Absolutely thrilled to announce that BFI in partnership with Bloomsbury will be publishing my first book!
In ‘We Have Some Notes…’ award-winning writers & directors discuss how to make notes, script editing & development a successful creative process. Sharing behind the scenes stories & advice on what is, and what isn’t, useful.
It’s been a delight chatting to the utterly lovely & absurdly talented people who have so kindly let me interview them for the book already, including – Russell T Davies, Simon Beaufoy, Sally Wainwright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Ben Wheatley, Corin Hardy, Michael Pearce, Lone Scherfig, Tomm Moore, Alice Lowe & Amma Asante – all a complete joy to chat to.
Hoping (when it comes out, which will be a little while yet, as it’s still being written!) people find it as enjoyable and interesting to read as I have to write, and that it helps contribute to more enriching and creative notes relationships.
Huge thanks to everyone who has been supportive & encouraging of the idea
One of the great pleasures of my work at the NFTS is the privilege of arranging, producing and hosting Q&As with inspiring, and incredibly kind, filmmakers.
Ordinarily these are private events for NFTS students, but during the pandemic NFTS Masterclass Q&As moved online for our students and the filmmakers who kindly gave online NFTS Masterclasses in the first UK lockdown of Spring/Summer 2020 generously allowed us to share clips from their Q&As. The NFTS created a compilation featuring advice from filmmakers incuding Edgar Wright, Lone Scherfig, Ben Wheatley, Krysty Wilson Cairns, Stephen Fry, Sam Mendes, Billie Piper, Corin Hardy, Elisabeth Moss, Danny Boyle and many more.
The 90minute film was originally shared via Empire magazine here and is available to watch:
“If you must blink, do it now!” That opening line of Travis Knight’s BAFTA nominated directing debut, Kubo and the Two Strings, could be advice for watching any of the animated films made by his company, LAIKA. Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls were all Oscar and BAFTA nominated for Best Animated Feature. Full of stop-motion brilliance, rich visuals and captivating story-telling. You don’t want to miss a second.
It was a treat to hear director, animator and LAIKA CEO, Travis Knight and producer Arianne Sutner talk about the making of Kubo and the Two Strings at a recent National Film & Television School (NFTS) Masterclass. Conveying the creativity and magic of the animation studio, Travis described LAIKA as, “kind of like Santa’s workshop – if all the elves had body piercings and neck tattoos.”
And they brought some friends along:
In the run up to the BAFTA and Academy Awards, scripts are freely available online. It’s a masterclass in storytelling to read those for LAIKA’s films.
Links to PDFs of LAIKA’s scripts:
Coraline script (2009. Dir. Henry Selick. Screenplay Henry Selick from Neil Gaiman’s book)
Stories bold enough to have properly scary bits, like the Other Mother from Coraline with her button eyes.
On the page you can see the complex, fully rounded characters, that yet leave room for the animators’ creative artistry. In this short extract (below) from Kubo and the Two Strings, Monkey is stern & soft, serious & witty, fearsome & loving; all believable due to script and performance.
As guardian Monkey watches the young hero Kubo conjure origami birds:
You’re growing stronger
Kubo LAUGHS. He feels it.
You might not want to look quite so pleased about that.
She sits him up, ushering him onto his feet and brushing down his robe.
We grow stronger. The world grows, more dangerous. Life has a way of keeping things balanced.
Kubo reacts to this cynical wisdom by making a face.
Monkey, do you ever say anything encouraging?
I encourage you not to die.
Monkey licks her hand, smoothes down Kubo’s hair and walks away.
In the extract above the maternal actions – all meticulously animated frame by frame – of brushing down Kubo’s robe, smoothing his hair, subtly convey the caring and affection that underlie her seemingly tough words. There is nothing accidental in animation actions. They have purpose. Sublime where those actions combine humour, character and storytelling.
In ParaNorman this opening exchange (below) between Norman and his (dead) Grandmother as they watch TV, succinctly sets up the themes the film goes on to explore – don’t prejudge, be open to seeing things from a different view, talk things through to find out the real story. A message of, and plea for, tolerance and understanding for everyone. Even Zombies.
What’s happening now?
The zombie is eating her head, Grandma.
That’s not very nice. What’s he doing that for?
Because he’s a zombie. That’s what they do.
Well he’s going to ruin his dinner. I’m sure if they just bothered to sit down and talk it through it’d be a different story.
Norman CHUCKLES, as if the idea is absurd, then winces as he hears his father shout from the kitchen.
Even brief phyiscal decriptions richly convey character, as in this short introduction to Norman’s teacher, who is in charge of the school play. A job she is taking seriously. Very seriously.
In a director’s chair far too small for the job is MRS HENSCHER, an imposing woman with spectacles and beret who looks like she smells of too-much perfume. Mrs Henscher’s knuckles clench white around her script. She attempts an understanding smile, in the same way a shark might.
And that’s before they’ve recorded the actors’ voices and started on the animation.
It was a delight to hear such talented and dedicated artists talk about their work. Very much looking forward to whatever LAIKA makes next. As Travis said, “Stories endure. Art matters.”