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Idea IS the format

The occasional downtime of Daniel W. E. Light
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Thursday, 29 November 2007

More widgety goodness

We've just wrapped another of our grabbable widgets - this one's to promote I AM LEGEND, and will be available as an automatic update for everybody who grabbed our BEOWULF widget.



Personally I hate the word 'widget', but it's rapidly becoming part of the lexicon of online marketing to describe these kind of embeddable applications. If you want one of the earliest examples of this kind of thing, and a strong indicator of how successful it can be, the proliferation of Youtube videos in their early days was driven by precisely this principle. In an age when everybody has their own little piece of screen estate somewhere on the web, all you have to do is give them something cool or useful enough and they'll do your advertising for you.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Meeting Mr Tumble

I was lucky enough to be on set down at Ealing Studios on monday, overseeing the filming of some extra web-only material on a movie currently in production. Lucky, both because it was a huge eye-opener to see the business end of the business, and because it was a far better place to nurse a BAFTA-winning hangover than the orifice (PPC picked a second BAFTA up on Sunday night, this time for our RECOLLECTIONS DVD-ROM, created in conjunction with Film Education and the SHOAH Foundation).


Meeting Justin Fletcher (AKA Mr Tumble) at the Children's BAFTAs


I can't go into too much detail, not only because what we're doing is still under wraps, but also because it's late, and I need to sleep. What I can say is that in my experience it's unprecedented for an entire extra day of shooting to take place on a movie capturing material purely for use as part of an online marketing campaign. As marketers we're being permitted to extend the narrative of the film forwards onto the web, giving the world their first glimpse of the characters in question. Kudos to the director in question for letting it happen.

As for my first experience of a working film set, it may have been cold and confusing, but it certainly made a nice break from being bent double in front of a computer all day. I could definitely get used to it.

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Monday, 19 November 2007

A million audiences of one

Met up with pre-eminent bloggers Neville Hobson and Trevor Cook for a bite of lunch yesterday. Neville worked with us on the virtual press junket PPC co-ordinated for "300" back in March (up for a BIMA in the category of Innovation a week on Thursday) and was up in town to speak at an event organised by Mantra, my sister-in-law's PR firm, seeking to understand the nature of Web 2.0 in relation to corporate communications and public relations.

The lunch was the first time Neville and Trevor had met in the flesh, despite the two of them having a digital friendship extending back over several years. Both of their blogs are far loftier and better travelled than mine, but I enjoyed being able to use the example of WEATHERMAN to illustrate how blogging had worked as a way of sharing an idea with a specifically chosen audience of six. The web is often seen as a great way to reach an audience of millions, whereas - as somebody at yesterday's event pointed out - Web 2.0 is all about communicating with 'a million audiences of one'.

Another blogger acquaintance, Hugh Macleod, has been experimenting with social media as a means to raise the profile of a wine label he is involved with - Stormhoek - to good effect. I managed to find their Pinotage in Tesco on Sunday, and picked up a couple of bottles. With my palate it's much of a muchness whether I drink one £4.99 bottle of wine or another, so it was great to be able to try a wine I had a relationship with, however obscure. I'm thinking this is the essence of what Hugh is driving at when he talks about social objects, conversation and decommodification (which he does. A lot.) As my friend James will surely testify, after despatching an unholy amount of unusually fine and criminally surplus burgundy on Sunday evening (I suggested that he bathe in it) there can't be many objects more 'social' than red wine.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2007

2am eternal


Brandon Bird: "The Last Supper"

2am. I awoke suddenly and utterly a few moments ago, after just two hours sleep, neatly exiting a startlingly vivid dream into which one of my most notorious ex-girlfriends had just assuredly introduced herself. Still, nice to know the old ejector seat is still in good working order.

A couple of days ago I posted the first sequence of the first draft of a screenplay I've been working on, called WEATHERMAN, with a view to answering a few questions, specifically in relation to Syd Field's Basic Film Paradigm. I subsequently circulated the link to the following sprinkling of friends and acquaintances:

Dan Outram - writer and director of numerous short films and commercials
John Donnelly - writer and director of numerous stageplays
Kate Solomon - associate producer on UNITED 93
James Scudamore - author of The Amnesia Clinic
Dane McMaster - colleague, serial west coast technophile and screen guru
Emma Light - critic; therapist; confidante; wife

By the time I got up a few hours later I already had some good feedback. Dan was quick to set me straight on a fundamental tenet of screenwriting technique, asserting that "you shouldn't write anything other than that which is seen or heard. Only that is allowed to tell the story. Otherwise the audience will not know it." I've already taken that on board, and the updated version is available here.

Dane picked up on the question of whether short films need to conform to the paradigm: "Yes, in this matter at least, syd field is correct. a three act structure such as this should be adhered to as closely as possible. once you've mastered this you can destroy it and begin to build your own form of... well, form. Kubrick's 2001, for example, does not follow this structure. Nor does Full Metal Jacket. But he's one of the few directors who can stray from it and make it play. David Lynch actually adheres quite strictly to this formal structure... even if the elements that form his 3 parts are in a somewhat abstract form. David Mamet is another huge supporter of this form."

Set-up, confrontation and resolution it is then I guess. I like the idea that it has to be mastered in order that it can be transgressed. It's a fascinating point about Full Metal Jacket as well. Though I may have lacked the 'education' to put my finger on it, I always knew intuitively that there was something unusual about the form of that movie.

Dane also advised me to change the title. "Nicolas Cage got there first. Nobody needs to be reminded of that movie." For the uninitiated (which, in the case of this movie, will be most of you) he's talking about The Weather Man. He's probably right, but I don't need to start worrying about that quite yet. When I was a kid I'd spend days dreaming up great titles for my first novel, avoiding the trickier business of actually writing one. Speaking of which, in the words of the late Clarence Boddicker, "Sayonara Robocop." [stabs Robocop in the chest with metal rod].

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Monday, 12 November 2007

The Basic Film Paradigm

This is a diagram of Syd Field's Basic Film Paradigm - he presents this as the required format of any successful screenplay.

This has raised a number of questions in relation to WEATHERMAN.

Does the paradigm apply to short films? Does it scale from a 120-page screenplay down to one consisting of only 15-30 pages? Can the current draft be remodelled and transposed onto this paradigm? And, if so, is that what I should be doing? Is a short film adopting this paradigm even the right format for this idea? If not, what is?

In search of some answers I went for a drink recently with an old schoolfriend - Dan Outram - who has some experience working as a director of commercials and short films. I pitched him the concept as concisely as possible and he was quick to draw my attention to a number of issues, the foremost of which is that a screenwriter has to be constantly aware of what the audience doesn't know. 15-30 pages (i.e. minutes) isn't a long time to deliver a complete narrative, particularly one that is established in an unfamiliar social or cultural context.

Maybe that's why I've decided to post the first few pages of the current draft here, for whomever finds it, and cares to read it - in the hope that any comments will help me gauge what you know; what you want to know; what you need to know. You don't have to post them below - you can always email them to me. Anonymously, if you prefer :)

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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

the 'bad' photos

About two hours ago Ems and I discovered that my laptop is bluetooth enabled. We've since dumped about 300 photos onto it, almost every one of which is of our Lola, dating since her first birthday (you can see her complete history, from bump onwards, here).

Watching back through the pictures, with some sweet sounds on iTunes and the slideshow feature gliding through chronologically, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. It wasn't just the pictures where she stopped and smiled, it was all those 'bad' photos in between, the flurries of colour, the flashes of happiness, the whirling inquisition binding it together into a year in the life of...

I think that's part of the reason, when Tommy and I set up Ploggle, I was so obsessed with the cameraphone angle, albeit at the expense of steering our venture to commercial success. I love the narratives cameraphones explore, going places you wouldn't necessarily think to take a regular camera.

I decided to pick one photo and post it here. One that you won't find on LightJunior, or TravelLight. It was taken today, just as Ems embarks on maternity leave for the second time, and can spend an afternoon with Lola sweeping up leaves in the back yard. As it came up she apologised. "They're all fuzzy, she just kept moving."

Sounds like a pretty good design for life. Stay fuzzy. Just keep moving.

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