse-hand and sleeping patterns on Call of Duty for most of the time I should’ve been writing.

The past while, I’ve been just writing – anything sometimes, any-goddamned thing just to bloody get something on-screen – hating every single keystroke, counting the pages until I can stop, and I know it’s rubbish, and that I’ll have to rewrite it.

But I also know that every element that I throw out has broadened what I know about The Story. That every little darling whose throat I’ve crushed, gave me something, even fleetingly, towards The Story.

And in those screeds of reluctantly tapped out script-moments, I know that I’ve taken just that little step closer to finishing.

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Point & Click

Prrretty busy this week.

  • After several months of having just eight members and a total of nine posts (four of them by my own hand), the New Zealand Writers Guild forums is getting some traction with sixteen members and forty-two posts as of today. Go ask a question or something.
  • Over at the Beeb‘s Writers Room is a rather informative Q&A with Casualty writer Mark Catley. The Writers Room seems to be a great resource for television writing. (Ooh! It’s got Q&A’s with Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass, and Hu$tle and Life on Mars co-creator Tony Jordan.) (Fedora-tip: WGGB Blog.)
  • And Break cinematographer, Matt Meikle, recently won the 2007 Australian Cinematography Society Gold Award for Cinematography on Hawaikii. Congratulatoriations!
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DateNight 1.1

The Writers Guild, along with the directors’ guild and the producers association, are putting on Date Night 1.1 Auckland (1830, Thursday, 21 February at the Classic): ‘a speed-dating-format networking opportunity for writers and directors to pitch to producers’.

I missed out on DateNight 1.0 last year but I was okay with that (a large portion of that being relief from avoiding the stress and pressure). So when I got the email last week, I made a snap-decision and quickly replied with a count me in before I gave it too much thought and chickened out.

But now that my registration has been confirmed, I’m burning with questions like what have I done? and ua a la ‘ia?*

Self-pity aside, a rather pressing question is so, what do I have to do?. A synopsis is bad enough. But pitching?

Some research, I believe, is in order.

I may be some time.

* Ua a la ‘ia? – Samoan, loosely translated as ‘what did you expect?’; peculiar to Samoans, it is a character-building parental response to a child in tears, whether it was their fault or not.

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Pitch Engine

Last week, the mailboxes of New Zealand Writers Guild members, associates and supporters were crossed with the Guild’s revived and renamed quarterly magazine, Pitch Engine. A successor to the quarterly WriteUp that shifted online for a couple of years, PE intends to Get Out There and Build Awareness. Props galore to executive director Steve Gannaway and editor supremo Dara McNaught for getting the mag up and running in a mere few months.

Issue One includes interviews and articles from the likes of Outrageous Fortune creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, The Ferryman and Stickmen scribe Nick Ward, and Facelift and Futile Attraction writer Benedict Reid.

Available at a Whitcoulls or Paper Plus near you.

(Disclosure:  Yes, I have a couple of articles in there – one I’d impulsively pitched on the spot to them (and then had to deliver), and the other an amalgam of these two posts.)

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Fight the Power

My take on the WGA strike? The thing is, obviously, –

(a) I’m not a WGA member, and
(b) I live a quarter of the world away.

There’s a lot of stuff on the web about it, and the screenwriting blogs have a screed of information to choose from. I’ve found Shawn Ryan‘s guest post on why he’s joining the strike despite being a multi-hyphenate, Josh Friedman‘s succinct report on standing for what’s right, and John Rogersoverview all particularly enlightening.

As a card-carrying screenwriter, I wholeheartedly exhort the strikers onward to victory.

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