Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Female Characters

Anyone read this? Sounds wonderful-- Off I go to check it out.

Here's a link to an article by Helen Jacey, "Finding the woman's voice".

And another, to Helen's blog.

And UH-OH, Helen posted this from the London Screenwriters Festival:
Really enjoyed myself at the London Screenwriters Festival. First time EVER had more guys in the room than gals for my session. Sunday morning at 9.30 but what a buzz in the room.
I'd wondered if her book would be especially useful for men, and although I'm not into 'pink & blue' thinking for writers, I worry that universal access to her ideas will offer male screenwriters more opportunities than women.

After the Waterfall—in cinemas any moment

After the Waterfall, Simone Horrocks' responses to my questions, is one of the most popular Wellywoodwoman posts ever.

So all of you who read her story and loved it, here's your chance to see the movie, if you live in New Zealand. After the Waterfall opens in cinemas on November 4th. Our other women-directed features, Gaylene Preston's Home by Christmas, and Rosemary Riddell's The Insatiable Moon (currently number 7 in New Zealand's top 10, and accompanied by Mike Riddell's legendary blog) have done so well this year. I'm hoping that After the Waterfall will too, if we all support it, especially on its opening weekend. (And there are more women's features to come: Roseanne Liang's My Wedding and Other Secrets is in post-production and has a brand new Facebook page. Kirstin Macon's The Most Fun You Can Have Dying is on its way.)

And for all you Outrageous Fortune fans, at some After the Waterfall screenings there are opportunities to see and hear Antony Starr. LIVE!

All updates are on After the Waterfall's Facebook page.

Simone writes:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

& that's it from Wellywood this week--

Well, nearly it. Just one more deadline to meet, before 11.15pm. But having a little rest, and seeing a link to Joni Mitchell (yep! still checking out those Girls Like Us) I found this clip. Spot on at the end of this Hobbit-filled week, with enough conflicts and characters and secrets and revelations for fifteen movies. In the end, what's a girl to believe? Especially if she's read Lorraine Rowlands' thesis, and learned a little more about what working in the industry costs New Zealand film workers (and the health and social welfare systems)--

You might enjoy Joni too. If you've got a drink in hand, are pottering about between #FF tweethearting & FB. If you're a bit lost because Russell Brown finally closed the Public Address Hobbit party in the very early hours of this morning (Islander still in fine fettle). If you've caught up with Gordon Campbell's analysis. If you're a mite confused about it all, remembering especially those John Campbell interviews with Peter Jackson & Philippa Boyens and then with Robyn Malcolm & Tandi Wright. And if Linda Burgess' review of those interviews in the Dompost entertained you and you're disappointed that the review hasn't appeared online at Stuff. Or Ian Mune entertained you. Or Maia's feminist view intrigued you & made you think about some of the power issues. Or you've read Paul Roth's take and feel sad, & placed it alongside the LA Times view of us, and smiled. And if you're happy to be kinda lulled; & after all that raruraru and thinking, to experience the pleasure of a song-sung-from-the-heart.

Thanks, Joni. Not just #FF. #F_FOREVER.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Desk Life

lisa gornick: desk life

Lisa Gornick, you're a star! This is me today. And I needed to know that I am not ALONE.

All that's missing from the drawing is my big white board with a looooong list. My little red Moleskine diary with another list. And my brief visits to the garden where something's eating the new beans, I've moved the compost bin, and where I may later scatter some organic sawdust. Oh yes, & the visits to the fridge. But otherwise, the desk is where everything happens. And must keep happening, for the next few days.

Thank you, dear Lisa.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Branchage Blessings Continue

I HATE reading and writing treatments, the short, ‘selling’ documents that tell screenplays’ stories, often with an emphasis on the plot points. They’re a special kind of synopsis and they bore me, whether I’m the one writing or the one reading; I’ve almost never read a treatment I’ve enjoyed, or that made me want to see the movie. So, not surprisingly, I’m also hopeless at writing treatments, whether they are one or ten pages long. And the ones I wrote for Development-the-movie, at the Branchage Directors Lab, were awful.

At the end of Branchage we were offered an opportunity to rewrite our treatments and send them to Peter Strickland, writer/director of Katalin Varga (see links below if you’re not familiar with this lovely, multi-award-winning, film). I wrote a nine-pager, trying to use the feedback I’d been given at Branchage to make something that was a whole lot better. And yesterday Peter sent his response.

It was so generous, one of the best bits of feedback I’ve ever had. He’d read the treatment meticulously—probably several times—identified its shortcomings, identified its strengths, and expressed his response in a way that helps me move forward not only with a better and shorter treatment, but also with the next draft of the script. Perhaps because his primary job is to write and direct films rather than to assess treatments and scripts, he appears to have written this (thanks to Branchage) as a beautifully conceived, rigorously executed, openly and honestly expressed gift, to another filmmaker he’s never met. I feel that I've received something from his heart, along with a spot-on analysis.

I love it that Peter picked up on problems that I’ve consistently avoided or been unable to resolve in the script itself (duh, that’s one reason a treatment’s useful!) Including one I’d almost forgotten(?) about: Frederique, one of the four film-maker characters, is not as fully realised as the other three. If you check out our promo (made for the Rugby World Cup-associated PassItOn site) you can see even there that Frederique, filming on Wellington’s Oriental Bay seawall, is less prominent than the others, whether they’re acting or representing themselves.

Frederique, played by the amazing Lynda Chanwai-Earle, is a mother-of-two-quite-small-children who wants to resume her career in the film industry (an imaginary corner of Wellywood) and to make features. But she isn’t sure how to manage this in combination with motherhood. So she decides to make a doco about Viv, the veteran filmmaker character who brought up a child while making features, to better understand what’s possible. By the end of the film Frederique’s decided to compromise, to make an occasional documentary but not to attempt to make features until her children are much older.

Maybe because I’ve continued to think intermittently about Girls Like Us (spent hours on the plane from Dubai to Sydney listening to Joni Mitchell and to James Taylor), and because I’ve just had a series of interesting conversations about my shortcomings and virtues as a mother, thanks to Peter’s prompt I’ve now understood why I haven’t fully ‘written Frederique’. She’s in a situation similar to one that I was in myself, long ago. But she makes different—and possibly better—choices. Till now, it’s been just too painful to go back in to that historical situation and to write about its challenges as expressed and resolved in Frederique’s life. And when I lay in bed this morning running a new scene with Frederique through my head (I imagine scenes just after waking up, with pictures, then get up and write them down, listening carefully as the speech bubbles emerge) I laughed. Am I deflecting the pain with humour? Or is humour the way to go for this?

So, this week I'll have another go with the treatment, with help from a staunch and uber-talented International Institute of Modern Letters script-writing mate, who also writes multi-protagonist scripts—I doubt whether my treatment for a single protagonist script would be any better than this one was, but am also sure that a multi-protagonist script presents a bit more of a challenge. And I’ll have another go at a logline/tagline for the website, being updated this weekend.

A big, big, thank you to you Peter. I hope the people reading your treatments offer you the same rich and useful response that you’ve given me.

Branchage posts
Lisa Gornick does it again
Developing Development-the-movie at Branchage

Girls Like Us posts
Girls Like Us: Looking for Amy Pascal
I feel the earth move under my feet

Peter Strickland and Katalin Varga
Katalin Varga on imdb
Guardian interview
FilmInt interview

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Keri Kaa, & an interview with Ngahuia Wade

Keri Kaa’s Te Whaea Whakaata Taonga, presented at the recent Women In Film & Television (WIFT) awards, acknowledged “an exceptional woman whose meritorious contribution to the arts, culture, and heritage over the last 50 years has had an immeasurable behind the scenes impact on film and television”; Keri's worked tirelessly with funders and policy makers to forge the pathway for Maori filmmakers to tell their stories.

And that’s just one aspect of her extraordinary life and work. When I met Keri, more than thirty years ago, she was a Wellington Teachers College lecturer and a writer, associated with the artists and writers in the Herstory diary, Haeata, and Waiata Koa collectives. As a pakeha, I knew her as the translator—with Syd Melbourne—of Patricia Grace & Robyn Kahukiwa’s classic children’s picture book The Kuia & the Spider/ Te Kuia me te Pungawerewere, and I loved the poems and a review she contributed to Spiral 5. Keri also mistress-minded very special book launches, starting with one for The Kuia/Te Kuia and including one for Keri Hulme’s the bone people. The recent panui about Tungia Baker’s unveiling* reminded me of the beautiful ways that Keri and Tungia worked together at all kinds of events, often as kaikaranga. But I had no idea until last year that Keri’s strongly supported Maori filmmakers, as well as everything else, though I wasn’t surprised. How has she achieved so so much? Amazing.

I always listen very closely to Keri. And I’d do pretty much anything for her, because I love how she makes things happen, in a way that enhances everyone's experience, with her special tough-and-tender generosity and a lot of laughter. It was a wonderful moment when she agreed to play Jasmine-the-therapist in Development, and there were more wonderful moments when she advised us that Urikore Jullien Dwyer (Jules) was the best person to play Iris, and when I met Jules and realised that Keri was spot on yet again.

Keri, now based in Rangitukia and teaching at the local wananga, had mentioned that Maramena Roderick and Ngahuia Wade had included her in their maori-language series e tu kahikatea, so when we wanted to celebrate her WIFT award on our FB page, we asked them if they had a photograph and they kindly offered us two images. This is the second one.

Keri Kaa, at Rangitukia 2010
E tu kahikatea is about Maoridom’s strongest contributors, made for Maori TV. In each episode an individual tells their story in their own voice. There have been twenty-five episodes made to date, and Keri is the youngest contributor chosen, for the impact she’s had in the arts. E tu kahikatea won the Best Maori Language Programme Award in this year’s Qantas Film and Television Awards.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Developing Development-the-movie at Branchage

I wanted to take Development out to a bigger world, to get a fresh perspective on the project. So I went to the Branchage Directors Lab. It preceded the quirky Branchage Film Festival, where many movies are shown in unusual places—on a tugboat, in a polytunnel (the compelling Vanishing of the Bees), in a sushi bar, in a herd barn, onto a dam's wall one year. Accompanied by lots of live music and performance with and without movies, and even a magic lantern show. And amazing parties, one in an ornate mirrored Belgian Spiegeltent where people have caroused for 100 years: the extraordinary Ziveli Orkestar and their associated performers completely seduced me that night, lovely to want to dance again.